Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Rita Moreno, Morgan Freeman, Bill Cosby, Luis Avalos, Jimmy Boyd, Lee Chamberlain, Judy Graubart, Skip Hinnant
Creator:  Joan Ganz Cooney
Audio:  Dolby Mono
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Shout! Factory
Features:  See Review
Length:  Four Discs, 20 episodes
Release Date:  February 7, 2006


Shows ****

What a fun-filled trip down memory lane for me...The Best of The Electric Company is an absolute blast!

I always considered it the best children's show ever, even better than The Children's Television Workshop's other masterpiece Sesame Street.  The Electric Company was cool, hip, and sublimely educational.  Millions of American children got their start learning to read from this innovative show.

With stars like past Oscar winner Rita Moreno, future Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, and the always affable Bill Cosby, The Electric Company boasted a first-rate ensemble cast.  They sang, they danced, they made us laugh, but most of all, they taught us the basic tricks of reading.  Who knows if my formative years watching this show on PBS was what eventually led me to being an English major in college?

Or a better question...who could ever forget the great characters the show paraded into our consciousness?  Whether it was Fargo North, Decoder cracking down on messages with missing letters, Easy Reader showing us how cool reading could be, Jennifer of the Jungle having wacky misadventures with Paul the gorilla, or J. Arthur Crank bringing a bit of grumpiness to the proceedings, we loved 'em all...and they always had good things to teach us.

And who could ever forget The Adventures of Letterman (featuring voices from Gene Wilder, Zero Mostel and Joan Rivers), or the live-action adventures of Spider-Man?  Or the silhouetted profiled faces spelling out words one syllable at a time?  Or the Short Circus and their songs that drove the words home for us?

It was all good.  Even as an adult, I'm still delighted by what the show had to offer, and I almost wished I had kids so I could introduce them to The Electric Company.  I don't have them, but many of you do, and believe me when I say:  there's no better DVD you can get them than this one...four discs' worth of 20 classic episodes from the show's fantastic seven year run.

The Electric Company had me reading at a first grade level when I was four years old.  And there's nothing special about me.  This show can do the same for kids today, even more than thirty years after it first hit the airwaves.  There just aren't shows like this for little ones anymore, and that's a shame.  But The Best of The Electric Company will keep the spirit of reading alive in your home today, and for more generations to come.

BONUS TRIVIA:  Look for a young Irene Cara in the Short Circus!

Video **


As far as a public television show from the 70s can go, this DVD offers about what you would expect.  It's not outstanding, but still colorful and more than effective for what it wants to get across.

Audio **

"Who's the dummy writing this show?!"

The same goes for the audio...the dialogue is clear, the songs still sound great, and the theme song is welcome to play out in my sound system any day of the week.  Perfectly suitable.

Features ***  

"Spider-Man...where are you coming from, Spider-Man?"

All of the episodes have a nice bit of trivia and a remembrance from the great Rita Moreno at the opening.  Disc One also has a featurette with her and even more delightful memories.  There is also a reel of outtakes.

Disc Two has a featurette with the show's creator.  Disc Three features a sing-along version of "The Silent E Song", along with looks back from the show's executive producer Sam Gibbon and head writer Tom Whedon.  And lastly, the fourth disc features remembrances from Short Circus member June Angela, the only member of the group who was there from the beginning to the end!  

WARNING:  If you're watching this disc with your little ones, SKIP the previews on Disc One.  They aren't suitable for younger audiences.  Whoopsie...

BONUS TRIVIA II:  Tom Whedon is the father of Josh Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer!


"And what about...Naomi?"

Some may call it dated.  I call it classic.  The Best of The Electric Company is sure to delight adults who grew up with the show, as well as their kids who can still benefit by the fun and powerful teaching tool it was.  I can think of no better DVD to pick up for you and your kids.  Turn it on and let 'em bring you the power.  Highest recommendation.


Personal request to the Shout! Factory:  please do more Best of The Electric Company sets.  There are a lot of great moments that didn't make it into this collection!

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