The Electric Company
Many of us grew up learning letters and numbers from our pals who lived on Sesame Street. Once we felt more confident, it was time to move to another PBS series for the slightly older set. The Electric Company was poised to challenge our young minds in new and entertaining ways, earning a rightful place in the history of children’s programming.
The Electric Company was produced by the same minds that created Sesame Street, The Children’s Television Workshop. Debuting in 1972, the series came out strong, featuring a stellar cast of gifted performers. Bill Cosby appeared regularly in the first season, joined by a relatively unknown Morgan Freeman (yes, that Morgan Freeman) and Broadway and film actress, Rita Moreno, famous for her opening catchphrase “Hey, you guuuuys!”
Together, they encouraged young minds to move beyond the knowledge they learned on Sesame Street. The importance of reading was one of the main focuses of the show.
Whereas their predecessor used plenty of puppets to endear children to the show, The Electric Companyy relied more on sketch comedy to impart their messages. Among the more memorable segments, the Marvel Comics Spiderman character made regular appearances in a recurring segment called “The Adventures of Spidey,” while Freeman played the groovy “Easy Reader.”
An animated segment called “The Adventures of Letterman” featured the voices of Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, and Zero Mostel. Brooks also occasionally appeared as “Cartoon Man.” Numerous celebrities made cameos on the series, including Jean Stapleton, Carol Burnett, Dean Martin and Barbara Eden.
During the six years of its original run, a whopping 780 episodes of The Electric Company aired. The popular series ran for another eight years in syndication and, all told, garnered four Emmy Awards and one Daytime Emmy Award.
The original soundtrack of the show also won a Grammy Award, helping to put Rita Moreno on a very short list of performers who have won all four major awards in their career – an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award.
So popular was The Electric Company during its heyday that The Noggin Network rebroadcast a number of episodes from 1999-2003, introducing an entirely new generation to this classic show. Today, the show remains beloved by its millions of former fans who learned a few things from the folks at The Electric Company.
Did you grow up watching The Electric Company as a kid. If so, I’d love to hear all of those childhood memories in our comments section below, as we pay tribute another of those special aspects of growing up on Long Island in the 70s.