Hey you guyyyyyyys! The Electric Company is turning on the power again. That’s right, the classic ’70s children’s program is back with a new series set to premiere in January. PBS producers have said that the new The Electric Company will be a literacy show for the 21st century. (Aww, does that mean they are going to get rid of the groovy logo?)
The original series ran from 1971 to 1977 (with repeats playing until 1985) and taught reading through a series of skits, cartoons and songs. It also helped introduce the world to Rita Moreno, Morgan Freeman, Bill Cosby and Irene Cara.
Electric version 2.0 will be more plot and character-driven than the original. Linda Simensky, senior director of programming for PBS Kids, described the show this way: “It’s the old one mixed with High School Musical and a Dr Pepper commercial.”
Um, are Dr. Pepper commercials really the best way to get kids reading? Oh dear. Every time a piece of my childhood nostalgia gets remade, I get a little nervous. How could this new version possibly compare to the Motown-infused funkiness of the original?
I defy you to not sing along to that theme song. And vintage Morgan Freeman is a real treat — the man has an Oscar. Remember Easy Rider? Come on — if he couldn’t convince you that reading was cool, no one could.
Thankfully, the show does plan to pay tribute to its past. Rita, the originator of the show’s famous “Hey you guyyyyyyys!” yell, has been offered a cameo. The new show will follow a “not-so-secret society known as the Electric Company” whose headquarters is a natural-foods diner.
Among the cast is beat-box artist Shockwave (Chris Sullivan, pictured below). According to the New York Times, his character speaks in “one-word bursts only — no sentences — and appears in guises like the much missed gorilla and a butcher who cleaves words,” as well as a DJ.
Well, as long as it gets kids reading, I’m in. But, clearly, I won’t watch, since I’m way past its target 6 to 9 age bracket. Now, if they brought back 3-2-1 Contact, that would be another story.
So, what do you think: Should The Electric Company come back to help a new generation learn to read, or should they leave an old classic alone? And does anyone want to sing along with me to the “There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea” song? Pretty please?