The Electric Company 1970s

PBS (ended 1977)




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The Electric Company 1970s

Show Summary

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

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  • Morgan Freeman

    Morgan Freeman

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

    Rita Moreno

    Rita Moreno

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

    Bill Cosby

    Bill Cosby

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

    Mel Brooks

    Mel Brooks

    Blond-Haired Cartoon Man

    Mel Blanc

    Mel Blanc

    Voices (1973-1977)

    More Info About This Show


    Comedy, Kids


    cultural institutions, childlike sense of wonder, 70s, for the child in you, for the nostalgic