When actor Will Lee died in 1982, it left the producers of Sesame Street with the question of how to deal with the loss of Mr. Hooper, a beloved character who had been on the show since the first episode. Dulcy Singer, executive producer at the time, said that “if we left it unsaid, kids would notice.” One way out was to avoid the issue of death entirely. Producers toyed with the idea of telling viewers that the character had gone away. Caroll Spinney said that “we didn’t know what to do. [We] thought perhaps he could just retire, move to Florida or something, but then the producers thought that the best thing to do would be to actually deal with death.” After much discussion and research, the producers decided to have the character of Mr. Hooper pass away as well, and use the episode to teach its young viewers about death as a natural part of life and that it is okay to grieve and feel sad when a loved one passes away.
“The best episode we ever did was Mr. Hooper’s death. Those were real tears. Will was the sweetest man”. — Caroll Spinney