“The Electric Company” Turns F-O-R-T-Y

You gotta love a show with a character named “Easy Reader.” Morgan Freeman portrayed him, a laid back Easy Rider-esque guy who loved reading on PBS’ The Electric Company. Bill Cosby and Rita Moreno joined Freeman on the program – the first show from The Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) after the hugely successful Sesame Street.

In her Archive Interview, CTW co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney discusses the creation of The Electric Company, a show geared towards seven to nine-year-olds that taught youngsters the basics of reading and grammar. She describes how government funds, allocated for then-First Lady Pat Nixon’s literacy initiative, proved crucial to the development of the show, which debuted on October 25, 1971:

The Electric Company utilized songs, animation, and live sketches to teach phonics and fundamentals. Popular skits included “The Adventures of Letterman” (no, not David, but an animated superhero who loved wordplay), “Here’s Cooking at You” (a spoof of Julia Child’s cooking show), and “The Six-Dollar and Thirty-Nine Cent Man” (you can guess the show being parodied there). Archive interviewee Rita Moreno reflects on the show’s delicate balance of entertainment and education:

A new version of The Electric Company now airs on PBSKids. Learn more about the original version at our show page:

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