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'Sesame Street' Drops Three Longtime Cast Members, None of Them Muppets

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The producer of "Sesame Street" has confirmed that three longtime human cast members have been dropped from the children's educational TV show, including one who has appeared since the show's inception in 1969.

Sesame Workshop, the New York City-based producer of the show, acknowled in a July 28 tweet that Bob McGrath, 84, who has played Bob since the debut of the show; Emilio Delgado, 76, who has played Luis since 1971; and Roscoe Orman, 72, who has played Gordon since 1974; are leaving the Sesame Street neighborhood.

The three "remain a beloved part of the Sesame family and continue to represent us at public events," the tweet from Sesame Workshop, formerly Children's Television Workshop, said. 

The tweet continues that "we are constantly evolving our content and curriculum, and hence, our characters, to meet the educational needs of children."

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that McGrath had told an audience at an event called Florida Supercon earlier this month that the cast changes were part of the recent retooling of the show, which included an arrangement in which pay-cable network HBO is getting exclusive episodes for nine months before they appear on PBS.

But Sesame Workshop sought to shoot down the idea that the HBO deal played a role in the casting decisions.

"Sesame Workshop retains sole creative control over the show," the workshop's tweet said. "HBO does not oversee the production."

As I reported last year in Education Week, PBS, the original and longtime home of "Sesame Street," was not overjoyed with the arrangement between Sesame Workshop and HBO, even though the public television channel continues to air past episodes of the show and eventually picks up the new episodes.

The L.A. Times said that PBS Chief Executive Paula Kerger told a television critics' group meeting in Beverly Hills, Calif., this week that the casting decision was made by Sesame Workshop.

"We did not know about it beforehand," Kerger said, according to the Times. "We found out about it after."

The Times said that McGrath's departure means that only two original cast members of Sesame Street remain: Loretta Long, 77, who plays Gordon's wife, Susan; and Caroll Spinney, 82, the "Muppeteer" who plays Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.

Here is a video of McGrath singing "People in Your Neighborhood."