“We’re gonna turn you on, we’re gonna bring you the power.”
Once little tykes began to outgrow Big Bird and friends on Sesame Street, they could plug into another PBS series that catered to the 7-10 age group. Primarily using sketch comedy to impart educational lessons, The Electric Company quickly became a favorite of kids and is still fondly remembered to this day by many of them.
Debuting in 1971, The Electric Company was produced by the Children’s Television Workshop, the same folks who brought Sesame Street to the airwaves two years earlier. Unlike Sesame Street, however, numbers and counting didn’t receive any attention on this show (which was solely focused on letters, reading and wordplay) and a more mature level of humor was used throughout.
One of the things that made the show so successful was its stellar cast, which included award-winning actress Rita Moreno and a relatively unknown-at-the-time actor named Morgan Freeman (Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy). Bill Cosby was also a regular guest on the first season (and used his experience on the show to help attain his Doctorate in Education).
Besides the famous catchphrase, “Hey, you guyyyyys!!” screamed by Rita Moreno, there were a number of recurring segments that have stuck in the heads of viewers over the years such as the smooth and hip “Easy Reader” (played by Freeman,) Fargo North, Decoder,” and Letterman (with Gene Wilder providing the voice-over.) Even a live-action version of Marvel Comics’ Spiderman got into the action in “The Adventures of Spidey”
A total of 780 episodes of The Electric Company were produced between the years of 1971-`1977 and the show remained in reruns until 1985. For its efforts, the show won 4 of 5 prime-time Emmy Awards it was nominated for, as well as winning one of two Daytime Emmy Awards.
In 1999, the Noggin Network and TV Land both re-broadcast 65 episodes of the original series. And in 2006, The Best of The Electric Company was released on DVD. Due to the overwhelming popularity of this release, a Volume Two set was issued later the same year with another 20 episodes. Also, in 2009, an all new version of The Electric Company premiered on PBS to mixed reviews. A total of 52 episodes were produced before going off the air in 2011.
Meanwhile, the original series (and its catchy theme song) remains thoroughly entrenched in the brain cells of millions of former fans. If you tuned in regularly to The Electric Company as a kid, we hope you’ll share your recollections of this endearing show in our comments section.
“It’s coming down the lines, strong as they can be, through the courtesy…
Of The Electric Company!”