The Electric Company (TV) - Season 5, Episode 7

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 the Prankster'

  The Electric Company (TV) - Season 5, Episode 7
Summary: First Aired Apr 6th 1976 (TEC #122A)
Star: Danny Seagren (Spider-Man), Hattie Winston (Business Teacher), Jim Boyd (Principal Prescott), Judy Graubart (Student), Luis Avalos (Student), Morgan Freeman (Home Economics Teacher), Rita Moreno (Student), The Short Circus (Students)
Narrator: Skip Hinnant

Spider-Man decides to visit his friends at P.S. 8 1/2 during their music class. (I'm guessing it's "Bring a vigilante to school day") One of the students ask him to select a song for them to perform; he chooses "Jelly Belly".

(What the...? Wait. Time out. Wikipedia.org > "Jelly Belly" > [reading] ... No, not the jelly beans. [more reading] Nothing else? Google.com > "jelly belly song" > [reading] ... I doubt they were talking about the Smashing Pumpkins here. Just go ahead, I'll catch up later.).

As the students open their books to the obscure little non-Smashing Pumpkins version of the song, plastic spring "snakes" - the ones from the fake peanut brittle cans - pop out of their books. After everyone has recovered from the prank, Spider-Man asks the obvious question via his word balloon, "Who is the prankster?" (I heard a duck. Who chose a quacking duck as the sound effect in this episode?)

Spidey makes his way to his next class, which is home economics. One of the students offer Spidey a piece of fresh chocolate pie, which he declines. Spider-Man's reluctance pays off as the pies are found to be made of something other than chocolate (Did they pull the Ex-lax switch?) - it's made of mud! (Uhm, that's an alternative. Not funny, but an alternative.) Spidey now knows that they have a serial prankster on the loose. (Yeah, by the way, I think I found the Jelly Belly song. It's super lame..)

The next class is "secretarial skills" (In an elementary school? Really? And shouldn't it be administrative assistant skills?) During a student demonstration on phone etiquette (No, no, no. Call it what it is: answering a phone) the prankster strikes again by gluing the receiver to the base. Spidey's word balloon reveals that "[he'd] better find the prankster." (One would think the mud pie incident would have been enough)

Spidey makes his way to Principal Prescott's office to warn him about the Prankster. When he enters the office, he finds that it is empty. Suspiciously (some would say conveniently) scattered on his desk are additional spring snakes, chocolate pies, and a giant bottle of glue. Spidey knows that the principal is actually the Prankster! (Highlighted by scary organ music) When he returns Spidey immediately webs him up.

The kids arrive and the nasally-voiced principal explains that he has grown tired of the students pulling pranks on him. He decided to give them a taste of their own medicine. The kids "promise" to stop pulling pranks on the principal. While everyone else is distracted, one child grabs the bottle of glue and coats the doorknob to the interior door. (Just a suggestion: IT WOULD HELP IF THE LID WAS OFF) When the principal is freed, he walks over to the door and becomes stuck.

Spider-Man then tries to help free the principal while the children laugh at his continued misfortune.

General Comments

You'd think being the victim of bullying himself, Spider-Man would turn the tables on the brats and web them up for a few hours.

Overall Rating

3.5 webs. Reasonable setup and resolution. I still don't know why you would have a "secretarial class" in an elementary school.