The Electric Company
Based onThe Electric Company
by Paul Dooley
Joan Ganz Cooney
Lloyd Morrisett
Developed byKaren Fowler (Sesame Workshop)
StarringPriscilla Diaz
Jenni Barber
Josh Segarra
Ricky Smith
Dominic Colón
Ashley Austin Morris
Sandie Rosa
Chris "Shockwave" Sullivan
Coy Stewart
Carly Rose Sonenclar
William Jackson Harper
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes52 (list of episodes)
Production
Production locationsKaufman Astoria Studios
New York City, NY
Newark, NJ
Running time28 minutes
Production companySesame Workshop
Original release
NetworkPBS Kids Go!
ReleaseJanuary 19, 2009 (2009-01-19) –
April 4, 2011 (2011-04-04)

The Electric Company is an American educational children's television series produced by Sesame Workshop and developed by Karen Fowler. It is a reboot of the 1971 series of the same name.[1][2] The series ran on PBS Kids Go! from January 19, 2009, to April 4, 2011 with reruns continuing on PBS until August 31, 2014. The series aired reruns on HBO Kids on HBO Family from January 1, 2016, until November 1, 2020, as part of HBO's deal with Sesame Workshop. On some services, the series is called The New Electric Company to distinguish it from the 1971–77 series.[3]

Conception

The new version has similar short animations, parodies, sketches, and music videos to those seen in the original show, but each episode also features a story line designed to teach four to five vocabulary words with a mix of hip-hop- or contemporary R&B-style music.

Each story revolves around the Electric Company, a group of tween and teen literacy heroes who battle a group of neighborhood vandals dubbed the Pranksters. The heroes' headquarters is the Electric Diner, where their friend Shock, a beat-boxing short-order cook who also appears in the short-form segments, resides.

In a nod to the original series, each episode's opening has a Company member call on the others to assemble by yelling "Hey, you guys!!"—a line that (as yelled by Rita Moreno) led off the opening sequence of seasons two, five, and six.[1][4][5] In one episode, an actor who plays one of the Pranksters yells the opening line, as her normal character had switched bodies with one of the Electric Company members. Other nods to the original series include appearances by Paul the Gorilla and updated versions of the soft-shoe silhouette segments in which words are sounded out.

The revival includes interactive Web elements and is promoted and extended via community-outreach projects. The first season consisted of 28 weekly episodes. A second season consisting of twelve episodes began airing on January 18, 2010. A third season debuted on February 7, 2011, and ended on April 4, 2011, with new Company member Marcus and new Prankster Gilda (named for Saturday Night Live cast member Gilda Radner). Later episodes omit Jessica saying the five words and went straight to the episode. Later re-airings of "The Flube Whisperer," "He's Not Frozen, He’s Immobile," "Dirty Laundry," "Out to Launch," "Lost and Spaced," "Franscent," "Trouble Afoot," "Gravity Groove," "The Orangachoke," and all airings of the third season were focused on both expressive reading and the five Ws.

Characters

Main

Character Actor / Actress Season(s)
Season 1 Season 2 Season 3
Hector Ruiz Josh Segarra Main
Lisa Heffenbacher Jenni Barber Main Guest
Jessica Ruiz Priscilla Star Diaz Main
Keith Watson Ricky Smith Main
Marcus Barnes Coy Stewart Main
Francine Carruthers Ashley Austin Morris Main
Manny Spamboni Dominic Colón Main
Danny Rebus William Jackson Harper Main
Annie Scrambler Sandie Rosa Main
Gilda Flip Carly Rose Sonenclar Main
Shock Chris Sullivan Recurring
Mario Lin-Manuel Miranda Recurring
Leo Watson L. Steven Taylor Recurring Guest
P.J. Watson Kyle Massey Guest Recurring

The Electric Company

The Electric Company consists of a group of five friends who protect the neighborhood from the Pranksters. They all have the power to throw wordballs, blue magical balls that create words on any surface. Each member has a special skill.

Allies

The Heffenbacher Family

The following family members only appear in the second-season episode:

The Pranksters

The Pranksters are the Electric Company's enemies. Unlike the Electric Company, only Francine has the ability to throw word balls, and the Pranksters are only occasionally seen all together.

Allies

Animated characters

The Adventures of Captain Cluck

Pets Home Alone

Haunted House

Others

Celebrity cameos

The celebrities who have appeared on the show include Pete Wentz, Samantha Bee, Ne-Yo, Kelly Ripa, Mario, Sean Kingston, Marc Ecko, Jack McBrayer, Tiki Barber, Whoopi Goldberg, Kyle Massey, Common, Swizz Beatz, Good Charlotte, Jimmy Fallon, Dwight Howard, David Lee, Christopher Massey, Wyclef Jean, and Doug E. Fresh. Besides his brief appearances in season one, Kyle Massey had a recurring role in season two as PJ, Keith's eccentric cousin.

Mark Linn-Baker appeared occasionally as Annie's uncle Sigmund. Broadway actor-composer Lin-Manuel Miranda does occasional guest appearances and contributes music to the show. He also appears in a season-two episode as Mario, Shock's friend.

Tommy Kail, the director of Miranda's In the Heights, was one of the musical directors with Bill Sherman and the actor-musician Christopher Jackson, a star of the original Broadway production of that show. Members of the hip hop comedy troupe Freestyle Love Supreme (of which Miranda, Sherman, Jackson, and Sullivan are members) make sporadic appearances in the musical segments as well. Karen Olivo, who starred in In the Heights also appeared in some musical segments.

Episodes

Main article: List of The Electric Company (2009 TV series) episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
128January 23, 2009 (2009-01-23)October 1, 2009 (2009-10-01)
212January 18, 2010 (2010-01-18)May 7, 2010 (2010-05-07)
312February 7, 2011 (2011-02-07)April 4, 2011 (2011-04-04)

Prankster Planet

A new series of two-minute animated shorts titled "The Adventures of The Electric Company on Prankster Planet" (often abbreviated to "Prankster Planet") was shown at the end of each episode of The Electric Company starting May 3, 2011.[6][7] Prankster Planet eventually supplanted the live show – most actors were no longer employed, but Sesame Workshop continued to have Prankster Planet cartoons made. The educational focus of these shorts expanded beyond reading and literacy, incorporating basic math skills as well.

In animated form, Jessica and Marcus visit the Pranksters' space base, where the Pranksters have full power to build inventions to damage words. Now without powers, Jessica and Marcus have to use their wits to turn off the inventions. Although they overcome the obstacles, the Pranksters catch up to them and prevent them from reaching the switch. The viewer is then encouraged to play an online game (now no longer available), in which you test your wits as well. The segment focuses more on measurement (in various forms) than the rest of the show. The first series of segments features Manny Spamboni's Wordsuckeruppenator which enables him to access all the words in the world. Multiple Pranksters appear to defend the off buttons.

Following the success of the first twelve Prankster Planet shorts, a second season was released starting March 2012,[8] and aired alongside repackaged episodes of eight The Electric Company episodes from Season 1 and Season 2. The second series of segments features Francine's Reverse-a-Ball machine, which reverses words. In this series, Francine watches Jessica and Marcus, along with a studio audience of Manny's robots. "Survey Time" is announced so the audience can vote on an obstacle for the duo, which is graphed. In the episodes alongside, three words reverse, which is shown at the end.

Songs

From season 1

From season 2

From season 3

Critical reception

The show received generally positive reviews from critics, and has a 74/100 score on Metacritic, based on eight reviews.[9] Out of 18 Daytime Emmy nominations, the revival won 10, including three consecutive Outstanding Children's Series trophies.[10]

Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times called the story aspects of the show "unnecessarily complicated and off the point," citing that the 1970s series "spent more time teaching, at no cost to entertainment".[11]

Entertainment Weekly said "Though the hip ’n’ urban vibe seems overly calculated, did studies show that eight-year-olds respond to beatboxing white dudes? And the cast is aggressively up with people. You gotta love new characters."

Monica Hesse of The Washington Post praised the new series but stated that she was reminded of Ghostwriter rather than the 1970s Electric Company. "The original show—low concept, high energy—knew that words didn't have to have literal superpowers in order to be worthwhile and, occasionally, magical."[2]

Marc Peyser of Newsweek wrote "More than lives up to its legacy."[12]

Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times stated that "today’s children will certainly find it watchable and will have better language skills after spending time with it. They just aren’t likely to still be holding it in their hearts 35 years from now."[13]

References

  1. ^ a b [1] Davis, Michael. “PBS Revives a Show That Shines a Light on Reading.” The New York Times, Vol. CLVII, No. 54,308, p. E2, 5/12/2008. Retrieved from NYTimes.com on May 12, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Hesse, Monica (January 23, 2009). "'Electric' Is Rewired For the '00s". The Washington Post.
  3. ^ The New Electric Company hulu. Retrieved March 17, 2023
  4. ^ ""The Electric Company" to return in 2009". Current.org. December 22, 2008. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  5. ^ Netburn, Deborah (January 11, 2009). "The Electric Company". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ McLean, Tom (April 20, 2011). "PBS' 'Electric Company' Goes to 'Prankster Planet'". www.animationmagazine.net. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  7. ^ "TEC Prankster Planet Press Release". sesameworkshop.org. New York. April 20, 2011. Archived from the original on September 12, 2011. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  8. ^ Gordian, Graydon (July 9, 2012). "The Electric Company's Prankster Planet 2.0 launches today! | The Sesame Workshop Blog". sesameworkshop.org. Archived from the original on January 15, 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  9. ^ The Electric Company, retrieved July 25, 2020
  10. ^ "PBS Receives 37 Daytime Emmy Entertainment Award Nominations Public Media Programs Receive 51 Nominations Combined | PBS About". PBS Receives 37 Daytime Emmy Entertainment Award Nominations Public Media Programs Receive 51 Nominations Combined | PBS About. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  11. ^ Zeitchik, Steven. "Entertainment – entertainment, movies, tv, music, celebrity, Hollywood – latimes.com – latimes.com". Calendarlive.com. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  12. ^ Peyser, Marc (January 9, 2009). "PBS Relaunching Retro Fave "Electric Company"". Newsweek. Retrieved December 13, 2019.
  13. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (January 19, 2009). "Back From the '70s, Without the Zaniness". The New York Times.