Since Sesame Street has long been the most popular address in children's television, a turf war — or at least a catfight — easily could have broken out when the feline stars of the relatively new reading program Between the Lions marked part of Oscar the Grouch's PBS territory as their own. However, Lions creative producer Chris Serf tells TV Guide Online, neither Big Bird nor his friends have had their feathers ruffled by their catty colleagues.

"We tape right upstairs from Sesame Street," he says. "We're neighbors and good friends. We've had Elmo and Bert and the whole gang on."

A-ha! But eyebrows — or just the one unibrow, in Bert's case — are sure to go up on Sesame Street when, later this year, Live with Regis & Kelly co-host Kelly Ripa becomes the latest star to stop by the Lions den. Add to that the roster of talented, almost-famous pop artists who make Lions's tunes snap and crackle. "Schuyler Deale, who played with Billy Joel, is our bass player; our music director toured with Meat Loaf; and the singers do backup vocals for Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston," admits Serf, who has penned several Grammy- and Emmy-winning tunes. "It's not simply kiddie-show music."

Yet, the goal of Serf and his fellow Lions tamers is not to wipe Sesame Street off the map, he insists, but simply to reveal to youngsters that a good book can start them purring. "We're very ambitious, and we hope that this really is going to make a difference. If it's popular, but doesn't accomplish that, we won't feel as if we were totally successful."