Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Electric Company

When I was a youngling back in first grade, I remember that sometimes we actually got to watch television in school. From time to time, the teacher would wheel in that towering A.V. cart and she would tune in a PBS show called "The Electric Company". We got a break from "real" learning for a bit. Sure we were smart enough to know that she was trying to subtly get us to learn from a "fun-ducational" format, but it beat having to spend time with those inane workbooks.

I remember that the show was set in some fictional New York City neighborhood and followed the adventures of a nice gang of kids. Each show, when one of the lead characters got into trouble (and it usually seemed to be Rita Moreno), they yelled out "Hey you guys!", and this brought the gang together to work out a solution to the problem.

I read on the "internet" that The Electric Company stopped making new shows in 1977. In the theme of everything old is new again, they started making new versions of the show in 2009 on PBS. My daughter and I watch it when nothing "good" is on. The format is basically the same. Skits, songs about vowels, and the adventures of a "reading" gang. However, I have noticed that the level of problems that this gang faces is on a much lower level than the 1970's gang faced. Today, if the T.V. remote is just out of reach, you will hear "Hey you guys!", or if they are out of vanilla ice cream at the store "Hey you guys!". I seem to recall different scenarios when I was a kid. There is a bug in the rocket booster protocol and re-entry is moments away, "Hey you guys!". A submersible in the Mariana Trench has gotten pulled down due to a hull breach, "Hey you guys!".

Maybe, my memory has just become myopic, but it sure seems that kids are not so much given the tools to be special and to make a difference, but more to feel good about themselves. Hey you guys!