Continuing a recent trend toward releasing Gen-X and Boomer kidvid on DVD, a new four-disc set capturing “The Best of the Electric Company” promises many hours of well-packaged nostalgia for anyone between the ages of 25 to 40. The chance to hear Rita Moreno bellow, “Hey, you guuuuys!” will be hard to resist for millions of ex-latchkey kids raised on this PBS classic.
Shout! Factory doesn’t give “Electric Company” the same deluxe treatment devoted to more recent classics such as “Freaks and Geeks.” Bonus features that are included, however, are well-done.
Most useful extra is a handsome 22-page booklet that accompanies the discs. Detailed descriptions of what’s on each episode allows viewers to find which disc features Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader or when Spider-Man made his first appearance on the show. There’s also a funny intro by Dave Eggers and a lengthy essay by historian Walter J. Podrazik that neatly puts the show in context.
As for the discs themselves, Moreno introduces each of the 20 episodes. A seg with two members of the creative team offers a fascinating insight into a period of American culture when it was still possible for public TV to unapologetically air a kids’ show in which the black characters are allowed to proudly speak in “street” dialect.
Two other featurettes focus on Childrens Television Workshop co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney and former moppet June Angela, who was with the show its entire run of 780 — yes 780 — episodes. Most fun extra is “Silent E Karaoke,” which lets viewers sing along with one of the many songs to emerge from the show.
The few minutes of outtakes included offer a few laughs, but those who want to preserve their memories of the “Electric Company’s” cast as near-surrogate parents might want to skip it. Everybody seemed to be having so much fun, who needs to reminded that Moreno, Freeman, Irene Cara and Co. were actually getting paid?