- The Electric Company (1971 TV series)
The Electric Company
1971–1977 logo of The Electric Company.
Format Children's television series
Starring Morgan Freeman
Lee Chamberlin (1971–1973)
Bill Cosby (1971–1973)
Luis Ávalos (1972–1977)
Hattie Winston (1973–1977)
Danny Seagren (1974–1977)
The Short Circus
Irene Cara (1971–1972)
Douglas Grant (1971–1973)
Stephen Gustafson (1971–1975)
Melanie Henderson (1971–1975)
Denise Nickerson (1972–1973)
Bayn Johnson (1973–1975)
Gregg Burge (1973–1975)
Janina Mathews (1975–1977)
Réjane Magloire (1975–1977)
Rodney Lewis (1975–1977)
Todd Graff (1975–1977)
The Adventures of Letterman
Country of origin United States No. of seasons 6 No. of episodes 780 (List of episodes) Production Running time 28 Minutes Broadcast Original channel PBS, (1971-1977), Noggin (1999-2002) Original run October 25, 1971 – April 15, 1977
The Electric Company is an educational American children's television series that was produced by the Children's Television Workshop (now called Sesame Workshop) for PBS in the United States. PBS broadcast 780 episodes over the course of its six seasons from October 25, 1971 to April 15, 1977. After it ceased production that year, the program continued in reruns from 1977 to 1985, the result of a decision made in 1975 to produce two final seasons for perpetual use. CTW produced the show at Teletape Studios Second Stage in Manhattan, the first home of Sesame Street.
The Electric Company employed sketch comedy and other devices to provide an entertaining program to help elementary school children develop their grammar and reading skills. It was intended for children who had graduated from CTW's flagship program, Sesame Street. Appropriately, the humor was more mature than what was seen there.
- 1 Performers
- 2 Sketches and characters
- 3 The Short Circus
- 4 Cameos
- 5 Music
- 6 Visuals
- 7 Closing credits
- 8 Funding
- 9 Show numbering
- 10 Cancellation
- 11 Revivals
- 12 References
- 13 External links
The original cast included Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, Bill Cosby, Judy Graubart, Lee Chamberlin and Skip Hinnant. Most of the cast had done stage, repertory, and improvisational work, with Cosby and Moreno already well-established performers on film and television. Ken Roberts, best known as a soap-opera announcer, was the narrator of some segments during season one.
Jim Boyd, who was strictly an off-camera voice actor and puppeteer during season one, began appearing on-camera in season two, mostly in the role of J. Arthur Crank. Luis Ávalos also joined the cast at that time.
Bill Cosby was a regular in season one, and occasionally appeared in new segments during season two, but left afterward. Nevertheless, segments that Cosby had taped during the first two years were repeatedly used for the rest of the run, and Cosby was billed as a cast member throughout. Similarly, Lee Chamberlin also left after season two, but many of her segments were also repeatedly reused; consequently, she was also billed as a cast member for the rest of the run.
Added to the cast at the beginning of Season Three was Hattie Winston, an actress and singer who later appeared on the show Becker. Beginning in season four, Danny Seagren appeared in the role of Spider-Man.
Sketches and characters
- The Adventures of Letterman: One of the most popular segments, Letterman featured the work of animators John and Faith Hubley. The title character, a young flying superhero in a varsity sweater and a football helmet, foiled the Spell Binder, an evil magician who made mischief by changing words into new words. It featured the vocal talents of Zero Mostel, Joan Rivers (who narrated the segments), and Gene Wilder (most of the time). It premiered during Season Two. In his book The TV Arab, Jack Shaheen criticized the segment's portrayal of the evil Spell Binder as being a negative racial stereotype.
- Five Seconds: A segment shown at the midway point of the show where viewers were challenged to read a word within a five-second (or, as sometimes was, ten seconds) time limit. From 1973 to 1975, in a spoof of Mission: Impossible, the word would self-destruct in a Scanimate animation sequence after the time limit expired. ("The word you see here will self-destruct in five seconds. Can you read it before it does?") From 1975 to 1977, the viewers had to read the word before a cast member (sometimes a member of the Short Circus) or by a group of children that were filmed on-location. The character usually guessed the word correctly; but not always.
- Giggles, Goggles: Two friends rode a tandem bike (usually Rita Moreno and Judy Graubart) or similar transportation device conversed when one of them misused a word ("flack" as in "flap," when the other was talking about something with the word "flap"). Several words that sounded the same except for one vowel or consonant were humorously misused until they got back to the original word. One sketch featured male friends (Morgan Freeman and Jim Boyd) riding the tandem bike, until the original owners came and stopped them.
- Here's Cooking at You: A send-up of Julia Child's cooking shows, with Judy Graubart playing Julia Grown-Up.
- Jennifer of the Jungle: A Borscht Belt-style parody of George of the Jungle with Jennifer (Judy Graubart) and Paul the Gorilla (Jim Boyd).
- The Last Word: A segment that was always shown at the end of Season One episodes. A dimly lit incandescent bulb with a pull-chain switch was shown hanging from a wire, and the voice of Ken Roberts would gravely state, "And now, the last word." A single word would appear, usually one that had been featured earlier in the episode. An unseen cast member would read the word aloud, reach his/her arm into the shot, and turn the light off by tugging the pull chain. Sometimes, more creative exits were employed (e.g., the hand would snip the pull chain with a pair of scissors).
- Love of Chair: A spoof of the soap opera Love of Life. Announcer Ken Roberts (who, appropriately enough, was also the announcer for Life) read a Dick and Jane-style story about a boy (Skip Hinnant) sitting on a chair and doing other simple things. He concluded each sketch by asking questions in a dramatic tone such as "Will he stand up? Will he fall asleep? Will you fall asleep?" the last of which was always "And what about Naomi?" These questions were then followed by "For the answer to these and other questions...," at which point a cast member other than Hinnant would be shown briefly on-screen uttering a complete non-sequitur (such as "What time is it?").
- Mad Scientist: Another monster-based parody, this time with an evil scientist (Morgan Freeman) and his assistant Igor (Luis Avalos), who tried to read words associated with their experiments.
- Monolith: An animated short, set in outer space, used to introduce segments involving a certain phonic. A huge rectangular grey-white pillar of rock was shown from the point of view of the camera looking up from its base, and then it dramatically crumbled and collapsed to the strains of a short segment of the Richard Strauss composition Also sprach Zarathustra, usually after being activated, alerted or meddled with by a living being such as an astronaut or extraterrestrial. The letters representing the appropriate phonic then appeared from the clearing dust and debris, and a deistic voice pronounced it. The segment was a direct reference to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Pedro's Plant Place: A sketch that featured Luis Avalos as a garden-shop proprietor who incorporated words into his planting tips, accompanied by the unpredictable plant-language-speaking guard plant Maurice (Jim Boyd).
- Phyllis and the Pharaohs: A 1950s-style doo-wop group with Rita Moreno on lead vocals and the entire male adult cast on backup. The group's hits include "Phantom of Love," "Grease," and "Is it Love?"
- Road Runner: New segments of the Looney Tunes character and his pursuer, Wile E. Coyote, produced and directed by Chuck Jones. These segments reinforced reading skills through the use of words printed on signs that the characters encountered. Unlike the classic Warner Bros. shorts, however, these segments were virtually silent and only used occasional sound and verbal effects.
- Sign Sing-Along: Often shown at the last sketch on a Friday episode, these films featured footage of signs with various words and were married to a sing-along-type song. They were always sung once through, after which the viewers were expected to supply the lyrics the second time around ("All right, now we'll be quiet, and you sing it!") while a wah-wah-muted trumpet and bassoon duo played the melody of the words.
- The Six-Dollar and Thirty-Nine-Cent Man: A spoof of The Six Million Dollar Man with Jim Boyd as Steve Awesome, Luis Avalos as Awesome's boss Oscar, and Hattie Winston as the General. The other adult cast members played various villains. It was introduced in Season Five and became a recurring sketch in Season Six.
- Slow Reader: A set of animated (and occasionally live-action) shorts in which a bald-headed slow reader was given a message to read by a delivery man. Each message had advice that he needed to follow (such as "Do not bother this giant person," "Go away," "Duck!" "Keep off the grass"), but because of his inability to sound out the words he often wound up in trouble. In later seasons, a few of these sketches were rewritten and reanimated with a much smarter slow reader who did not fall victim to any impending dangers. The live action shots starred Skip Hinnant in the title role.
- Soft-Shoe Silhouettes: Two cast members appeared in silhouette, one uttering the initial sound of a word ("th"), and the other uttering the rest of the word ("ing"). The two then pronounced the whole word ("thing") in unison. Most notable for the soft-shoe music composed by veteran songwriter Joe Raposo, which played during the segment. Done twice through, sometimes with the viewer trying to read the word the second time through.
- Spidey Super Stories: Short pieces featuring the Marvel Comics character Spider-Man and cast members from the show. Stories involved the web-masked super hero (Danny Seagren) foiling mischievous characters involved in petty criminal activities such as burglary or assault. Unlike the comic strip, Spidey was never seen out of costume as his alter-ego, Peter Parker, and he spoke via speech balloons that the home audience had to read. It debuted during Season Four and was the basis of a spin-off comic book, Spidey Super Stories, an easier-to-read comic that was produced by Marvel Comics from 1974 to 1981.
- Vaudeville Revue: Skits and songs were presented in variety-show style on stage, with music fanfare and canned applause to introduce and end each segment. Also called The Stage.
- A Very Short Book: Sometimes the last sketch of an episode, it featured a well-known nursery rhyme or famous story read by a cast member who turned the pages of a book with moving pictures. The stories usually had a humorous ending that was different from their true counterparts.
- Vi's Diner: Lee Chamberlin played the proprietor of an eatery where customers tried to read simple menus to place their orders.
- Wild Guess: Game show spoof (similar to You Bet Your Life) with announcer Ken Kane (Bill Cosby) and host Bess West (Rita Moreno) in which the contestant would take a wild guess at what the day's secret word was. If he or she failed to guess the word (which always happened), West would give three clues as to what the word was. Occasionally, Ken Kane's brother Wayne Kane (Morgan Freeman) would fill in as substitute announcer.
Selected recurring characters
- Blond-Haired Cartoon Man (Mel Brooks): This character read words that appeared on the screen, but they often showed up in the wrong order, made no sense, or otherwise drove him to frustration ("Who's the dummy writing this show?").
- The Blue Beetle (Jim Boyd): A bumbling super hero with a mask, a hood with antennae, wings, tennis shoes, boxer shorts, and a T-shirt that bore his name, the Blue Beetle often made matters worse instead of better for people who he tried to help. He often challenged Spider-Man, whom he was both jealous of and intimidated by. One of his favorite taglines was "I would if I could, but I can't so I won't. Please forgive me if I don't."
- Clayton: Introduced in Season Five and a recurring character in Season Six, Clayton was a Claymation character animated by Will Vinton who often commented on the previous skit or introduced a new concept.
- The Corsican Twins (Skip Hinnant and Jim Boyd): Twin brothers who could inflict pain on each other by hurting themselves while they taught different phonics.
- Dr. Doolots (Luis Avalos): A parody of Doctor Dolittle and Groucho Marx, Dr. Doolots used words to cure his patients.
- Easy Reader (Morgan Freeman): A smooth hipster who loved to read at every opportunity and every printed thing he saw. He was often associated with Valerie the Librarian (Hattie Winston), and in earlier seasons with Vi (Lee Chamberlin) in her diner. His name is a pun on the title of the film Easy Rider. In the first season, he was dressed more like a hippie. However by the second season, He wore a denim jacket, pants with a turtleneck shirt, and sunglasses.
- Fargo North, Decoder (Skip Hinnant): An aloof Inspector Clouseau-type detective who tried to decode scrambled word messages and phrases using different machines. His name was a pun based on Fargo, North Dakota.
- J. Arthur Crank (Jim Boyd): A plaid-wearing character who often interrupted sketches to complain when spellings or pronunciations confused him. In early episodes, he was just a voice on the phone, much like an irate listener to a radio call-in show. Crank is named after British film mogul J. Arthur Rank, and refers to what would be later known as crank calling.
- Lorelei (Jim Boyd): An aniform chicken who appeared in live-action scenes.
- Mel Mounds (Morgan Freeman): A hip disc jockey who introduced songs, usually by the Short Circus. He was known for the phrase "Sounds righteous, delightious, and out-of-sighteous! Heavy, heavy!"
- Millie the Helper (Rita Moreno): An eager but point-missing trainee who worked in various professions. Millie's bellowed catchphrase "Hey, you guy[s]!" was first screamed in Episode #19 and became part of the show's opening titles in Seasons Two, Five, and Six. In season six, it is heard that Millie shouts the singular form of "guy" instead of the plural (and oddly enough, the catchphrase was brought back for the reincarnation of the series). Millie was named after the character Millie Helper from The Dick Van Dyke Show.
- Otto the Director (Rita Moreno): A hapless auteur dressed as an old-style Hollywood film director, Otto tried in vain to make her actors say a line correctly as printed on an oversized cue card held by Marcello (Morgan Freeman), her terrified assistant. She usually went through three takes before giving up in frustration. Moreno modeled the character after Otto Preminger.
- Pandora the Brat: Rita Moreno's bratty but lovable curly-headed blonde girl who tried to outwit the adults around her.
- Paul the Gorilla (Jim Boyd): A sidekick and friend of Jennifer of the Jungle who too would appear in a variety of sketches. Paul the Gorilla was named after Electric Company head writer, Paul Dooley.
- Vincent the Vegetable Vampire: A send-up of the Bram Stoker literary character Dracula (or of Blacula), played by Morgan Freeman. He was often seen with Frankenstein's monster (Skip Hinnant) and the Wolfman (Jim Boyd).
The adult cast also had recurring roles as J.J. (Skip Hinnant), Carmela (Rita Moreno), Brenda (Lee Chamberlain), Mark (Morgan Freeman), Hank (Bill Cosby), Winnie (Judy Graubart), Andy (Jim Boyd), Roberto (Luis Avalos), and Sylvia (Hattie Winston).
The Short Circus
- June Angela as Julie
- Irene Cara as Iris (1971–1972)
- Stephen Gustafson as Buddy (1971–1975)
- Melanie Henderson as Kathy (1971–1975)
- Douglas Grant as Zach (1971–1973)
- Denise Nickerson as Allison (1972–1973)
- Bayn Johnson as Kelly (1973–1975)
- Gregg Burge as Dwayne (1973–1975)
- Janina Mathews as Gail (1975–1977)
- Réjane Magloire as Samantha (1975–1977)
- Rodney Lewis as Charlie (1975–1977)
- Todd Graff as Jesse (1975–1977)
Another regular part of the show was the Short Circus (the name a pun on short circuit), a singing group of kids whose songs also facilitated reading comprehension. June Angela was the only Short Circus member to remain with the show during its entire six-year run (she was 11 when production began and 17 during its final season); others lasted anywhere from one to four years. Irene Cara appeared only during the first season and would go on to become a pop music star (Fame, Flashdance). Cara was replaced by Denise Nickerson, best known for her appearance as Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Nickerson lasted a single season.
The other three original members of the Short Circus were Melanie Henderson (who at 13 was the oldest of the original group), Stephen Gustafson, and Douglas Grant. For Seasons Three and Four, Grant and Nickerson were replaced by dancer Gregg Burge and Broadway actress Bayn Johnson.
In the first season, a number of unbilled children were also used on-camera with the show's cast, as on Sesame Street, but this concept was very quickly dropped.
Because of the frequent reuse of segments, a practice derived from Sesame Street, actors continued to appear after their departures from the cast.
The Electric Company also featured a few celebrity guest appearances on the show. An incomplete list follows.
- Joe Raposo, who was famous for his work on Sesame Street, was the music director of the series for seasons one through three and wrote songs for the show during its entire run.
- Gary William Friedman was the music director for season four and wrote some 40 songs, including the popular Spider-Man theme song.
- Tom Lehrer wrote ten songs for the series, with "L-Y" and "Silent E" among the more memorable.
- Dave Conner was the music director for Seasons Five and Six.
- Clark Gesner wrote several songs for the series, including most of the sign songs, but never served as the show’s music director.
The series was notable for its extensive, innovative use of early computer-generated imagery, especially Scanimation, a then-state-of-the-art analog video-synthesizer system. They were often used for presenting words with particular sounds. Sometimes a cast member would be seen alongside or interacting in another way with a word animation.
The typeface used for most of the words displayed on-screen during the run was Franklin Gothic. During season one, the typeface Clarendon was also used. Spider-Man’s speech balloons were often set in Dom Casual.
Each show ended with one of the cast members announcing, "The Electric Company gets its power from the Children's Television Workshop." After the copyright notice, the list of corporate sponsors would be flashed on the screen. Starting in 1973, and changing with each new season, an instrumental version of the show's theme played beneath the narration; prior to this, a specific musical score played during the corporate credits.
The corporate sponsors, which included such entities as the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, were flashed one, two, or often three at a time during seasons one through five and scrolled during season six.
Corporate credits for all seasons:
- "Production funding for The Electric Company is provided by the Bureau of Libraries and Educational Technology, the National Center for Educational Technology, the United States Office of Education, Mobil Oil Corporation, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, PBS-Affiliated Stations (or Public Television Stations), unrestricted general program grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Ford Foundation, and by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York."
The donors in the above list would vary by season.
As with most PBS children's-related programming produced by Children's Television Workshop, The Electric Company featured closing credits along with a full-length version of the same music that played over the corporate credits list on Friday episodes. The corporate credits, however, appeared daily.
The video that played beneath the scrolling list of credits changed from season to season and were as follows:
- Season One: Skip Hinnant in his Love of Chair character, sitting completely still or doing some other action (such as sleeping). Beginning with Episode 70, the music changed from a full-length instrumental specific to the corporate credits to an upbeat, marching band-type instrumental version of the show's theme. The second theme ended with crashing sound effects, momentarily startling the boy from his sleep.
- Season Two: Cast members entering the room one-by-one. The Short Circus, dressed in marching-band uniforms, entered the room first, followed by dual versions of the adults (each actor in dual roles), who entered as him/herself along with the character he/she is most noted for playing (Morgan Freeman entering both as himself and Easy Reader). At the end of this sequence, the last one in the room would close the door, and the picture would break up in pieces and crash down. Other times, a hammer would appear in the bottom right of the screen and hit it, causing the same type of breakage. The same instrumental theme from the later Season One episodes was used.
- Season Three: Begins with the Short Circus playing its musical instruments over a chroma key, then walking off as they dance to the beat of the music. About midway through came a montage of clips from various skits, capped with a clip of Paul the Gorilla dancing across the screen. The theme was rescored, with more of a rock feel thanks to a prominently-heard electric guitar. The corporate credits theme was a hybrid of the Friday credits theme (the first part) and a slower-tempo instrumental version of the opening theme (for the second half).
- Season Four: Not featured on any of the episodes that aired on Noggin or either of the DVD sets but can be seen at the end of Episode 475 (available at the iTunes store). Spider-Man’s hand opens a special Spidey Super Stories comic book in which the show’s logo is seen on the first open page. The hand turns the page, which reveals four panes that contain montages of several clips from the show. In the upper right panel, animation from the song "Silent E" is interspersed with the message Reading can be fun. The hand turns the page again, and a collage of the people involved in the production is revealed that looks like comic-book art. Four panels are seen, and the camera moves in a clockwise motion so that all of the frames can be seen in close-up. Finally, Spider-Man's hand closes the comic book. This closure was also used as a 30-second promo for PBS stations with Jim Boyd (as J. Arthur Crank) doing the voice-over. A rescore of the theme was made, changing the genre from rock to uptempo jazz music.
- Season Five: Filmed clips of the Short Circus along with focus-group clips from an elementary school and behind-the-scenes action from the Teletape production studio. Another rescore of the theme could be heard, another jazz-style arrangement, somewhat louder than the 1974-75 version; it was played at a slower tempo for the corporate credits. This sequence was used as the opening of a 1975 documentary on the success of the series in schools that was included in The Best of The Electric Company Volume 2 DVD boxed set; however, the music from the show's opening was used for the documentary.
- Season Six: Clips from classic skits, sometimes tied together (such as sneezing, people coping with high wind gusts, water, using the telephone, etc.). Once again, the theme was rescored, this time using a prominently heard Moog synthesizer leading the acoustic instruments.
- Ford Foundation
- Carnegie Corporation of New York
- Corporation For Public Broadcasting
- United States Office of Education
- National Center for Educational Technology (Seasons 2 & 3)
- The Bureau for Libraries and Educational Technology (Season 1 only)
- Mobil Oil Corporation (Season 1 only)
- Public Television Stations (Seasons 4-6)
A total of 780 episodes were produced in the show's six-season run, 130 per season. As with Sesame Street, each episode of The Electric Company was numbered on-screen instead of using traditional episode titles. Seasons One through Four (1971–1975) were numbered 1–520. Season Five was numbered 1A–130A, while Season Six was numbered 1B–130B; the last two seasons were designated as such because they were designed as year-long curriculum for schools.
Starting with Season Three, a show's number would be presented in the sketch-of-the-day teaser segment, a parody of soap-opera teasers, which would highlight a particular sketch that would be shown during that episode. The voice of a cast member would say a variant of, "Today on The Electric Company, the so-and-so says, '(censored),'" and the action would freeze as the graphic of the word of the day (or a card with the word of the day printed on it) became visible to viewers. The censored words were replaced by a series of harsh electronic sounds (similar to the sound of a theremin) roughly mimicking the tone and cadence of the word in question. The still action would linger on the screen for several seconds, then fade to black, where the show number would become visible in a Scanimate animation in a random color. The music for this segment was a repetitive, funky instrumental groove featuring a call-and-response between horns and a scratchy wah-wah guitar.
The next-show teaser, which was introduced in Season Two without music, worked in the same way, and usually used a different take of the music heard during the sketch-of-the-day teaser, except that the voice said "Tune in next time, when..." and there was no show number shown. In Season Six, the electronic sounds were made less harsh-sounding, and new background music featuring lots of horns and a Moog synthesizer was used.
In Season One, however, after the title sequence, the sound of a striking match would be heard, and a fade-up from black would reveal a hand holding a lit match and "Show #x" handwritten on a piece of paper that was placed in such a way so that it could blend with the surrounding objects in-frame. Instead of the next-show teaser, Ken Roberts's voice could be heard, saying, "And now, the last word," and the trademark light bulb would be shut off by a hand doing whatever the last word was. In Season Two, after the opening sequence the words "The Electric Company" would disappear from the familiar logo, and the show number would appear in its place through the use of a Scanimate animation and an electronic whooshing sound.
Notably, some episodes in Seasons Three through Five had serious technical errors with either their sketch-of-the-day teaser segments or their next-show teaser segments, which was probably because of the failure of the linear analog video-editing equipment. Episodes that have these errors in their sketch-of-the-day teasers include 297, 390, 1A, 8A, and 15A—sometimes the music started too late, ended too early, or played too long; sometimes the errors are negligible, with the teaser music only playing a fraction of a second longer than usual.
For Season Six, because the teaser music was changed to a shorter, self-contained composition, these errors do not occur, with the exception of the teaser of 33B shown at the end of 32B (available on iTunes), where the teaser was accidentally cut by a fraction of a second.
The Electric Company was cancelled in 1977 at the height of its popularity. Unlike its counterpart Sesame Street, which licensed its Muppet characters for merchandising, The Electric Company did not have a brand or character that could help generate profit. The only significant items the show licensed were comic books and a Milton Bradley board game of the Fargo North, Decoder character.
In addition, the PBS stations and statewide networks that aired the show often complained of the Children's Television Workshop "soaking up so much money in public television," said veteran television producer Samuel Gibbon, who worked on the show. "The stations demanded that one of the programs—either Sesame Street or The Electric Company—be put into reruns to save money. By that time, Sesame Street was a cash fountain for the Workshop. The show was almost supporting itself by then with all the productions, books, records, and games. There was no way, it was felt, that they could reduce the number of original shows of Sesame Street. But the thought was that if we produce two final seasons of The Electric Company which were designed to be repeated, that would give the show four more years of life." Most PBS programs at the time were produced by local stations instead of independent producers like CTW.
- Following the last original episode on April 15, 1977, The Electric Company continued on PBS in reruns until Fall 1985 (giving the show about Eight years of life then expected after production ended) with the final two seasons (1A through 130B) shown in rotation. These are the episodes that are the most familiar to younger viewers.
The earlier shows did not resurface until February 2, 1999, when the Noggin network, which was partly owned by Sesame Workshop at the time, rebroadcast the show as a result of its co-ownership of the network. A two-hour feature-length compilation special, which was aired on TV Land, re-introduced the series to a new generation whose parents grew up watching the show.
Noggin ran 65 select episodes until 2003, when they were pulled from the program lineup because Sesame Workshop sold its half of the network to Viacom, which already owned the other half. The shows were cut subtly to fit Noggin's shorter running time and free up time for various interstitial segments produced for the network. These deletions included the episode numbers, the Scanimate word animations, the segments 15 seconds and shorter, and the teasers of the next episodes (in seasons 2–6).
During the same period as the Noggin rebroadcasts, numerous fans of the program produced QuickTime and MP3 clips from the Noggin rebroadcasts, old over-the-air recordings, and, in some cases, from master recordings. These were hosted online at various places and received heavy attention from the blogosphere (e.g., Boing Boing) until a cease-and-desist letter took down the most prominent of these sites in 2004.
The series was not seen since it was pulled from Noggin’s schedule until Sesame Workshop, under license to Shout! Factory and Sony BMG Music Entertainment, released a DVD boxed set on February 7, 2006, called The Best of the Electric Company that included 20 uncut episodes from throughout the show's run, including the first and last episodes, plus outtakes and introductions and commentary by Rita Moreno and June Angela.
Due to the overwhelming—and somewhat unexpected—popularity of the initial DVD release, a second boxed set was released on November 14, 2006 (The Best of the Electric Company: Volume 2). This second volume contained 20 episodes from Seasons 1-5 plus a 30-minute documentary on the effects of in-school viewings of The Electric Company from 1975. Cast members Luis Avalos, Jim Boyd, Judy Graubart, Skip Hinnant, and Hattie Winston provided commentary and reflected on their years on the show. However, the original content of nine episodes presented in this set were altered. In some cases, material that was originally broadcast in a particular episode was removed completely while material from other episodes was included. For example, 60A originally contained the Spider-Man episode "Spidey Meets the Prankster" and used a scene from that sketch as the opening teaser, which was removed completely after the opening credits, leaving only the episode number, and at the start is an episode of "The Six-Dollar and Thirty-Nine Cent Man," which supposedly aired only during Season 6. Also removed following the Letterman sketch in this episode was the clip of the Short Circus singing "Stop!" and a Road Runner–Wile E. Coyote cartoon. Clayton appeared in this episode as well, even though he supposedly only appeared in Season 6. These altered episodes also contain special effects used to segue from one sketch to another that were not used in the show's original run. The other altered episodes are 197, 227, 322, 375, 35A, 57A, 77A, and 105A. The material seen in these altered episodes was not what was originally shown when the episodes were first broadcast.
It is believed that these changes were probably made to avoid repeats of segments that were on the first DVD set, but it is more likely that it was due to ownership rights—the segments that were used to cover up the material not under Sesame Workshop's control (Spider-Man, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, etc.) were longer than the excised segments, so the episodes were cut further to get them down to their required 28-minute length.
An hour-long television show called The Electric Company's Greatest Hits & Bits was broadcast on many PBS stations in late 2006. It included interviews with cast members, voice talent, and creator-producer Joan Ganz Cooney. The special was produced by Authorized Pictures and distributed by American Public Television, and was designed to be seen during pledge drives. It was released on DVD on March 6, 2007.
In early 2007, Apple Inc., through its iTunes service, started selling 15 previously-unavailable episodes of The Electric Company. "Volume 1" contained Episodes 5, 13, 23, 128, 179, 249, 261, 289, 297, 374, 416, 475, 91A, 8B, and 32B.
In late 2007, another collection of 15 episodes dubbed "Volume 2" became available from iTunes. The new additions were Episodes 2, 36, 40, 75, 142, 154, 165, 172, 189, 218, 245, 290, 337, and 350. Repeated from Volume 1 was Episode 8B, erroneously labeled as 658, even though it is correct if the A–B designations were disregarded (1A–130A are 521–650, 1B–130B are 651–780).
It is unclear if these episodes were altered from the versions originally shown on television. Shout! Factory representatives indicated that it had no plans for another DVD set, implying that episodes distributed via iTunes would not be available in another format.
In May 2008, Sesame Workshop began production on a new version of The Electric Company that began airing on PBS Kids GO! January 23, 2009. The revival includes interactive Web elements and community-outreach projects. Karen Fowler serves as executive producer. Unlike the 1970s series, where the Electric Company refers to a troupe of actors in comedy sketches, the new series refers to a group of super heroes who battle villains in the name of literacy.
Season 1 premiered on January 23, 2009, and consisted of 28 episodes. None of the segments used in the 1970s were used in the revival (with the exception of new versions of the soft-shoe silhouettes and an occasional appearance of Paul the Gorilla, although these are infrequent), nor were any of the original actors (although June Angela has a cameo as a woman on the street). In addition, the theme used of the new version had no musical relation to the 1970s theme.
Season 1 was nominated for eight Emmy Awards in 2010 and won five.
- ^ Shaheen, Jack G. (1984). The TV Arab. Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press. pp. 35–36. ISBN 0-87972-310-6.
- ^ tvparty.com
- ^ Doctorow, Cory (2004-04-15). "Electric Company video and audio". Boing Boing. http://www.boingboing.net/2004/04/15/electric-company-vid.html. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
- The Electric Company (1971 version) at the Internet Movie Database
- The Electric Company (1971 version) official Web site
- The Electric Company (1971 version) at TV.com
- List of episodes that aired on Noggin
PBS Kids shows Current shows PBS Kids GO! See also
PBS network shows · Educational television
Comedy albumsBill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow...Right! (1963) • I Started Out as a Child (1964) • Why Is There Air? (1965) • Wonderfulness (1966) • Revenge (1967) • To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With (1968) • 200 M.P.H. (1968) • 8:15 12:15 (1969) • It's True! It's True! (1969) • Sports (1969) • Live: Madison Square Garden Center (1970) • When I Was a Kid (1971) • For Adults Only (1971) • Inside the Mind of Bill Cosby (1972) • Fat Albert (1973) • My Father Confused Me... What Must I Do? What Must I Do? (1977) • Bill's Best Friend (1978) • Bill Cosby: Himself (1982) • Those of You with or Without Children, You'll Understand (1986) • OH, Baby (1991) Music albumsSilver Throat: Bill Cosby Sings (1967) • Bill Cosby Sings Hooray for the Salvation Army Band! (1968) • Badfoot Brown & the Bunions Bradford Funeral & Marching Band (1971) • Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs (1971) • Bill Cosby Presents Badfoot Brown & the Bunions Bradford Funeral Marching Band (1972) • At Last Bill Cosby Really Sings (1974) • Bill Cosby Is Not Himself These Days (1976) • Disco Bill (1977) • Where You Lay Your Head (1990) • My Appreciation (1991) • Hello Friend: To Ennis, With Love (1997) • Quincy Jones & Bill Cosby - The Original Jam Sessions 1969 (2004) • Quincy Jones & Bill Cosby - The New Mixes Vol. 1 (2004) • State of Emergency (2009) • Keep Standing (2010) Compilations Singles"Little Ol' Man (Uptight—Everything's Alright)" (1967) • "Grover Henson Feels Forgotten" (1970) • "I Luv Myself Better Than I Luv Myself" (1976) • "Yes, Yes, Yes" (1976) TelevisionI Spy (1965-1968) • The Bill Cosby Show (1969-1971) • The Electric Company (1971-1977) • The New Bill Cosby Show (1972) • Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (1972-1985) • The Cosby Show (1984-1992) • A Different World (1987-1993) • The Cosby Mysteries (1994-1995) • Cosby (1996-2000) • Little Bill (1999-2004) • Fatherhood (2004-2005) BooksFatherhood (1986) • Time Flies (1987) • Love and Marriage (1989) • Childhood (1991) • Kids Say the Darndest Things (1998) • Congratulations! Now What?: A Book for Graduates. (1999) • American Schools: The $100 Billion Challenge (2000, w/ Allen, Dwight William) • Cosbyology: Essays and Observations from the Doctor of Comedy (2001, w/ Booth, George) • I Am What I Ate ... and I'm Frightened!!!: And Other Digressions from the Doctor of Comedy (2003) • Friends of a Feather: One of Life's Little Fables (2003, w/ Cosby, Erika) • Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors (2007, w/ Poussaint, Alvin F.) • I Didn't Ask to be Born, But I'm Glad I Was (2011) Clark Gesner Theme songs Musicals
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown · The Utter Glory of Morrissey Hall
"Little Known Facts" (from Charlie Brown)
Films directed by Gary Goldman 1980sAll Dogs Go to Heaven (1989) 1990s 2000sTitan A.E. (2000)
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