The Electric Company (TV) - Season 5, Episode 13

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 Meets Silly Willy'

  The Electric Company (TV) - Season 5, Episode 13
Date TBD
Star: Danny Seagren (Spider-Man), Jim Boyd (Silly Willy)

This is the city (the plywood kind with big braces behind it). It contains millions of people who go about their daily lives. Some to work, others to play, and a select few commit crimes. This is where our story begins. It's a sad tale about laughter gone wrong in the form of the renegade clown known as "Silly Willy".

Silly Willy appears on screen decked out in modern clown attire: a brown vest, khakis, peanut-vendor shirt with armbands, blue bow tie, orange hair, floppy hat and shoes, armed only with a rubber chicken. (He ignores the traditional baggy costume with poka dots 'cause he knows every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed clown). He explains to his audience (who are by now expecting him to juggle or something) that "nobody expects a clown to rob them".

He then steps in front on an unsuspecting lady (Hattie Winston) and begins to slap himself repeatedly with his rubber chicken (whom I will refer to as Sir Rubber of Mayde) making nonsensical noises. His antics cause his target to laugh uncontrollably. While she regains her composure, he takes her wallet out of her purse. She walks away unaware of the theft. (She doesn't even ask what a clown is doing this far from the circus?)

His next victim is Morgan Freeman. He pulls the same trick and steals his wallet with his credit cards while he's in the middle of a laughing fit. (Poor Morgan. The first victim of identity theft on a kid's show)

Silly Willy continues his crime spree until his antics are noticed by Spider-Man. He decides to put an end to the clown prince of crime (uhm.. I think DC can sue for that.)

Silly Willy decides to crash an embassy party with plenty of targets, primary dukes (I'd prefer Daisy...*drool*) and duchesses (Fergie from The Black Eyed Peas? Sweet!). There will also be many archdukes and archduchesses (wait for it) in attendance who will fall prey to the pickpocketing clown (would that make them fallen arches? Boo yaa!!)

Silly Willy appears in the grand dining room and draws attention to himself by swinging his rubber chicken around (literally, that's not a euphemism) and making strange noises. While the entire table is overcome by a laughing fit, Silly Willy makes his rounds loading up his stolen goods basket.

At this point Spider-Man arrives. Silly Willy tries to distract him with his rubber chicken (still not a euphemism) but he is able to fight off laughter and web him up for the police. The narrator states that "the last laugh is on the evil joker" (Wait, I thought we already covered copyright infringement?)

The hostess of the event offers Spider-Man a cake to express her thanks, but he declines claiming he's on a diet (Pfffft .. he's always on a diet in these episodes.)

As the episode comes to a close the narrator comments that Spider-Man's outfit looks rather silly (Whaaaaat?!?!) He suggests that Spidey try a denim shirt and matching pants because the red and blues don't cut it (Fashion advice from the decade that barfed up leisure suits, bell bottom pants, collars so big they're in different zip codes, and platform shoes. Lemme think about it-NOOOOOOOOO)

General Comments

Screw you, fashion police of the 1970s. The only good thing you contributed to society was hot pants. Everything else that I named is still regarded as some of the worst fashion movements in history. The others involve legwarmers and neon colors from the eighties. Do you hear anyone trying to resurrect the leisure suit? No. Has anyone attempted to recapture whatever aesthetic you quickly established and just as quickly lost by obscuring both feet and shoulders? No. The only reason anyone knows about that is because it's deeply entrenched on the "what not to do" list.

The lesson here: don't diss Spidey's original red & blue costume!

Overall Rating

2 webs. This episode was set up quickly and went straight to the point. This leaves out any of the fun of the earlier episodes. At 3 1/2 minutes long, it's tough to do anything except make a beeline for the end. Very little Spidey, except when they wanted to critiqued him for the costume.