The Electric Company: When Television Taught Us To Read

By | September 25, 2021

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The cast. Source: (IMDb).

On May 20, 1968, the Children’s Television Workshop was created, with the goal of using television to reach needy kids and provide them with an educational resource. Shortly after its creation, it released its first show, Sesame Street. After 18 months of research, on October 25, 1971, they released The Electric Company which was geared towards elementary school children who had moved on from Sesame Street. Because its audience was elementary children, the humor was more mature, as were the skills the show focused on: reading and grammar. As increased literacy had become a goal for the U.S., it was funded in part by the United States Department of Education Office of Health, Education and Welfare.

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Source: (Reddit).

Look Closely, You'll See Some Familiar Faces

The cast included Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, Bill Cosby, Judy Graubart, Lee Chamberlain, and Skip Hinnant, many of whom had already done stage, repertory, and improvisational work. By the time they were cast on the show, Cosby and Moreno had already established their careers in film and television. Both Cosby and Chamberlain left the show early on, although they were billed as cast members for the rest of the show’s run because their segments were reused repeatedly. At the age of 9, Irene Cara, who later sang and wrote the song “Flashdance…What a Feeling” for the film Flashdance, appeared on the show for one season, as a member of the five-person band, Short Circus, who used music to teach reading comprehension. At the beginning of season three (1973-1974), Hattie Winston, an actor and singer, joined the cast and in season four (1974-1975), Danny Seagren, a dancer and puppeteer from Sesame Street appeared as Spider-Man in character, though he never spoke or unmasked himself; his dialogue appeared in speech bubbles, similar to a cartoon. The show also had guest appearances by some pretty big names, including Woody Allen, Victor Borge, Carol Burnett, Barbara Eden, Diane Keaton, Michael Landon, Dean Martin, and Joe Namath, as well as Big Bird, Grover, and Oscar the Grouch.