A New, Even Better “Electric Company”

A New, Even Better “Electric Company”

Remember that dynamic TV show? Aimed at elementary school kids who had “graduated” from “Sesame Street”, “The Electric Company” (as in the light bulb going on in someone’s head) sought to generate interest in reading through a hip, humorous array of skits, songs and (for the time) advanced “electronic” visuals. (See http://tvparty.com/lostelec.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Electric_Company

for some history and background) Richard Nixon actually had a role in its founding, directing early 70’s federal money at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to promote U.S. literacy.

The result was deep on talent, both on screen and off. Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno and Mel Brooks were among the regulars. Tom Lehrer wrote some of the songs. In total, 780 episodes aired from 1971-77, with reruns continuing until 1985. A 2006 retrospective DVD of greatest moments was an unexpected commercial success – no doubt bought by parents who remembered seeing the show themselves way back when – with a second one rushed out shortly thereafter.

Now the word is that a new version of “The Electric Company” targeting low-income children will be getting its power from the “Sesame (successor to the Children’s Television) Workshop”. Its release scheduled for spring 2009.

I have only one suggestion. From what I can tell doing a little research, aside from numerous puns and a singing chorus called the “Short Circus”, the show really didn’t have much to do with electricity itself. (Cosby, interestingly, drew from his experiences on the show while earning his Ph.D – in education.) The new version – which will reportedly touch on areas such as community outreach, natural foods, and ecology – should further do its part to promote understanding of, and curiosity about, the sciences.

And of course they should stick with the original theme song. Some might call them sappy, but those lyrics by Joe Raposo (who also composed much of the ‘ Sesame Street” music) don’t just spark waves of nostalgia, they actually still inspire:

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 lines, strong as they can be 
Through the courtesy, of The Electric Company
The Electric Company. The Electric Company!

The “it” in question is of course literacy, but I also see the cumulative ability to read, write, think, create, explore, and all that good stuff — with later versions (see http://home.triad.rr.com/electriccompany/categories.htm) additionally featuring lines such as:

We’re gonna open the book,And read every word that we see.We’re gonna get us the power to learn about anything,And the power’s gonna get us free.Power’s gonna get us free.

and in its final (coincidentally post-Watergate?) years:

Movin’ out in a new way…We’re gonna tell you the truest word that you ever heard anybody say.

Whatever the case, maybe NEMA should print some T-shirts. (“We’re gonna bring you the power!”) But in the mean time, after all these years, what about Naomi?

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