Combustible Celluloid

The Best of the Electric Company (1971-1977)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Foxy Box

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy The Best of the Electric Company on DVD

How does one review such a thing? I should explain that, as someone in my mid-30s, I used to watch "The Electric Company" as a child. It came on after "Sesame Street" and before "Zoom!" and my parents didn't mind because at least it was fairly educational. I have vague memories of the show, but actually seeing it again blew the doors off of my memories. At the time, we had no idea how truly funky the fashions on the show really were. The performers were apparently making an attempt to be "hip," and it all looks ridiculous today (even the groovy animated graphics can induce headaches). The second surprise comes when recognizing many of the actors, Morgan Freeman above all, playing the hepcat "Easy Reader." Besides him, we have Rita Moreno (who returns for this DVD to introduce a few episodes), Bill Cosby, Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder as the voice of Letterman, and many more. (Even cartoon characters like Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner make little cameos.) The one thing I did remember was the Spider-Man segments, which now look utterly ridiculous.

Yet the word exercises still work. Would a young child of today be able to watch "The Electric Company" and get out of it what my generation did? Not sure. Will thirty-somethings be able to watch it again today for a bizarre memory trip? Perhaps, but probably not four discs worth.

DVD Details: Shout Factory has smartly packaged a collection of "best of" episodes ranging from seven years instead of a "complete first season." If you own the Schoolhouse Rock collection from a couple of years back, this might make a nice companion piece.

Starring: Luis Avalos, Jimmy Boyd, Lee Chamberlin, Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman, Judy Graubart, Skip Hinnant, Rita Moreno, Danny Seagren, Hattie Winston, June Angela, Gregg Burge, Irene Cara, Todd Graff, Douglas Grant, Joan Rivers, Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks, Zero Mostel
Written by: John Boni, Sara Compton, Paul Dooley, Tom Dunsmuir, Elaine Laron, Thad Mumford, Jeremy Stevens, Jim Thurman, Tom Whedon
Directed by: Henry Behar, Bob Schwarz, John Tracy
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 630 minutes
Date: March 17, 2006

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