The star-studded musical special stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as he visits the street to help celebrate the show's 50th anniversary. He intends to get a group photo under the famous street sign, but the Muppets (namely Elmo, Abby, Rosita, and Super Grover) must keep him distracted when they discover it has gone missing.
In addition to Joseph, the special also features appearances by Sterling K. Brown, Norah Jones, Meghan Trainor, Elvis Costell, Itzhak Perlman, Patti LaBelle, and Whoopi Goldberg.
This special provides examples of:
- Artistic License Law: In the end, it turns out Big Bird and Snuffy had taken the street sign so they could decorate it as a surprise. Taking a street sign and altering one are against the law, but this never comes up. Big Bird and Snuffy can be justified in being too young to know this.
- Balloonacy: One of the plot threads throughout the special depicts Gonger being carried all over the street on a wayward party balloon, with Cookie Monster trying to save him.
- The Bus Came Back:
- Several of the human cast members who have since left the show return in small roles, including Maria, Luis, Gina, Bob, Susan, Gordon, Miles, Leela and Linda.
- Many long-retired Muppet characters appear throughout the special, including Roosevelt Franklin, Harvey Kneeslapper, Lefty the Salesman, Don Music, Sherlock Hemlock, Forgetful Jones, Captain Vegetable, Betty Lou, Biff, Sully, Little Bird, Sherry Netherland and others.
- Most importantly, Kermit the Frog makes a triumphant return to sing "Bein' Green" with Elvis Costello.
- The Cameo:
- Retired Muppet performers Fran Brill and Caroll Spinney (with his wife Debi) appear in the "Sing" finale.
- Deborah Grausman, the voice of Smartie in "Elmo's World," appears as an extra following Norah Jones' performance.
- Confetti Drop: There are two in the special.
- There is a small one at the beginning after the Sesame Street theme is briefly sung.
- At the end of the special, after the performance of "Sing", lots of confetti and bronze/silver-colored balloons with the number "50" printed on them, drop.
- Musical Nod: Roosevelt Franklin's cameo is underscored by the funk intro to "Roosevelt Franklin Counts" from his 1971 album. Similarly, Captain Vegetable's cameo is scored by his namesake tune.
- Mythology Gag:
- The taxi driver in the cold open is voiced by Caroll Spinney, using the line ("Where to, mac?") used by a real taxi driver he encountered that inspired his voice for Oscar the Grouch.
- The game board used for "One of These Things" is modeled directly after the one used in the show's very first episode (using the same colors and configuration of numbers and letter).