The Electric Company (TV) - Season 5, Episode 1

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 'The Birthday Bandit'

  The Electric Company (TV) - Season 5, Episode 1
Date TBD
Star: Danny Seagren (Spider-Man), Hattie Winston (Parent), Jim Boyd (Birthday Bandit), Judy Graubart (Mrs. Martin), Morgan Freeman (Radio Announcer), Skip Hinnant (Mr. Martin)
Narrator: Luis Avalos

A happy couple make the final preparations for their son's birthday party. While they are in the kitchen, a mysterious man in a pastel ringmaster costume breaks into their apartment. (This guys looks like Mark Hamill. Is Luke Skywalker turning to the dark side of the Force already?) Speaking in Dr. Seuss-style rhymes, he introduces himself as "The Birthday Bandit". He then steals everything: cake, ice cream, party hats, balloons, and the gifts (No!! Now little Dickie Landon will never know the joy of Pong!).

Elsewhere Spider-Man is trying to enjoy a much-deserved day off. He's listening to the radio (Station WCTW... 105.9 on the FM dial.. playing only generic sounds to avoid paying royalties. Coming up next - Lawrence Walk's Polka-palooza) when suddenly the DJ comes on and informs the audience that The Birthday Bandit has struck again. Spider-Man then abandons his plans to capture the man responsible for a cake-and-ice-cream-less day for the one person that we know about.

Still elsewhere The Birthday Bandit spots a woman walking down the street with party decorations. In his particular style, he announces his intention to follows her and spoil her party. (Great shades of Kanye West, this guy is annoying) Spider-Man arrives 2 seconds too late but vows that "this time he wont' get away". (So you're 0-1 with this guy. This is standard super-hero protocol.)

At the unidentified woman's apartment, The Birthday Bandit breaks in and sees a giant cake with the number eight on it. (He isn't technically breaking and entering so much as just entering. I don't think these people understand the concept of locks.). Thinking that this cake is an elaborate trap set up by Spider-Man, who is hiding inside it, BB pulls an over-sized wooden mallet out of nowhere and begins to bash it. (The one super-power that I would want is the ability to reach behind my back and pull out whatever I wanted at that moment. A wooden mallet. Plane tickets to Aruba. A burrito.)

When BB realizes that it's just a cake (A fake cake as you can clearly see that it's a box painted to look like a cake), Spider-Man emerges from the other room and taps him on the shoulder. BB then discards the mallet and tries to choke Spider-Man with his bare hands. (Dude. Seriously. You'll wish you hadn't done that in like 10 seconds). BB gets the upper hand and pushes Spider-Man into the oversized fake cake. Spider-Man quickly breaks free and webs up the villain.

After leaving him with the authorities, Spider-Man returns home and washes his costume. Apparently having no other clothes, he has to wait around ... in his birthday suit.

General Comments

I guess the late 70s were a more innocent time. You could show a fictitious super-hero in a blanket, tell kids that he's naked underneath, and nobody thought anything of it. Now? Lawsuits galore.

Overall Rating

2.5 webs. It follows the formula, but given that they put a considerable effort into Birthday Bandit's dialogue (I assume) I have to add 1/2 web.