August 12, 2014 11:17 AM EDT

Recognizing that television was going to be an electronic babysitter whether anyone liked it or not, Jim Henson and his Muppets provided a safe, friendly haven that spoofed the media world that kids were immersed in when the show wasn’t on. From Kermit’s news reports to Guy Smiley’s game shows to Elmo’s World, Sesame Street has been filled with shows within shows, which take the commercial TV world’s come-ons and apply them to educational building blocks. Along the way, kids have learned about friendship, cooperation and even (through Mr. Hooper) death. The show’s format has evolved over the years (recently taking cues from hits like Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer), but it remains one of the savviest things ever brought to kids by the letters T and V.

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