PBS offers surge of ‘Electric Company’

Network to expand weekly schedule

PBS will strip its remake of “The Electric Company” across weekdays beginning Sept. 7, expanding from a weekly sked.

To date, the pubcaster has aired 16 of the 35 “Electric” episodes it shot in 2008. The remaining 19 will join the previously aired episodes on the daily strip in the fall.

“Electric,” which debuted in January, ranks as the No. 1 performer on the PBS Kids Go! Block this year, and has streamed more than 10 million show videos at its website.

The current “Electric” borrowed a few elements from the 1970s original that featured Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno, including the series’ signature “Hey you guys!” shout, but it stands mostly as a reinvention, with an emphasis on music and dance and a story arc augmenting interstitial segments.

Exec producer Karen Fowler cited “Def Poetry Jam” and “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk” as influences.

“What we learned was, the instinct to create a show that was built of hip-hop and spoken words, shooting from the streets of New York, getting that street vibe, really made a lot of sense,” Fowler told Daily Variety. “Sketch comedy is really hard to do well on a half-hour show, and kids and adults like characters they can rely on and come back to again and again.”

The show launched with a cast of unknowns but featured guests including Tony-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (who participated in the show’s development), Mark Linn-Baker, Jimmy Fallon, Whoopi Goldberg, Jack McBrayer and Kelly Ripa.

Cast member Chris Sullivan will lead a 20-city outreach tour from August to November with interactive elements for young attendees.

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