Faster than a rolling O. Stronger than silent E. Able to leap capital T in a single bound. It’s a word! It’s a plan! It’s Letterman!

I was talking with my friend Barry about the cartoons on TV today — Thomas the Tank Engine, Max and Ruby, and the dreaded Dora. Barry wondered where the morals of the stories were. What lessons were they teaching?

I said that we grew up on Bugs Bunny, and there were no morals there. Very little sanity as well.

We agreed that TV was much better when we were small, and this led to a bit of reminiscing about The Electric Company. I haven’t watched it in decades, but Barry has the box set — for his daughter, he says.

It’s surreal, he told me. Morgan Freeman, Bill Cosby, big stars today, all regulars then.

Sure enough, he is absolutely right. It is a weird and wild and wonderful program, with a lovely balance or knowledge and whimsy. No wonder I loved it so.

I thought I would post the opening credits here, but then I found this clip of the recurring “Letterman” cartoon. Gene Wilder is the voice of Letterman, Joan Rivers is the nearly hysterical narrator, and the whole thing is wild.


Also, this wonderful animation, “Cloud, Proud, Loud.”

And here’s “For You.”

Makes me think of Bill Plympton’s animations.

My new plan is to give boxed sets of The Electric Company as gifts to all children from now on. I’ll mix in a few Rocky & Bullwinkle sets too, and The Jungle Book. This will be my investment in the future of the world. Who’s with me?

5 replies on “Faster than a rolling O. Stronger than silent E. Able to leap capital T in a single bound. It’s a word! It’s a plan! It’s Letterman!”

  1. I’m with you! We’ve got season 1 of The Muppet Show. It’s honestly fun for the whole family – all four of us will park in front of the tv, giggling away.

  2. I’m going to disagree that the quality of kids’ tv was better back in our youth. (I’m pretty sure we’re roughly the same age — amIright?)

    For every “Electric Company” from that era, I give you the collected works of Hanna-Barbera and Sid & Marty Kroft. THAT was the predominant dreck being pumped out in the late-60’s and early 70’s. The things your nostalgic for — Rocky and Bullwinkle, Bugs Bunny, etc., were the product of an earlier era.

    All of that Hanna-Barbera wretchedness (Wacky Races, the Hair Bear Bunch, Hong Kong Phooey, etc.) is available now on the Boomerang network. From time to time, my kids will watch it, and it is truly awful stuff. From the scripting to the animation to the voice acting, that stuff is putrid. There’s not one thing that’s produced today (that I know of) that even comes close.

    Moving forward to today, you have some really quality stuff. In particular, I’ve come to really appreciate the Backyardigans. Each episode features a certain musical style, and 3 or 4 original songs, and in my opinion the music is top-notch. (Check out the “Boinga” song with Alicia Keys…)

    Little Einsteins and Wonder Pets both tread the same territory.

    And as for plain old nonsense, both SpongeBob and Fairly Oddparents are, in my opinion, truly funny and like the best Bullwinkle or Warner Brothers productions, they work either for kids or adults.

    Even Dora, which takes a lot of heat (some of which is deserved, the animation stinks for one thing) is not without its merits.

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