Friday, July 6, 2012

Hey you guys!

My mother always tells people, “Lori learned to read watching Sesame Street and The Electric Company” and it’s totally true.

This was back in the mid-seventies when it was totally acceptable to plop your toddler in front of the boob tube for hours on end without wondering whether or not they were going over the acceptable TV viewing hours that the pediatrician had recommended. Pediatrician, schmediatrician. These were the good old days - stand as close to the glowing box as you want, everythings fine!
How do you down your fiftieth piece of pie?
Eagerly. Eagerly. Eager...LY!

The songs from Electric Company are the ones that have really stuck with me throughout my adult life. For example, today I can be typing out the word “eagerly” and will always sing the ditty “eagerly, eagerly, eager-LY” in my head – an educational short with a little cartoon blob-man involved in a pie eating contest describing how he downed his fiftieth piece of pie-eagerly. Electric Company taught me how to properly use “ly.” It also taught me a myriad of other things…

This cautionary tale about not touching, looking at, or going near poison was a mini rock-opera and scared the crap out of me. With a creepy skull and crossbones, scary, jarring music, the giant word POISON across the back of the room, and questionable talent singing and dancing frantically about what could happen to you if you go near the stuff, how could I not be scared? Who did wardrobe on this thing? The talent all wore what seemed to be McDonald’s uniforms. You gotta wonder how the guy second from the left ever got the gig, he must have been somebody’s kid - and the girl next to him on the far left played Violet in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! And way over on the right…guy? Girl? Yeah, I’m not sure either - it was the seventies, anyone could have that haircut. But the breakout star of the show is right where she should be front and center - long dark hair, clearly the most talented of the bunch – arms flying from her stomach to her neck to her head while singing the word “POISON” over and over – she of course ends up getting the tag line at the end, that every kid wants to nervously have stuck in their heads, “IT’LL KILL YA!”

What is creepier than adults dressed up in old-timey children’s clothing licking gi-normous lollipops? The answer is…NOTHING! In this song we are learning about the way two L’s go can go together, like in the word lolly, or in the names Billy, Molly, Lilly, and Solly (Solly? Ok, kind of stretching it with Solly, doncha think? What about Olly? Or Holly? Wally anyone? Oh well.) The “little boys” in this produce a far greater creep-factor than the girls. At the beginning when Billy comes marching out with a crazed look on his face and grabs that giant lolly you know you are in for something special. Short-pants, big floppy bow around his neck, straw hat and looking like he smokes a pack a day he licks the hell out of that fake candy, rolling his eyes to the back of his head in ecstasy as he does so. Eww. Billy is really excited about that lolly that is on a stick so big he could use it to pole vault. Then Billy gives a lolly to Molly and Molly gives a lolly to Lilly (who comes in galloping like a filly) who gives a lolly to Solly…you see where I’m going here? I bet the prop person didn’t care for Billy too much, seeing as how they probably had put on rubber gloves and use a jug of bleach on that lolly to get all of Billy’s DNA off of it. Again, eww.

Admit it - you were as fascinated as I was with this learn-your-numbers-disco-pinball-extravaganza, right? The song, as performed by the Pointer Sisters, was the epitome of funk and sounded like it belonged on Soul Train as opposed to a kids show. The different segments each focused on a numbers between one and twelve – you would learn which number was the star of the show as the animated ball in the pinball machine was pulled back and sent into play. The psychedelic/pop art/trippy animation of the inner workings of the coolest pinball machines on the planet followed your big silver ball through carnivals, the circus, the farm, and medieval times. If only pinball was this cool – I would have been the pinball wizard of Park Avenue in Ossining, N.Y. And I dare you to try and get the 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12 out of your head after watching this.

So television is not all that bad for kids, just look at me! Or ask my mom! I learned to read, write, count, and developed a lifelong fear of anything resembling a skull and crossbones, all thanks to children’s programming.

1 comment:

  1. Remember the silhouette faces that sounded out words? Sh ip Ship. Sh op Shop.

    Well, in my head, when I'm bored I do this game only with bad words. Sh it Shit... and so on...