The 46th season of Sesame Street will premiere on HBO on January 16, and along with its move from PBS are a slew of changes.
First is the format: the forthcoming new episodes will be half an hour each instead of an hour, which will, as Variety writes, “enabl[e] pre-schoolers to focus their attention and engage more with each story.” After the show’s premiere of two back-to-back new episodes, each Saturday a new episode will air, followed by a rerun.
Cookie Monster will also have a new reoccurring segment called “Smart Cookies,” where he and a team of crime-fighting cookie friends, equipped with a Smart Cookie car and various gadgets, foil the plans of a villainous trickster named Crumb.
A new character named Nina will also join the show; she is described as “a witty compassionate and charismatic role model who comes up with out-of-the-box solutions to Elmo and the gang’s problems.” Nina will be played by newcomer Suki Lopez—a young, bilingual, Hispanic actress who’ll “continue the series’ mission of modeling diversity” (and ostensibly inherit the proverbial baton passed on from Sonia Mananzo’s Maria, who left the show earlier this year).
Along with a new set that includes a new brownstone for Elmo, a new garden for Abby, a new nest for Big Bird, and a new central location for Oscar the Grouch, the show will also have an “updated” opening theme song, as well a new closing song.
So far, announced guest stars include: Sara Bareilles, Alan Cumming, Nick Jonas, Ne-Yo, Pharrell, Trance Ellis Ross, Gwen Stefani. Jane the Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez is also slated to make an appearance to sing the ABCs in Spanish.
Previous seasons of Sesame Street will continue airing on PBS, but the new season will not premiere on PBS until Fall 2016.