When I was a kid, my day was practically defined by the PBS children’s programming schedule. Sesame Street, followed by The Electric Company. I think it even re-ran several times during the day, which was great for those long, lonely summers when every kid in the neighborhood but me was off to summer camp.
Some time ago, in a fit of nostalgia, I purchased the DVD box set of the best of The Electric Company. Like most nostalgia purchases of products that don’t necessarily age well, I watched a few episodes and put it away to gather dust in the cabinet.
A little while later, we had a child. And a few years after that, he became obsessed with PBS’s new version of the Electric Company, which is the Electric Company in name only, aside from taking the silhouette word-mashing bit. I was wondering if he might enjoy the older version. I put it on for him…
Those of you who have children know that three-year-olds don’t merely enjoy things passively. When they find something they love, they grab hold of it like a pit bull on a rawhide chew. They just have to keep watching it over and over and over… And when they’re not watching it, they’re repeating it again and again and again, at the only volume level they know: 11.
And so, for the past few weeks, our house has been filled non-stop with the sound of Benjamin shouting, “Hey You Guys!” and “We’re gonna turn it on! We’re gonna give you the power!” and little bits from every single skit and cartoon that PBS saw fit to put on the DVDs. My son is doing what two episodes a day every day for the bulk of the late 70’s and early 80’s couldn’t: He’s making me sick of the damn Electric Company.
(Oh crap. I just noticed, while typing this, that I was humming the theme song to myself again.)
On the bright side, he is reading along with the episodes, and learning more about language. There are worse things for a boy to be addicted to than one of the greatest educational shows in history. In fact, upon involuntarily studying the episodes, it’s kind of shocking how much educational content the new version of the show sacrifices in the name of having a through plotline. It’s also gratifying to see that he especially enjoys the songs of Tom Lehrer. Boy knows quality when he hears it.
On the dim side, I had the following conversation with Paula.
Me: It’s educational and all, but should Benjamin really be so obsessed with a program that aired 20 years ago?
Paula: Jason, it aired 40 years ago.
Now I just have to convince him that plaid couches and pants are not okay…