The Best of The Electric Company
The sheer number of DVD box sets released week to week can numb even the most ardent collector. Occasionally a title will arise that finds that special nostalgic spot in your heart, particularly when it comes to children’s television. Next to Sesame Street, and 3-2-1 Contact, the Electric Company completes a late 70’s trilogy of educational entertainment that any thirty-something can fondly recall.
Who can forget the neighborhood call of “Heyyy, you guyyyyys!!!” that would wind-up as part of the show’s intro, letting you know that this hip, and somehow more adult, program was about to begin? The show’s cast starred the inimitable Bill Cosby, and the Easy Reader himself, Morgan Freeman, in all their 70’s regalia. Interlaced with brief animations and live action sketches, the show encourages kids to read, with an emphasis on learning syllables and the different sounds letters can make.
This “Greatest Hits” DVD consists of 4 disks of seemingly random episodes, accompanied by historical notes about the show’s production and various milestones. While a montage of some of the funnier live action sketches cut with the show’s trademark animations may have preserved all those warm fuzzy feelings on a single DVD, even the most diehard nostalgist will have a hard time sitting through a full episode of the show without fast forwarding.
The show’s pacing does not hold up in the MTV fast-cut era of shortened attention spans. Some skits seem interminable as the cast plods through series of puns or ham fisted comedy sketches. While hearing, in a stand out live action sketch, Gladys The Glamorous Glow Worm say “Gloom go get gone, yeah that Glen baby sure turns me on!” will definitely make you crack a smile, these moments are sadly few and too far between. Even Spiderman’s first appearance on the show sadly falls flat as he goes face to face with “the Spoiler” who delights in creating an inedible rubber glove sandwich or “the Wall” who… is a guy in a wall suit.
What’s also curious is the decision to include episodes that repeat some of the same sketches, or animated shorts. The four-disc set seems to be a haphazard collection of episodes that could be digitized in time for advertising deadlines, instead of the “greatest hits” the set proclaims.
Watching Bill Cosby smoke a cigar around a bunch of little kids is good for a chuckle by today’s more rigid standards, but seeing him face-off against in himself in repeated sketches about pronunciation will bring your hand right back to the skip chapter button. While the Electric Company clearly made it’s mark on the culture, this over indulgent DVD collection demands some serious fat trimming, and is not the best way to make the series’ impact felt.
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