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The Electric Company DVD set

But does it have the cartoon with the plumber? Who keeps knocking. And the parrot inside says, "Who is it?" And he keeps saying, "The plumber" and he gets so mad. We learned a lot from that. hide caption

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  • The Details:
  • DVD: The Best of The Electric Company, Vol. 2
  • What It Is: Twenty more episodes of the fondly remembered '70s educational program
  • Label and Price: Shout! Factory, $39.98

Until recently, the brilliant educational program The Electric Company — a significant contributor to many thirtysomethings' ongoing ability to read — was mostly relegated to the bowels of the cable channel Noggin's lineup, if it could be seen at all. Now, it's spawned its two DVD best-of collections. The newly released second four-disc set cherry-picks 20 more of the show's 780 half-hour episodes, complete with introductions by many of the show's cast members.

Running from 1971 to '77, The Electric Company remains best-known for its star-intensive cast (everyone from Rita Moreno, Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman to Spider-Man himself), along with occasional voice work by Joan Rivers, Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. But its enjoyable and inventive, reading- and grammar-intensive lessons remain enormously useful — whether in the form of silly live-action sketches or animation by the likes of John and Faith Hubley — and hold out as much appeal to today's kids as they did to yesterday's.

Sesame Street's funky and less cloying older sibling, The Electric Company feels overtly of its era (1971-77), but its educational value — and entertainment value — remains undiminished by age or fashion.

Stephen Thompson, an online music producer for NPR, would be a drooling illiterate without exposure to The Electric Company at an early age.

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