The Electric Company (2009 TV series)

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The Electric Company
EC logo 2009.png
Starring Priscilla Diaz
Jenni Barber
Josh Segarra
Ricky Smith
Ashley Austin Morris
Chris Sullivan
Coy Stewart
Carly Rose Sonenclar
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 53 (list of episodes)
Production
Running time 28 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel PBS Kids Go! (2009-2013)
PBS Kids (2013-present)
Original run January 19, 2009 (2009-01-19) – April 4, 2011 (2011-04-04)

The Electric Company is an American television series for young children for grades K-8 on PBS, derived from the 1971 series. The series premiered as a four-episode mini-marathon on PBS on January 19, 2009, then became a weekly series with an episode shown each Friday. On September 7, 2009, it became a daily series. Like the original, this version was produced by Sesame Workshop. The Workshop canceled the show after its third season ended.[citation needed] The last new episode with live characters aired on April 4, 2011. Subsequent showings were reruns. The series was sometimes referred to as The New Electric Company to distinguish it from the 1970s series. It aired on PBS Kids Go!

Conception[edit]

The new version has similar short animations, sketches, and music videos to those seen in the original show, but each episode also features a story line designed to teach four to five vocabulary words with a mix of hip-hop- or contemporary R&B-style music.

Each story revolves around the Electric Company, a group of teenage literacy heroes who battle a group of neighborhood vandals dubbed the Pranksters. The heroes' headquarters is the Electric Diner, where their friend Shock, a beat-boxing short-order cook, works, and also appears in short-form segments.

In the show's nod to the original series, each episode's opening has a Company member call to the others to assemble by yelling "Hey, you guys!!"—a line that (as yelled by Rita Moreno and then Priscilla Diaz) led off the opening sequence of seasons two, five, and six.[1][2][3] Other nods to the original series include appearances by Paul the Gorilla and updated versions of the soft-shoe silhouette segments in which words are sounded out.

The revival includes interactive Web elements and is promoted and extended via community-outreach projects. The first season consisted of 28 weekly episodes. An additional season of twelve more episodes began airing January 2010. A third season debuted February 7, 2011, and ended on March 28, 2011, with new Company member Marcus and new Prankster Gilda.

Characters[edit]

The Electric Company[edit]

The Electric Company consists of a group of two friends and two siblings, a brother and a sister, who protect the neighborhood from the Pranksters. They all have the power to throw word balls, blue magical balls that create words on any surface. In season 3, a new character, Marcus Barnes, joined the company. In addition, each member has a special skill.

  • Hector Ruiz (played by Josh Segarra) is the oldest and tallest member and leader of the Electric Company, who has the power to replay any image that he sees, much like a video camera. Hector is very athletic, showing particular skill at basketball. He once had a fear of beetles. In Season 3, he becomes the owner of The Electric Diner (it was about to go out of business before Mr. Watson put him in charge). Hector is always the one to go to if there is trouble, and he also has a strong rivalry with Manny because of a limerick contest many years ago, going back to when they were kids. He's friendly with Danny, even though they share a similar rivalry. He is portrayed by Josh Segarra.
  • Jessica Ruiz (played by P-Star) is Hector's little sister who has a power similar to her brother's — she can replay any word or phrase that she hears, much like a tape recorder. Jessica is confident, yet occasionally brash, especially when it comes to dealing with the Pranksters, particularly Manny. She loves to rhyme and rap. She also looks after Marcus, as he is the youngest and newest member of the Electric Company. Jessica became the hostess of the vocabulary segment at the beginning of each episode starting in Season 2. Jessica is por trayed by P-Star.
  • Lisa Heffenbacher (played by Jenni Barber) is a well-liked girl who has the power to unscramble any anagram that she finds. Lisa is very smart and excels at science. She has a strong and constant rivalry with Annie, since the latter caused numerous headaches for her. In the season-three premiere, it is revealed in a hovering TV screen that she is traveling with a science program. However, Hector keeps her posted with what's happening in the neighborhood. She then was seemingly written off the show, although Jenni Barber did do a few educational commercials for The Electric Company during that season. Lisa is portrayed by Jenni Barber.
  • Keith Watson (played by Ricky Smith) is the second-oldest member of the Electric Company who can generate images in mid-air, which especially comes in handy when explaining difficult words, and can also magnify images as well. Keith is logical and level-headed and frequently creates solutions for dealing with the Pranksters' tricks. He is taller than Jessica and Marcus and even has an iPhone. Keith appears in most episodes and is good at basketball, like Hector. Keith first discovered his power while playing Horse with Hector when saying he wanted an E and threw a wordball at the word. His father was the owner of the Electric Diner. Keith is portrayed by Ricky Smith.
  • Marcus Barnes (played by Coy Stewart) is the new and young member of the Electric Company, who made his debut in Season 3. He first discovered his wordball power while playing baseball. He has math skills as his powers and uses them to effectively solve math problems. He likes numbers, has good athletic abilities, and always has a craving for waffles along with a love of pickles. Francine disdainfully refers to him as Marty Farms. Marcus is portrayed by Coy Stewart.
  • Carly is the youngest and newest member of the Electric Company who made her debut in Season 3.

Allies[edit]

  • Shock (played by Chris Sullivan) is a short-order cook at the Electric Diner, where the Company converges when trouble occurs. Shock rarely speaks directly, instead beatboxing and using his hands to act out ideas. In later episodes, however, he speaks normally. He appears in some segments with Jessica, particularly the closing segment.
  • P.J. Watson (played by Kyle Massey) is Keith's eccentric cousin who appeared in season 2. He starred in Lisa's movie and got help from her to write a paper from back home about an old western story in a refrigerator.
  • Leo Watson (played by L. Steven Taylor) is the proprietor of the Electric Diner and Keith's father. In Season 3, he opens up a new restaurant and passes the diner to Hector, who becomes the owner.
  • Bandini is Calvero's brother, who was trapped in a painting, but the Electric Company got him out of the painting and reunited him with Calvero.
  • Mario (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda) is Shock's best friend and a hip-hop emcee. He makes guest appearances alongside Shock in some musical segments.
  • Sabi or Sammy Spamboni is Manny's little brother, who was frozen by Manny many times but gave the Electric Company advice on to how unfreeze Keith.
  • Paul the Gorilla was a recurring character on the original show and was brought back for the new series. He is the only character to appear in both series. In the new incarnation, however, he is far more restrained and less vocal.
  • Dax is a Skeleckian and a good friend of Lisa's who sometimes gets the company tied up in his problems, such as getting shrunk and having a steering wheel stolen, and almost getting some cheese stolen by the Pranksters.
  • Polly Hashimoto is a Japanese-American secretary and local author whose books are found in the library. She appears in the episode "One Smart Cookie."
  • Wiki Wiki Walter - Shock's old friend who appeared in an episode as the titular character. It is revealed that he was the one who taught Shock how to beatbox. However, after Shock beats him in a beatboxing match, he called off their relationship. They eventually recounciled near the end of the episode.
  • Charles A -

The Heffenbacher Family[edit]

The following family members only appear in "Revolutionary Doughnuts":

  • Caroline (played by Deborah Rush) is Lisa's mother. When asked, she reveals the family tree of the Heffenbachers and then explains to her daughter that Cordelia was a traitor.
  • Mildred is Lisa's aunt. She generously allows her niece and her friends to find out about Cordelia.
  • Cordelia Heffenbacher (also portrayed by Jenni Barber) is Lisa's great-great-great-great-great-great aunt. She was first mentioned by Annie Scrambler saying that she was a traitor, but Lisa proves that Annie was wrong. Cordelia distracted the British Redcoats by offering them doughnuts.

The Pranksters[edit]

The Pranksters are the Electric Company's enemies. In the Prankster Cam segments, each of the Pranksters explain about the letters, with Manny specializing in punctuation and Annie talking about apostrophe-S. They are also most likely to be vandals, especially towards the Electric Company, and some others' property. Despite all their efforts, they are always defeated in the end by the Electric Company.

  • Francine Carruthers (played by Ashley Austin Morris) - The vandalistic leader of the Pranksters. She has the same power as the Electric Company—the ability to generate word balls, except that hers are violet. Francine has a very high opinion of her own intelligence. Most of her plots involve making herself look good at the expense of the Company. In Season 3, she gets an assistant named Gilda Flip. She usually calls Marcus "Marty Farms" and usually gets 100 to 200 presents for her birthday. Francine is portrayed by Ashley Austin Morris.
  • Annie Scrambler - A girl who is frequently envious of the accomplishments of others. She has the power to scramble any word or sentence with a stomp of her foot which results in making new words, but sometimes she scrambles existing words to create nonexistent ones. Annie is often jealous of the Electric Company's good luck and sometimes works with her Uncle Sigmund, who is a noted hypnotist, to get back at her rivals. She will work with the Electric Company if she has to, such as to help her uncle out in "Bananas". Annie is portrayed by Sandie Rosa.
  • Danny Rebus (played by William Jackson Harper) - A suave, sophisticated Prankster. He can turn any sentence into a rebus puzzle. Most of his messages make fun of the Electric Company. Danny is very proud, yet has a touchy personality, being easily offended. He often accuses the Electric Company of making him look bad, promising vengeance. He has helped the Electric Company out on occasion when it benefits him. He is also the most destructive member. Danny is portrayed William Jackson Harper.
  • Manny Spamboni (played by Dominic Colón) - The loudest of the Pranksters. He is the only member of the group that does not have any powers, but he is quite skilled in the art of robotics and mechanics. Manny is rude and crude, and uses his many gadgets to make trouble for the Electric Company. He is thought the world of by his mother who says he is her "little angel," although she has put him in his place on occasion, such as chastising him for cheating at a limerick competition. Manny is portrayed by Dominic Colon.
  • Gilda Flip (played by Carly Rose Sonenclar) - The newest member of the Pranksters and Francine's assistant. Like Manny, she doesn't appear to have any powers, and her only gadget is her Flip Phone. Instead, she has a natural talent for planning as well as a wide variety of other small talents. She is portrayed by Carly Rose Sonenclar.

Allies[edit]

  • Sigmund Scrambler (played by Mark Linn-Baker) is Annie's uncle, who works as a hypnotist. He is slightly bumbling, but he helps Annie in her pursuit of bothering the Electric Company.
  • Antigone Carruthers (played by Julie Halston) is Francine's mother, who is the CEO of the Antigone Carruthers Corporation. She usually calls the Electric Company the Electricians. Like Francine, she has an inflated opinion of her own importance, and her idea of punishment for Francine's misdeeds are considered incredibly lenient by the Electric Company.
  • Mrs. Bebe Spamboni (played by Andrea Burns) is Manny's mother. She thinks the world of Manny like any mother would, but doesn't approve when he cheats.
  • Zandy Rebus is Danny's dog who gave the Electric Company a note in the episode "Pies for puppies."

Animated characters[edit]

The Adventures of Captain Cluck[edit]

  • Captain Cluck (voiced by Isabella Palmieri) - Captain Cluck is a chicken-themed child superhero who has brown hair with high short curly pigtails, and wears a pink outfit with a matching mask and cape and also a star belt. She has the ability to correct things. In the "aprostophe-s" segment, passing ten minutes, she arranges a restaurant for all her chickens with separate plates to show whose corn belongs to.
  • The Poultry Patrol - The Poulty Patrol are the chickens who belong to Captain Cluck. In one of the segments, they all have female names revealed with apostrophes and "s" at the end because they're hens. They are named Amy, Fay, Fran, Gin, Helen, Jan, Jen, Jean, Joan, June and Nan.
  • The Lost Girl - The Lost Girl is an African American girl who only appears in the comma segment in which she is confused as she looks at her shopping list.
  • Greg - Greg is a boy listening to music in headphones. He has been yelled at by his best friend.

Pets Home Alone[edit]

  • Donnie - Donnie is a yellow canary with green wings and a matching tail. Donnie likes to call all of his fur-covered friends, "Fuzzball" and plays with Nuggets' hamster ball to pretend to be an astronaut.
  • Nuggets - Nuggets is a pink Hamster who appears in some live action backgrounds.
  • Petunia - Petunia is a blue bulldog. She wears a pink bow on her head. She sits right next to the Green-Skinned Mummy from "Haunted House" in the live-action bench and she doesn't like taking baths.
  • Tom - Tom is an orange kitten, he is very nice and shy and knows how to use a laptop and knows the website "NachosforPets.com" and he put himself in the nachos after Nuggets rushed through the word tomatoes for Tom. He dressed as a pencil dressed as a monster for Halloween.

In the Haunted House[edit]

  • The Brown Bat (voiced by Cree Summer) - The only flying monster. He lives in a haunted house with Werewolf and Mummy. Bat was once given a present by a monster which turned out to be a mini-version of the monster.
  • Mummy (voiced by Leslie Carrara-Rudolph) - A green-skinned mummy who wears toilet paper. He has an Indian accent. He lives in a haunted house with Bat and Werewolf. Mummy's favorite dessert is pie. However, he discovered that peas aren't desserts, but a type of vegetable.
  • Aunt Hilegard - Aunt Hilegard is a green-skinned witch with a turbo broomstick. She also has red goggles for her flight.

Others[edit]

  • The Three Orangutans (voiced by Jim Cummings, Tress MacNeille and Tim Curry) demonstrate things with words that start with "gr", "fl," or "dr"; have "oo" or "ink"; or end with "mb," "ing," or "ed."
  • Special Agent Jack Bowser (voiced by Tyler Bunch) is a blue android dog who wears a black sweater with a white horizontal stripe on it and is trapped in the treats/things. As he tells us that something is about to explode, he utters, "I can't crack the code to get out! Help me read this." This sketch is a parody of the TV series 24 and in fact each sketch lasts 24 seconds.
  • Music Man (played by Reggie Watts) is a deep-voiced singer who appears in many segments. He is the only character from the first two seasons to appear in the third season since he appeared in "Wordball Games" fully animated in a different style of Flash animation and actually had spoken dialogue for the first time. His new segments involve him doing some chores for his space alien neighbor and his pesky neighbor, Pesky Eddie, or he'd get zapped and lose one life, by saying the subtitled instructions the alien stated. The segments are made in the style of a video game; where at the opening, Music Man loses his first life and only has two lives left.
  • The Pet Shop Owner is a wacky pet owner who owns many unusual pets, which causes his customers to leave. This segment was replaced with "Pets Home Alone."
  • Josephine is an African American girl who wants to sell things to the people and the mummy who live in houses.
  • Felix and Oscar are an animated take-off of The Odd Couple and appear in many segments. Felix is an elderly man wearing a green shirt who makes comments and Oscar is the dim-witted, lanky, and tall teen-aged boy who lives with Felix and has to live without most of his teeth, socks, or deodorant. Although their names aren't revealed, Felix was referred to as Old Man in one episode.
  • The Two-Headed Long-Necked Monster is completely female and skilled at skiing, and has light-green skin. In addition to calling each other dude, they often argue about the jacket they're wearing. One head with red eyes, lips, and antennae wants it zipped while the other head with blue eyes, lips, and antennae wants it unzipped. They both end up down the hill blaming each other and their purple hooded jacket loses its zipper.
  • Wrack and Wreck are green and blue robots who love watching TV and eating bolts as a snack.
  • Ray and Fay are blue monsters with horns on their heads. Ray tries to offer flowers to Fay who's sitting in a bench. She wears pigtails.

Prankster Planet[edit]

An animated segment was shown at the end of each episode starting in 2012. Prankster Planet eventually supplanted the live show - actors were no longer employed, but Sesame Workshop continued to have Prankster Planet cartoons made. Jessica and Marcus visit the Pranksters' space base, where the Pranksters have full power to build inventions to damage words. Now without powers, Jessica and Marcus have to use their wits to turn off the inventions. Although they overcome the obstacles, the Pranksters catch up to them and prevent them from reaching the switch. The viewer is then encouraged to play an online game, in which you test your wits as well. The segment focuses more on measurement (in various forms) than the rest of the show. The first series of segments features Manny Spamboni's Wordsuckeruppenator which enables him to access all the words in the world. Multiple Pranksters appear to defend the off buttons. The second series of segments features Francine's Reverse-a-Ball machine, which reverses words. In this series, Francine watches Jessica and Marcus, along with a studio audience of Manny's robots. "Survey Time" is announced so the audience can vote on an obstacle for the duo, which is graphed. In the episodes alongside, words reverse, which is shown at the end.

Cast[edit]

Cast members include P-Star as Jessica, Jenni Barber as Lisa, Josh Segarra as Hector, Ricky Smith as Keith, Coy Stewart (Tyson Stewart) as Marcus Barnes, and Chris Sullivan as Shock.

The Celebrities who have appeared on the show include Pete Wentz, Samantha Bee, Ne-Yo, Mario, Sean Kingston, Marc Ecko, Jack McBrayer, Tiki Barber, Whoopi Goldberg, Kyle Massey, Common, Swizz Beatz, Good Charlotte, Jimmy Fallon, Dwight Howard, David Lee, Christopher Massey, Wyclef Jean, and Doug E. Fresh. Besides his brief appearances in season one, Kyle Massey had a recurring role in season two as PJ, Keith's eccentric cousin.

Mark Linn-Baker appears occasionally as Annie's uncle Sigmund. Broadway actor-composer Lin-Manuel Miranda does occasional guest appearances and contributes music to the show. He also appears in a season-two episode as Mario, Shock’s friend.

Tommy Kail, the director of Miranda's In the Heights, is one of the musical directors with Bill Sherman and the actor-musician Chris Jackson, a star of the original Broadway production of that show. Members of the hip hop comedy troupe Freestyle Love Supreme (of which Miranda, Sherman, Jackson, and Sullivan are members) make sporadic appearances in the musical segments as well.

Episodes[edit]

Pilot (2006)

  • The New Electric Company

Songs[edit]

From season 1[edit]

  • "We've Got Skills" - Hector Ruiz, Jessica Ruiz and Lisa Heffenbacher
  • "The Power" - Keith Watson and Electric Company
  • "100% Human" - Hector and Electric Company
  • "Nature Lover" - Danny Rebus
  • "The Musical Mission to Jupiter" - Electric Company, Francine Carruthers and Dax
  • "We Are the Merry Pransker Band" - Annie Scrambler and Manny Spamboni (with Francine on the tuba)
  • "The Limerick Slam" - Hector, Jessica, Manny and Mrs. Spamboni
  • "Sigmund Scrambler's Habit-Breaking Hypnotism Tent Advertisement/The Last Note" - Annie, Lisa, Hector and Sigmund Scrambler
  • "Keith's Birthday Song for Dad" - Keith and Electric Company
  • "Follow Through" - Lisa
  • "One Part You and One Part Me" - Lisa and Francine
  • "Love" - Manny
  • "Help Me Clear My Name" - Hector
  • "The Cheese Song" - Lisa, Hector and Electric Company
  • "The Danny Rebus Blues" - Danny

From season 2[edit]

  • "Sheriff Frank vs. Negative Apple" - Mario and Danny
  • "Word Rap Battle" - Jessica, Hector, Manny and Mrs. Spamboni
  • "Follow The Clues"
  • "Don't Undo Undanny" - Danny and Jessica
  • "Separate the Truth From the Lies" - Lisa
  • "The Francine Hotel Jingle" - Francine and Mrs. Carruthers
  • "Compromise" - Electric Company and Pranksters
  • "Down With the Skeleckians" - Jessica and Skeleckian crowd
  • "Observe the Ape" - Sigmund, Natalie McNally, Lisa and Annie
  • "Hey, Bluefoot (The Friendship Call)" - Manny and Electric Company
  • "Good Friends Good as Gold" - Jessica, Jules and group
  • "Great" - Lisa and Cordelia Heffenbacher

From season 3[edit]

  • "Wordball on His What?" - Hector, Jessica and Marcus Barnes
  • "Gilda Breaking Records" - Gilda Flip and kids
  • "Here Come the Animals Dressed As Monsters" - Hector, Jessica, Marcus, Keith and Shock
  • "Appreciate a Zero" - Danny and Annie
  • "Little Puppies" - Jessica and puppies
  • "The Electric Company Doesn't Like You" - Danny and Manny
  • "Take Back This Return-a-Ball" - Francine, Gilda, Hector, Keith, Jessica and chorus
  • "Beatbox" - Doug E. Fresh and crowd
  • "I Love My Power" - Manny and his robot
  • "Add a Chicken" - Rob and chorus
  • "Junior Assistant" - Francine, Hector and chorus

Critical reception[edit]

Positive[edit]

The show received generally positive reviews from critics, and currently[when?] has a 74/100 score on metacritic.com, based on eight reviews. Newsday said "With a visual sensibility that mimics a video game, Web browser and iPhone, as well as a hearty online presence with a social-networking bent, the new Electric Company seems to deliver."

Entertainment Weekly said "Though the hip ’n’ urban vibe seems overly calculated, did studies show that eight-year-olds respond to beatboxing white dudes? And the cast is aggressively up with people. You gotta love new characters."

Negative[edit]

Reviews that cited negative aspects of the show compared it to the 1970s Electric Company.

  • The New York Daily News said, "The only problem here is that once in a while the producers and cast get so enthusiastic about their production numbers [that] their words become almost unintelligible."
  • The New York Times stated[4] that although the new series is respectable, "it all feels a little corporate somehow" and "today’s children will certainly find it watchable and will have better language skills after spending time with it. They just aren’t likely to still be holding it in their hearts 35 years from now."
  • The Los Angeles Times called the story aspects of the show "unnecessarily complicated and off the point,"[5] citing that the 1970s series "spent more time teaching, at no cost to entertainment".
  • The Washington Post praised the new series but stated that it was reminded of Ghostwriter (another PBS series produced by Sesame Workshop), not the 1970s Electric Company. "The original show—low concept, high energy—knew that words didn't have to have literal superpowers in order to be worthwhile and, occasionally, magical."[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1] Davis, Michael. “PBS Revives a Show That Shines a Light on Reading.” The New York Times, Vol. CLVII, No. 54,308, p. E2, 5/12/2008. Retrieved from NYTimes.com on May 12, 2008.
  2. ^ ""The Electric Company" to return in 2009". Current.org. 2008-12-22. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  3. ^ Netburn, Deborah (January 11, 2009). "The Electric Company". Los Angeles Times. 
  4. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (January 19, 2009). "Back From the '70s, Without the Zaniness". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Zeitchik, Steven. "Entertainment - entertainment, movies, tv, music, celebrity, Hollywood - latimes.com - latimes.com". Calendarlive.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  6. ^ Hesse, Monica (January 23, 2009). "'Electric' Is Rewired For the '00s". The Washington Post. 

External links[edit]