So last month, I stumbled upon the Best of the Electric Company boxset at our library. It took a while for me to get it, but I finally did.
You remember the Electric Company, right? Done by the makers of Sesame Street, ran in the 70s, had funky music and stars like Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno? Come on, when was the last time you saw it?
Watching this made me realize something–I missed out on whole lot. I’m not talking about missing the earlier shows–the series debuted in 1971, the year I was born. I didn’t even recognize the show’s openings until I reached the 5th season, which started around ’76. But in the show, they used a lot of recycled skits and songs, so a lot of those I recognized.
What I missed out on was the style and humor. Back then, sitting crosslegged in front of the TV, I think most of those jokes flew way over my head. I was more interested in how ‘t’ and ‘r’ went together to make the sounds ‘tr’.
There’s a skit where Easy Reader (remember him? Let me refresh your memory: Morgan Freeman with an afro, singing, “Easy Reader, that’s my name. Uh…uh…uh…/Reading, reading, that’s my game. Uh…uh…uh…” Dude, are people even allowed to go ‘uh…uh…uh…’ on kid shows anymore?) He’s discussing the word ‘if’ and telling us kids to keep a watch for it in the show. Then he says he’s going to finish reading his book, which happens to be about a shark. Just before the scene ends, he says nonchalant, “Oh. Looks like the shark is about to join Congress.” Five-year-old me pretty much blips that part from her mind, because it makes no sense whatsoever.
Thirty years later…I get it. And Daniel walks in to see his mommy rolling on the floor, laughing her fool head off.
(Incidentally, for years when I was a kid, I used to think that my father actually moonlighted on the show. I never realized that Morgan Freeman and my father were, in fact, two separate people, not until I grew older, anyway. After watching TEC, with the afro and the ‘outasight’ attitude, I can honestly say that my father is a dead ringer for Morgan Freeman. It’s even worse when my son, seeing these episodes for the first time, points to the screen and says “Pop-pop”, whenever Morgan is on. Freaky.)
See, this is why you have to get this. Everyone watched the Electric Company when they were kids. And I do believe we learned a lot from it (everyone once in a while the song, “I have lived all my life upside down/I’m the king in an upside down town…) But did you know that Letterman was narrated by Joan Rivers? That the voice of Letterman was Gene Wilder? That the cats who sang backup in the song, “Hey Diddle Diddle” weren’t fat–they just had huge tails?
And you gotta love the cast. Yes, there’s Morgan and Rita, yeah, yeah. But there was also Judy Graubart, who was Julia of the Jungle (with Paul the Gorilla! Remember him? Remember him?) And Hattie Winston, who made my day when I saw her skit as she tried to sleep, but couldn’t because of all the noises, so she groans, “Clang, clunk, clatter, click, clink, clank, clippety-clop. Clang, clunk, clatter, click, clink, clank, I wish it would STOP!” It’s interesting to note that they actually had quite the diverse cast, and in some skits, they had interracial couples. No hoopla, nothing like “Ooh! We’re quite diverse!”
Man…I can’t even write a decent review of this, because all my memories are flooding back from this show. I do know one thing: as Daniel stares at as an animated kid puts on his shoes to the song “I put my right shoe right on (RIGHT ON!), I put my left shoe right on (RIGHT ON!). I turn the TV right on (RIGHT ON!). Going to put the kettle on, too, RIGHT ON!”, I realize that this is what I want my kid to watch when he starts learning how to read.
The show may be dated in the 70s, but even today, it still rocks. As Mel Mounds, disc jockey, would say, “Heavy, heavy, heavy. Out of sighteous!” Sighteous…is that even a word?! I love The Electric Company.
Get the full wiki description of it here.