The Electric Company (TV) - Season 4, Episode 9

Background

The Electric Company was the Pepsi of children's television in the 1970s to Sesame Street's Coca-Cola.

Sesame Street had lovable Muppets which allowed them to earn additional income through merchandising (the main reason the show is STILL on the air after all this time). The Electric Company had Morgan Freeman. As cool as he is, I can't see a Morgan Freeman plush toy outselling Big Bird, Kermit, or Grover (especially the Super Grover variant). Oscar the Grouch, maybe.

Perhaps to compete with their sibling show, TEC somehow managed to acquired the rights to use Spider-Man in small segments starting in 1974. The intention was to teach children to read using one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. On that front they succeeded.

However some of the segments had to be GREATLY toned down to be appropriate for their target audience. This resulted in many so-bad-they're-good encounters with villains that wouldn't quite make the cut in the comics.

Story 'Spidey Jumps The Thumper'

  The Electric Company (TV) - Season 4, Episode 9
Date TBD
Star: Danny Seagren (Spider-Man), Hattie Winston (The Thumper), Luis Avalos (Bystander), Skip Hinnant (Bystander)
Narrator: Judy Graubart

The segment opens with a description of the villain. (This is good because otherwise I will have to make lame rabbit jokes). The narrator describes her as an average spoiled kid (define "average spoiled" kid) until she didn't get a yellow pony for her eighth birthday. (Ooh, that kind of spoiled).

She decided to turn to a life of crime - after her cake and ice cream of course - and get revenge on an unjust world. (Given the current state of the world, this is more believable than anyone wants to admit.) She dressed up like Napoleon Bonaparte, put on a boxing glove for good measure, and began running around New York bopping people on the head. She doesn't steal anything or make demands, she simply acts out like an overgrown child. (Insert joke about Least Favorite Celebrity here)

The latest addition to Spider-Man's rogues' gallery ... (yeah gonna stay with that)... has apparently made it all the way to adulthood and continued to "thump" whoever she feels like. She is still dressed as Napoleon, which leads me to believe her costume is made out of unstable molecules. This is the only explanation of how someone who doesn't even steal money from her victims could remain in uniform from second grade to present day.

She stands by a bus stop and waits for her next victim, covering her gloved hand with her cape. A middle-aged man walks up and stands next to her waiting for the bus. He is amazed that a major historic figure rides the #2 bus - just like him. (Uhm, yeah, okay. Napoleon died in 1821. Being generous with the math, he'd be over 200 years old.) While the admiring fan reads his newspaper, Thumper pulls out her gloved hand and bonks him on the head, sending him to the ground instantly.

Another man appears and is looking for some help. He sees the first man laying on the ground unconscious and says aloud that he "looks like he's been mugged. I'd rather not get involved". He then ask Thumper if she could tell him how to get to Sesame Street. (That's not a joke. That's the actual line!) While she distracts him with her directions, she claims her second victim.

Spider-Man is swinging around and his spider-sense alerts him to danger! (Well, the danger is in the past now. Does that still count?) The sound effect says he lands from web-swinging but he is shown walking into the shot (perhaps he's developing knee problems from too many landings?) He decides to ask around and see if anyone has seen anything suspicious. He sees The Thumper and decides to talk to her (#1 There are two unconscious grown men in suits on the ground. #2 They are near a young woman dressed as Napoleon. #3 It's not Halloween. This qualifies as "suspicious" to me, but New York is strange.). The narrator then warns all good little children to never talk to strangers.

A word balloon "Excuse me" appears over Spider-Man's head (The proper way to address anyone wearing 19th century attire is "Excuse me .. for staring"). Thumper immediately lashes out and knocks Spider-Man to the ground. (Quite a punch for an over-sized brat. Spider-strength, did you take a smoke break?). Thumper laughs at his misfortune.

When Spider-Man recuperates, he spins a Napoleon-sized web and captures her. The now-awakened victims thank him for his assistance. He then swings home, hoping he doesn't run into any other "Bambi" rejects.

General Comments

I know I'm going off on a weird tangent by using a one-time character from a PBS children's show to mock the current crop of parents try to be their childrens' friend instead of an authority figure, but somehow it just seems appropriate. I take my shots where I can.

Overall Rating

3 webs. Bizarre but somehow endearing in a subtle social-commentary kinda way. Or I could be losing my mind. Either way I had fun.