Shout Factory presents
The Best of The Electric Company Volume 2 (1971-76)
"It's a word, it's a plane, it's Letterman!"- narrator (Joan Rivers)
Stars: Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, Luis Avalos, Jimmy Boyd, Judy Graubert, Skip Hinnant, Hattie Winston, Lee Chamberlin, Juna Angela, Irene Cara, Todd Graff, Douglas Grant
Other Stars: Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Wilt Chamberlain, Victor Borge, Dean Martin, Gary Owens, Gene Wilder, Joan Rivers, Zero Mostel, Mel Brooks
MPAA Rating: G for (tobacco use)
Run Time: 09h:46m:30s
Release Date: 2006-11-14
DVD ReviewWhether you purchase this or the first Electric Company set, you're in for some quality kids' entertainment, and it's educational to boot. When I look at some of the drivel that is shown even on PBS these days, a show like The Electric Company just stands that much taller. This second box of four discs collects another 20 episodes of the series (out of more than 700). All the bases are covered, so to speak, with everyone's favorites included, like Easy Reader, Fargo North Decoder, Jennifer of the Jungle, Spider-Man, and so on. This set throws in some episodes with notable guest stars, like All in the Family's Archie and Edith, Dean Martin, Victor Borge, and a handful of others.
In case you weren't here for the review of the first set, the show used a skit-based variety set-up to teach kids the fundamentals of reading, focusing on one or two different letter sounds per show. There are recurring characters galore, and plenty of songs and animation to break up the skits, which are all comedic in nature. Younger kids may miss a fair bit of the humor, since the show was aimed at younger grade-schoolers, but if you have a child learning to read, they're likely to benefit from it. Plus, the series' efforts to break both racial and gender barriers is to be commended. And finally, if you want to see what Morgan Freeman was doing during the 1970s, you'll see him here in all his glory, along with Bill Cosby, who appeared on the series during its first couple seasons. To sum up then? If you want to show your reading-age child a series without products to hawk, without cynicism, and with an eagerness to make learning fun, then give them a look at The Electric Company.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: What I said about the first set applies here also: the show was shot on video in the early-mid '70s, so it looks about as average to mediocre as you would expect. The video effects look dated and smeary, and there is an occasional dullness to the image, but it's about what I expected.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio is plain and unadorned, but does the job like you'd expect. Everything is clean and audible.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 20 cues and remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Old School Sesame Street, Best of the Electric Company Vol 1, Bill Cosby Show, America's Funniest Home Videos: Best of Kids and Animals
Packaging: Box Set
Extras Review: The first set only had Rita Moreno and June Angela on hand from the cast to discuss it; this time, most of the mainstays are here: Skip Hinnant, Judy Graubert, Jim Boyd, Hattie Winston, and Luis Avalos all get to say their piece about the show, and introduce episodes. The Disc 1 retrospective, Remembering The Electric Company (17m:22s) collects their interview comments, and to a person, they all have fond memories and loved working on the show, not to mention with each other. I would have liked to hear what they've done since the series ended, but this was a nice piece regardless. On the second disc you'll find 1975's The Electric Company Documentary1> (27m:34s), which is a rather dry look at the show, apparently made to convince teachers of the usefulness of the series in the classroom, as it is mainly comprised of teacher interviews and classroom footage, with occasional clips from the series. I found this pretty dull, but kudos to Shout for including it anyway. Disc 3 includes only a brief clip from a Bill Cosby appearance on the Dick Cavett Show, (02m:46s) where he tells the audience why the program is worth watching for kids, and ends with a clip. All four discs have separate menus to select songs, including a Play All option.
One improvement made here on the previous set is the switch from a fragile digipak to four slimline cases, which takes the same amount of space but adds durability, especially if you have kids who are going to want to pull these out multiple times.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsYou may laugh at the out-of-date fashions and 1970s music, but The Electric Company remains clever, worthwhile television for kids learning to read. This second set of 20 episodes gathers most of the rest of the cast for the extras and episode introductions, as well. If you liked the first set, you'll like this one. Pretty simple.
Jeff Wilson 2006-11-06