Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Sesame Street tackles America's drug addiction crisis in latest series

Children's programme Sesame Street is tackling America's opioid crisis in its latest videos.

Sesame Workshop is exploring the backstory of Karli, a bright green, yellow-haired friend of Elmo's whose mother is battling addiction.

The new idea is part of the Sesame Street in Communities resources, which is available online.

Creators decided to address the issue of addiction after data revealed 5.7million children under 11 live in households with a parent who suffer from a substance disorder.

Senior content manager, Kama Einhorn, said: "There's nothing else out there that addresses substance abuse for young, young kids from their perspective.

"Even a parent at their most vulnerable - at the worst of their struggle - can take one thing away when they watch it with their kids, then that serves the purpose."

Karli, voiced by puppeteer Haley Jenkins, was joined by a young girl, Salia, whose parents are in recovery.

Sesame Workshop is exploring the backstory of Karli, a bright green, yellow-haired friend of Elmo's whose mother is battling addiction. Credit: AP

The online-online segments use carefully crafted language, with the creators using "addiction" instead of "substance abuse" and "recovery" to "sobriety" because those terms are clearer to children.

"I know it feels awkward because people don't normally have conversations standing shoulder-to-shoulder," she told Salia between takes.

"This is weird, but trust me, it looks good."

Karli had already been introduced as a puppet in foster care earlier this year but viewers now will understand why her mother had to go away for a while.

Karli and Elmo talk about their problems in the mini-series. Credit: AP

The introduction of her backstory follows other attempts by entertainment companies to explore the issues of addiction, including by "The Connors" on ABC and "Euphoria" on HBO.

The segments with Karli and Salia are augmented with ones of Elmo and his father, Louie, explaining that addiction is a sickness, and Karli telling Elmo about Chris about her mum's special adult meetings.

Sesame Street has a history of tackling topical issues in a way which children understand.

In the past, its had puppets with HIV, jailed parents and autism, explored homelessness, women's rights and even girls singing about loving their hair.