Sunday, November 26, 2006

Review: Electric Company's greatest hits and bits

If you enjoyed the classic PBS show “The Electric Company,“ and you can brace yourself to sit through a PBS pledge drive, you should enjoy “The Electric Company’s Greatest Hits and Bits.” It’s a 90-minute (counting pledge drive time) special airing on many PBS stations in the next few weeks. It aired in my neck of the woods recently.

The show was obviously produced for us grown-ups who watched Electric Company in our youth. A few classic clips are shown -- most notably classic Tom Lehrer songs “L-Y” and “Silent E” -- but these tend to take a back seat to the documentary style of the show, which features interviews with cast members, most of whom I have not seen since the show went off the air. I’m thankful they’re still with us! And watching the clips gives you a great appreciation for their incredible talent. Even the “lesser-known” actors hold their own very well with the more established stars. This cast was truly -- sorry folks, I can’t help it -- an “electric” company.

The interviews are entertaining and give a good indication of the fun that must have been a part of being on the show. I especially liked the story of Skip Hinnant’s reaction to finally “getting the joke” about Fargo North. I have to admit, I didn’t get the joke myself for a few years!

Morgan Freeman fans in particular should enjoy this one. Although Morgan isn’t interviewed, the cast has fond memories of him and his comedic talent really shines. And he sings well, too! According to Rita Moreno, it was Morgan’s idea to add the “uhh, uhh, uhh” into the Easy Reader theme song. Hey, that’s genius! That song wouldn’t be the same without the “uhh, uhh, uhh!”

Only complaint: show more clips! We saw some great clips from the show, but many of them were edited slightly. And there were quite a few characters barely (if at all) mentioned (Jennifer of the Jungle, Short Circus, Pedro, etc.) Seeing favorite clips like “L-Y” and “t-i-o-n” was great, but there’s a lot more material we could have seen.

(Side note: There are plenty of good songs from the Electric Company -- including many sung by Morgan Freeman -- that have never been released commercially. It would probably be worth it for Sesame Workshop to delve into its archives and create a good collection of these. I‘m hoping that I’m not the only person in the world who remembers “Sweet Sue at the Sweet Shop!”)

So all in all, this is a real treasure for fans of the show & it gives the non-informed a general idea of what the show was like. Check your local listings and be sure to watch it if you can. And if it's not airing where you are, you can pick up "Best of Electric Company" DVD sets now, which is, of course, very cool! This is the first time that this material has been released commercially, so it's good to know that there are a lot of other fans out there. "Uhh, uhh, uhh!"