Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Best of the Electric Company

Get this at

  • Cast Interviews
  • Creative Team Interview
  • Joan Ganz Cooney "Then and Now"
  • Outtakes
  • Karaoke Version of "Silent E"
  • New Episodes Intros by Rita Moreno
  • Show Trivia

If you were between six and ten years old during the years 1971 through 1985, then there is a good chance you learned to read with help from The Electric Company. Comedy sketches, music, animation and special effects were the tools of this "video" classroom. Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, Spider-Man Road Runner and others were the teachers.

The Electric Company was a product of its time — perennially cool and hip, while never wavering from its educational goals; it was full of wit and energy and made learning to read fun. So, take a trip back in time with Spider-Man, Letterman, J. Arthur Crank, the Short Circus, Jennifer of the Jungle, DJ Mel Mounds, Easy Reader, Paul the Gorilla, Lorelei the Chicken and all the rest with THE BEST OF THE ELECTRIC COMPANY.

DISC 1: #1 (10/25/71); #10 (11/5/71); #14 (11/11/71); #21 (11/22/71); #26 (11/29/71) Special Features: Rita Moreno Remembers: The only female performer to have won an Oscar®, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy, Rita looks back on her experiences with The Electric Company.

DISC 2: #109 (3/23/72); #131 (10/23/72); #181 (1/1/73); #285 (11/23/73); #321 (1/14/74) Special Features: Joan Ganz Cooney Then And Now: From 1971 to the present, the founder of The Children’s Television Workshop has never wavered in her commitment to early education.

DISC 3: #379 (4/3/74); #386 (4/15/74); #391 (10/21/74); #437 (12/24/74); #453 (1/15/75) Special Features: "Silent E" Karaoke: Sing along with Tom Lehrer’s unforgettable and imaginative song. The Creative Team Remembers: Executive producer Sam Gibbon and head writer Tom Whedon reminisce.

DISC 4: #491 (3/10/75); #72A (1/27/76); #110A (3/19/76); #79B (2/3/77); #130B (4/15/77) Special Feature: June Angela Remembers: "Julie" in The Short Circus; June Angela was with the cast for the entire run of the show.

As any child of the 70's will tell you, "The Electric Company" was a milestone in educational TV. Its educational emphasis was on basic word recognition, spelling and pronunciation. The fact that so many adults recall specific scenes from the show (as evidenced on numerous message forums) attests to the show's potenecy.

What really set "The Electric Company" apart was its high standards. The cast included many acclaimed actors (including oscar-winner Rita Moreno and Bill Cosby) and actors who earn their star status later (such as Morgan Freeman and June Angela). As for the music and dialogue, it was nothng short of brilliant. The show made frequent use of humor that could be appreciated by all age groups. Contrast that to most children's fare today, which talks down to children and seems designed to alienate adults.

One aspect that stood out for me was the frequency of inter-racial couples in the show's skits. Not only did such couples appear (which you rarely see today) but the characters did not make a big deal about it, unlike say, Sesame Street, where they seem to insist on applauding themselves every time two people of different ethnicities interact.

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