What Went Right?: Farewell, Mr. Hooper

The 1st of a show examining what went right in 80s children’s TV: When a cherished member of the Sesame Street family died, the show made a brilliant choice in how to explain an actor’s death to the millions of children who loved him.

About Omega


  1. I'mVeryAngryIt'sNotButter

    Wait, hold up. Did this video just say “in 2013”?

    • This video was produced and went up in 2013…November 2013 to be exact. I posted the What Went Right? holiday special but I wanted to start with the beginning and backlog of the show before posting newer episodes.

  2. this is the saddest thing i have ever seen i children tv

    i didn’t even knew about the guy and it made me cry

  3. I didn’t grow up with that generation of Sesame Street, but dang…those actors. I teared up a little anyway.

  4. I watched a recorded VHS of this when I was very young, and even as an adult it made me cry. This is an important lesson that every children’s shows should have and go over with the same respect for the deceased and children as this episode did.

  5. This was beautiful. Pity that not all subjects are treated today with such a balance of honesty and compassion.

    Also, when I saw Mysterious Cities of Gold in the intro mix, I was thrilled.

    • I do intend to cover Mysterious Cities of Gold later on in the series! That and Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea was my “power hour” back in the early 80’s on Nickelodeon.

  6. I liked your video, very well done.

    Not sure of the ending of the Sesame Street video, I like that they did not sugar coat it but feel it could have been more.

    – Mr. Hopper Died, he is gone, he is never coming back.
    Big Bird – Why?
    – Because.
    The End.

    That really does not explain much and as a child in the 80’s all I ever heard was that excuse.
    As if to say you are to young to understand the real reason so just accept, Because.. and Shut Up.

    • The “just because” referenced other bits in the episode where Big Bird explored “why and because” lines of reasoning.

    • I don’t get a sense that ‘because’ was trying to shut up a child. I think it’s ‘because’ because the adults don’t have an answer themselves. They don’t have an answer why someone dies. How you can be fine and then struck with a heart attack or go to sleep and never wake up. (And those are the best case scenarios) I thank Sesame Street not only for its honesty but for its brevity. Leaving it to parents to elaborate of heavens and afterlives.

      • Isn’t it also that it was left that way because families of various backgrounds and beliefs were watching together? The kids could ask questions afterwards and the parents could answer based on their beliefs and what they thought was appropriate for their child.

        • Not that I know of. According to the Muppet Wikia, the episode was more meant for all families to watch together, and then later talk to their children about. It was meant more to help children cope with the loss of a grandparent, given Will Lee’s (Mr. Hooper) age at the time of death.

  7. I was 12 when this episode came out and I was kind of beyond Sesame Street. However, my Grandmother died that same year so I was impacted by that. I always remember Mr. Hooper and didn’t know he had such an extensive back history. I’m glad that you covered this in your premier video.

    Often times I find the reviews on this site negative for negative sake in the guise of humour.

    It’s refreshing for someone to say “Wait, see…they did this right.” Thanks and continued success.

  8. Another person born AFTER Hooper’s death here (nearly a decade). I may not have really knew about him, but that doesn’t make it less sad, though.

  9. I find it amusing and pretty cool that while your wife reviews some of the most messed-up movies on this plane of existence, you examine quality children’s television.

    • Deep dark secret: I LOVED TV when I was little, to the point that Jim Henson and Fred Rogers were my little-kid heroes. I always wanted to grow up to produce children’s television…maybe someday.

      • Those two men are still my heroes, sincerely. (Some people have the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; I have Fred Rogers, Jim Henson and Steve Irwin. I’ll never stop looking up to them, and I’ll never stop being sad that they’re gone.)

  10. I might remember Mr. Hopper. I was three when he died.

  11. This was a really well produced and emotional episode. I’m looking forward to seeing more of these great memories of my early childhood.

  12. Will Lee, it might be added, coached James Earl Jones when James was a rising actor.

    • Sesame Street was one of my first introductions to American television when my family moved to the US from Japan. I liked the character Mr. Hooper a lot. He was like a kind grandfather. I didn’t get a chance to know my father’s father because he died before I was born. I remember thinking if I did have a grandfather in my life I wanted him to be like Mr. Hooper. When we watched this episode on Thanksgiving day it did upset me and my little brother a bit, and my mother talked with us about it to help us understand. Our father wasn’t there at the time. He was deployed to Lebanon. I felt sad, but my mother made us milkshakes to help us feel better and gave us as many hugs as we needed. I pretended that my milkshake came from Mr. Hooper’s shop.

  13. I grew up with the German version of Sesame Street and I’m wholly unfamiliar with all these people, but damn… I got misty-eyed, too.

  14. I find it amazing that the clip can make me tear up despite having no emotional attachment to the actor, character, or show involved. I’m sure the context given beforehand had something to do with it. Thank you, Omega. I’m looking forward to watching the backlog and new episodes.

  15. It’s embarrassing, but I cried actual tears while watching this just now–it’s really powerful. I was about 7 when this was shown, but I think maybe I was no longer watching Sesame Street, or at least not as regularly. I mostly remember hearing about this episode on the news and seeing part of the segment. But I adored Big Bird when I was little, so seeing him so upset just gets me right in the heart, even now.

    I remember Mr. Hooper, but mostly for his roll in Christmas on Sesame Street.

  16. I also agree that the answer could have been explained better. I’m surprised they didn’t go for the religious angle (even if only a vague one eg. “it was his time.”) Or even a “Circle of Life” thing (“the living must die to give room for the new who are being born.”) These are both things children can understand. I certainly did, and I lost several loved over the years including both parents.

    Still, very moving first episode, Omega. I already like Hagan’s videos (Ok, some of them 😛 ) and it looks like I will enjoy yours too.

    • These are things that the parents can flesh out with their children. Sesame Street has always been pretty good at keeping thing solely educational, without adding their own biases.

  17. I remember this actually happening.

  18. My grandfather died when I was 4, and this episode appeared about a year later, so I knew exactly how Big Bird felt.

    Something tells me I’m really going to enjoy your show. Keep up the good work.

  19. I’ve never seen this before now. Not because I wasn’t old enough – we didn’t have access to a TV when I was this old. So I missed out.

    This hit me right in the feels.

  20. I was 10 when this episode aired originally. I only heard about it in context to the actor’s death. This is the first time I’ve actually seen it in it’s entirety. Powerful stuff. Kudos for letting the scene play out rather than trying to annotate the crap out of it.

  21. Or someone is in your generation but doesn’t live in an english speaking country.

    In germany for example Sesame Street, or Sesamstraße, was localized not only through dubbing but also they had a completely different set and characters for the parts where human characters would come in.
    Even two or three muppets i believe where made via the german studio, but i could be wrong there.

    Point is, i couldn’t remember Mr. Hooper but still be from your generation, simply because Sesame Street was something else in my country of origin. Just saying

    • Fair point, I remember seeing foreign episodes of Sesame Street from time to time…there was one week they did ‘Shalom Sesame Street’ and played the Israeli version of the show. And I think once they did a duel episode with the cast of Sesame Street from China? My memory is a bit fuzzy on that.

  22. I was born in 1983, so I don’t remember this episode when it first aired, but as a little kid, I did have some older Sesame Street books and tapes that did have Mr Hooper in them, and I did catch a bit of the scene a few years later somehow (I think maybe they aired a 20th anniversary special in 1989 and I saw it on that?). At any rate, good video and I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of your series.

  23. I wasn’t born yet when Mr. Hooper died, but he was in Sesame Street books and videos that I had, so I remember the talk about him dying. I wish more children’s media would address things like this straight instead of sugar-coating or brushing it aside.

  24. You butt you made me cry good job great video

  25. First, I love this idea!

    Second, I loved the intro, in fact I watched it several times. Very well edited and great soundtrack!

    I remember Mr. Hooper.

    He was one of my favorites. Though, until this video, I never realized he was the start of the “one of these things” song…other characters did it later.

    I knew he died, and I remember my parents watching the episode with me as if it was a big deal at the time. And then time passed, and I moved on, and Mr. Hooper became just a fond memory of childhood, and a happy one.

    Until this video.

    I can place the exact moment in this video where the wall broke and my childhood memories came flooding back into my conscious as if I was experiencing them anew…

    It was the same moment that it dawned on me as a child, as I’d recently had my Great Grandfather (Papa) pass…

    Big Bird says:

    “I can’t wait till he sees it” (silence) “Hey, where is he? I want to give it to him.”

    And still that moment, or more remembering the emotions I felt then, here 30 years or so after I saw it last…made me well up and sniffle. I’ll admit. But, I’ll blame cutting onions while watching the video.

    Well done! I can’t wait for the next one!

  26. I wasn’t around for the original airing, but I remember they kept in circulation for a long time. First time I ever felt a real pit in my stomach. It did lead to a very nice follow up where Bob or Gordon (forgot which one) buy Mr. Hooper’s store and reopen it.

  27. I was a little too young to remember Mr. Hooper, but my retaining memories of Sesame Street was the one guy (I apologize if I can’t remember his name right now) that owned the store after Mr. Hooper passed away. He was the old black guy and before I realized this episode existed, I never even knew who Mr. Hooper was until years later when I discovered this episode for myself. Though most of my Sesame Street watching memories was in very late 80s (’88 to 89) and early 90s.

    But I will say when I heard and watched this episode for myself, my respect for the writing of Sesame Street in how it respected its children audience like that.

    Glad you could make it aboard Omega, looking forward to your Fraggle Rock episode 🙂

    • I believe the character you’re thinking of was David, played by Northern Calloway. And…dang! He passed away in 1990 and I never knew about it until I just looked him up on IMDB.
      He played one of my favorite characters on the show. He was even an accomplished roller-skater. There were two connected bits on the show where he was a terrible skater in real life and he imagined himself an excellent skater where he appeared to be skating all over a park in NY City. It was funny and I’ll never forget it.

      • I just looked him up and wow, yeah, I had no idea. It seems he struggled a lot with mental illness and it really took a toll. Very sad.

        • CTW wrote David out of the show before Northern’s death. I prefer it this was because now David can live on forever in the world of Sesame Street even if he’s never seen again. We can always imagine he’s somewhere teaching kids to read and count while helping to guide them through life with colorful songs and a cheery outlook.

        • prefer it this way*

          (Curse you, “Lack of Edit Feature”!!!)

  28. When one of my 2nd grade teacher’s aides died, we read the book version of this episode. I hadn’t actually seen it (I was just a baby in November 1983) but I knew all about Mr. Hooper and that the episode and the book were both really important.

    You picked a good topic to start your show with. I look forward to future episodes!

  29. I never had a big connection to the sesame street, probably because I’m from germany.
    But even years later, the funeral of Jim Henson was one of the sadest things I saw when I saw it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.