The Electric Company 1970s

PBS (ended 1977)
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  • show Description
  • On the heels of its fabulously successful Sesame Street, the Children's Television Workshop (CTW) created The Electric Company. With its roots in Motown Sound, Broadway and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, The Electric Company drew attention for six years as the most popular instructional television show. It would win an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Series, and its soundtrack album earned a Grammy. Targeting children ages 6 through 10, The Electric Company aimed to teach basic reading and grammar skills to the young viewers. The show's cast of skit players helped teach these concepts through the use of skits, songs, cartoon and blackout segments and regular features; all of them revolved around sound clusters (e.g., sh-, -ly, -oo-), contractions, punctuation marks, etc. The series provided material for elementary schools, as CTW published a biweekly TEC Teacher's Guide detailing program contents. Quickly, the cast members began to establish themselves with various personas: • Skip Hinnant (who had played Schroeder in the off-Broadway production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown) had one of the best known characters: Fargo North, Decoder. Early in the run, this Peter Sellers knock-off interpreted messages that people gave to him when they couldn't understand what had been written. • The show also made Morgan Freeman. He created Easy Reader, the cool dude who loved reading anything he could get his hands on. Freeman also played radio disc jockey Mel Mounds, who usually introduced The Short Circus tunes (see below). • Rita Moreno created her tagline, "Hey You Guys!", while playing Millie, the Milkman's helper. She put the same fire into playing Otto the Director, who fumed as her actors didn't read their lines properly. • Judy Graubart, alumnus of The Second City in Chicago, became Jennifer of the Jungle, teaching bits of phonetics to her friend Paul the Gorilla. • And who can forget J. Arthur Crank? Jimmy Boyd (B. 1939) created the character, strictly as a voice on a telephone during the first season. In all future years, Crank was seen as that bad-tempered loud dresser. Complimenting the adults in the cast was The Short Circus, a group of five teenaged performers usually involved in songs or dances. Members of The Short Circus drew names from a hat to determine what would be their character name. While the Short Circus changed its talents from one season to the next, they did keep one member constant: June Angela. The show also set itself apart with the cloud sets by Nat Mongioi (which members of the cast called "Limbo Land"), cool music by the late Joe Raposo and others, unique sound effects Dick Maitland pinned to punctuation marks, and the high-tech computer animation. The logo above can only suggest these elements, which seemed to represent the New Era back in the 1970s. Among the most popular of the regular features was Spiderman, a live-action segment added during the series' fourth season. The Spiderman segments (for which there were about two dozen or so made) featured The Electric Company cast as various characters. Beginning in 1972, there was also The Adventures of Letterman cartoon series. The evil Spell Binder would cause trouble by using his magic wand, replacing key letters to make the worse of situations (e.g.: Train into Rain). Then Letterman would take the letter(s) off his varsity sweater and correct the hazard. Muppet characters from Sesame Street (including Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and Grover) also visited on occasion through the years. A total of 780 episodes of The Electric Company aired from 1971 to 1977 on PBS; reruns of the final two seasons aired through the fall of 1985. Programs always ended with one of its cast members stating: The Electric Company gets its power from The Children's Television Workshop. This was followed by a superimposed caption: The Electric Company is a trademark and service mark of the Children's Television Workshop. © Copyright Children's Television Workshop 1971 to 1977 In 1972, CTW began issuing The Electric Company magazine. Appropriately enough, the mag contained feature articles, games and other activities featuring members of the show's cast. It was published until the late-1980s, when replaced with a magazine called Kid City. A sister magazine, Spidey Super Stories (also issued and endorsed by The Electric Company's producers) contained children's reading level-versions of the web slinger's battles with his arch-enemies plus comic strip versions of the The Electric Company Spiderman segments. Spidey Super Stories were published from October 1974 to January 1982. Sixty-five episodes of The Electric Company from various seasons – a good share from the 1972-1973 and 1973-1974 seasons – began airing on Nickelodeon's new Noggin network in the spring of 1999 (kicked off with a two-hour retrospective of the show on TV Land, another Nickelodeon sister network). The shows were edited slightly, removing all program numbers and show-ending teases (see Notes within Show 131). Also for the Noggin run, CTW gave credit to Marvel Comics, which had never received a copyright notice on the original run. Thus all episodes from Seasons 4 to 6 had their copyrights redisplayed: The Electric Company is a trademark and service mark of the Children's Television Workshop. © Copyright Children's Television Workshop 1974 to 1976 The use of the character Spiderman was provided as a courtesy to the Children's Television Workshop by Marvel Comics Group. © Copyright Marvel Comics Group 1974 to 1976 At first, Noggin aired The Electric Company during several daytime and overnight time slots seven days a week. By the time CTW was renamed Sesame Workshop in 2000, however, the show's timeslots were downgraded to late-nights and then, in 2002, only a couple of weekend overnight airings. In early 2003, with the value of Sesame Workshop's interest in Noggin even less (if not zero), The Electric Company was pulled from Noggin's schedule altogether. (Note: Classic episodes of Sesame Street, which were shown under the title Sesame Street Unpaved, had also been a part of Noggin's schedule. Noggin had shown 65 classic episodes (originally airing between 1969 to 1986) of the series. Like The Electric Company, Sesame Street Unpaved had originally aired weekdays before being placed in downgraded timeslots (eventually weekend overnights). Both shows had attracted primarily adults (who had watched the show as children) and college-aged fans, and both shows were too dated for their intended childhood audience. Noggin underwent a total personality change beginning April 1, 2002, placing more emphasis on original programming (in addition to airing reruns of Nickelodeon kiddie shows). The general effect of removing The Electric Company from the airwaves, has not been a pleasant one for American society. Some people believe Sesame Workshop discusses The Electric Company only when lowering the wrecker's ball on those who have violated their copyrights. (To this day, The Electric Company™ and the logo are trademarks and service marks of Sesame Workshop, © 1971-1977.) Though it appears Sesame Workshop chooses not to live in the past, it has been digitizing segments from all its old shows in preparation for DVD releases. The first DVD of The Electric Company is scheduled for release in 2006. (This is the result of an independent campaign for a TEC DVD release; see below.) The Electric Company will always be remembered by its fans as an entertaining series which taught children to read. Elementary classroom teachers regularly scheduled their days so their students could watch the show, and reading scores increased as a result of in-class and home viewing. Hey You Guys! petersmith among them We're gonna turn it on We're gonna bring you the power We're gonna light up The dark of night Like the brightest day In a whole new way We're gonna turn it on We're gonna bring you the power It's coming down the line Strong as it can be Through the courtesy Of The Electric Company™ from The Electric Company Theme Music and Lyrics by Joe Raposo © 1971 Jonico Musicmoreless

  • Latest News
  • Episode Guide
  • S 6 : Ep 131

    Show 130B - Coach

    Aired 4/15/77

  • S 6 : Ep 129

    Show 129B

    Aired 4/14/77

  • S 6 : Ep 128

    Show 128B

    Aired 4/13/77

  • S 6 : Ep 127

    Show 127B

    Aired 4/12/77

  • S 6 : Ep 126

    Show 126B - Stop

    Aired 4/11/77

  • Cast & Crew
  • Morgan Freeman

    Mark, Easy Reader, Mel Mounds - the DJ, Count Dracula, Mad Scientist, The Cop

  • Rita Moreno

    Carmela; Otto the Director; Pandora the Little Girl; Millie the Helper

  • Bill Cosby

    Hank; the Milkman; Ken Kane; the Ice Cream Man (1971-1972)

  • Mel Brooks

    Blond-Haired Cartoon Man

  • Mel Blanc

    Voices (1973-1977)

  • Photos (1)
  • Top Contributor
  • Zanshinkyo

    User Score: 302


  • Trivia & Quotes
  • Quotes (14)

    • BILL COSBY: I'll have the Jell-O too. WAITRESS (New York accent): No you won't. Some guy just ordered it.

    • Basketball Announcer: At guard, Walt Frazier. At forward, Dave DeBusschere. At center, the sensational new rookie, Dwayne. Radio announcer: Here's the late news from the CTW newsroom. It was an unhappy birthday for little Dicket Landon today. A mysterious bandit made off with his birthday- every present, party hat and favor, all the cake and ice cream. Police say only 1 person in the world is mean enough to steal a kid's birthday... the birthday bandit.

    • LUIS: The nerve of some people! JUDY: Quiet! You'll miss the best part!

    • And now for a scene we remember from the titles to the fifth and sixth seasons: (Behind J. Arthur Crank is the single word "crank" in the same font as it always is.) CRANK: Well, take my word for it! We're gonna use a lot of words with the cr sound in it, or my name ain't J. Arthur Crank! (Bells and sirens. The word "crank" flashes, and arrows point to it.) Hey, hey, hey! Hey wait! W-What's goin' on? Who's the dummy running this show? You're driving me crazy! (Caption changes to "crazy.")

    • MOM: You finished yet, Andrew? ANDREW: Yes, Mom. MOM: OK now I want you to clean your room. ANDREW: I already cleaned my room! MOM: Oh, yes, I remember. It was St. Patrick's Day... BOTH: 1968

    • Today on The Electric Company, the man sings about (flower power).

    • JENNIFER: Did you read the note I wrote? FARGO NORTH: I certaintly did, Jennifer. All it said was YOU. Paul, perhaps you can make more sense than either Jennifer or Easy. Let me see the note you wrote. Yeah. Uh-huh, uh-huh. Say, Jennifer, what does (gruntung and babbling) mean? JENNIFER: It means "you". FARGO: Uh-huh. The same as your note, huh. You. You, you, you. You people drive me up the wall.

    • Customer: A cup of coffee and a sweet roll. Waitress: We're ot of sweet rolls. Customer: A glass of milk and a sweet roll. Waitress: We are out of sweet rolls. Customer: iced tea and a swet roll. Waitress: We are out of sweet rolls. Customer: Orange juice and a sweet roll. Waitress (turns angry): WE ARE OUT OF SWEET ROLLS! Customer: Okay, then I'll just have a sweet roll. Waitress: AAARGH! (runs away)

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    Notes (77)

    • Among the many characters who made their debut in this episode was Fargo North, Decoder (Skip Hinnant) who will be one of the major recurring characters in the series. For those who did not catch it as a youngster, the name is a pun on the city Fargo, North Dakota.

    • Melanie Henderson, a member of The Short Circus, recalls that the song Punctuation was the first Short Circus scene recorded. It was July 1971, and the toughest thing for The Short Circus was lip-synching the song.

    • Underwriters' credits in the show's first season had the same font as the Sesame Street underwriters' credits of 1971-72. TEC underwriters for its first season are as follows: Funds for "The Electric Company" are provuded by The Bureau of Libraries and Educational Technology Office of Education Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare The Ford Foundation Carnegie Corporation The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Mobil Oil Corporation This was the only season Mobil Oil supported TEC.

    • Even though this episode originally aired on a Friday, there was no full credit scroll.

    • Featured songs "Shoo Shoo Sunshine" (Morgan) "E on the End" second version (Rita and The Short Circus". "Shoo Shoo Sunshine" was a blues song by Morgan about love gone lost.

    • Featured songs "Jelly Belly" (The Short Circus) "You Can Make Up A Word" (The Short Circus)

    • This also marked the final episode for Irene Cara and Bill Cosby. Both would have their segments repeated in later-season episodes. Bill Cosby left to start up Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids for CBS. Of course, Irene Cara, like Bill Cosby, was headed for much bigger and better things, such as a starring role in Fame in 1980 and multi-million selling hits on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 singles charts. Among her best-remembered hits was 1983's Flashdance (What a Feeling), which appeared in the Flashdance and was reprised in 2003's Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.

    • Reruns of The Electric Company's first season occurred only once on PBS, beginning April 24, 1972 and continuing until October20.

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    Trivia (54)

    • Featured songs "Punctuation" (Lee, rita and the Short Circus). "Easy Reader Theme Song" (Morgan and Rita).

    • Featured Songs "I'm Just A Clown Who's Feeling Down" (The Short Circus). "An E On the End (first version)" (Rita and the Short Circus). "Unday" (Lee).

    • Featured Songs 'Shoo Shoo Sunshine' (Morgan), 'An E on the End' 9Rita and the Short Circus #10.

    • "True Blue Sue" (animation). "Barley Farmer's Bar" (Skip and Judy). "The Street Sign Song" (unknown). "I'm In Love With A Giant" (Rita).

    • Featured songs "We Love Chow" (The Short Circus)", "He Ho Hi" (The Short Circus).

    • Featured songs "Broadway Bob" (Rita, June and Irene). "Brown Bread" (June and Stephen). "How Is Howard" (Judy).

    • This is one of the first episodes in which R. Morano shouts "HEY YOU GUYS!!!"

    • Featured songs: 'An E on the End' (Short Circus #1 and Judy), 'Skull is connected to the Skeleton' (animated).

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    Allusions (5)

    • Harvey the Reporter: I'm going to sell their conversation to Nosy movie magazine!
      Spoof of how tabloid "stringers" (correspondents employed by tabloids who report tips to their editors) do their work -- in this case, Harvey (Jim Boyd) eavesdropping on a conversation between two famous movie stars. Conversations of this nature between two movie stars (married or not, and frequently what was said taken out of context) frequently make the pages of the National Enquirer, Star and the National Examiner.

      (What terrible irony in that Skip Hinnant, after TEC was removed from PBS, did a spot for the most incorrigible tabloid, the scathing Weekly World News. By then, Hinnant was already on the Screen Actors Guild in New York, where he has served mainly on Disciplinary boards.)

    • The Short Circus: "The kid's a Hot Shot."
      The Short Circus' "Hot Shot" incorporates 1973-vintage footage of NBA action.

    • Easy Reader: "Sir Lancelot loves Lady Elaine Fairchild."
      Lady Elaine Fairchild was a character on another PBS children's series, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

    • Plumber (animation in previous episode of this show) This episode has TWO reference the the "Plumber" animation from a previous episode. One is at the end of the 'Super(-intendent)' superintendent sketch. When the plumber finally arrives he shouts "It's the plumber. I've come to fix the sink!" The other is "Who was it?" At the end of that sketch a parrot says "It was the plumber. He came to fix the sink"

    • Anchor Chicken: This is your anchor chicken speaking. And now the news.
      "The Used News" film segment parodies newsreels run in movie theaters from the 1920s to the mid 1960s. The anchor chicken is a direct tap to Pathé the cockerel, which is the logo for British Pathé Films (former newsreel producer). We believe Mickey Siporin produced this send-up. He would keep his spoof anchor chicken alive in nhis independent newsreel parody, The Ritz Newsiola, which would run on Nickelodeon's Turkey Television in 1985.

  • Fan Reviews (22)
  • A perfect mixture of Educational TV blended with fun, fun, imagination.....animation and really really really hot babes............June (Julie) Angela...... Bayn (Kelly) Johnson.... oh yeahhhhhhhh

    By cheryfan, Mar 20, 2008

  • The adventures of Letterman!!!! and>.....TION,(shun,shun,shun,shun)TION,(shun,shun,shun,shun)lol.My younger brother and I sing this all the time.It makes those of us that remember smile.Weekday afternoons after school was an escape and entertaining for us

    By kelvinp1, Oct 23, 2007

  • I SO loved Electra Woman and Dyna Girl!!

    By TotallyChey, Sep 23, 2007

  • Hey, you GUYS!!!

    By jonghyunchung, Jul 22, 2007

  • Hey, you guys!!! Who could forget this opening?!

    By cuddles3, Jul 05, 2007