PBS Powerhouse ‘The Electric Company’ Debuted 50 Years Ago Today

Fifty years ago today, PBS debuted the oh-so-groovy cousin to Sesame Street – the forever fabulous The Electric Company.

What a blast from the past. I LOVED The Electric Company. My 8-year-old self loved the creativity, the music, and how varied everyone on screen was (I don’t think I understood ‘diversity’ but I knew the show embraced all kinds of folks).

And what a cast! Among the performers were Academy Award winner Rita Moreno as well as future Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Irene Cara (as a part of the show’s kids chorus, the Short Circus).

We’re gonna turn it on, We’re gonna bring you the power
We’re gonna light the dark of night like the brightest day in a whole new way
We’re gonna turn it on, We’re gonna bring you the power
It’s coming down the lines, strong as they can be
Through the courtesy of the Electric Company

From NPR:

According to a 1977 report by the Educational Testing Service, “The program had a clear and significant impact on its primary target audience – second grade children who were in the bottom half of their class as indicated by standardized reading test scores – indicating the program was an effective instructional supplement for children who were beginning to experience reading difficulty.”

The series – an overwhelming success – came to an end in 1977 at the height of its popularity due to funding. Produced by the Children’s Television Workshop, which also produced Sesame Street, there was only so much money to go around and Sesame Street was apparently a money-maker.

Did you know:

• The ‘Short Circus’ was a play on the term ‘short circuit’

• The show’s original soundtrack scored a Grammy Award in 1972 for ‘Best Recording for Children.’

• A total of 780 episodes were produced in the show’s six-season run, 130 per season.

• Following the last original episode on April 15, 1977, The Electric Company continued on PBS in reruns until early October 1985.