The Electric Company (TV) - Season 6, 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 Beastly Banana'

  The Electric Company (TV) - Season 6, Episode 1

This particular Spider-Man episode had an introductory piece featuring Paul the Gorilla and Jennifer of the Jungle. In this warm-up, Jennifer teaches Paul about contractions. Before you go down that path, it involves changing the sentence "It is a coconut." to "It's a coconut." (Hey, I don't judge. Whatever happens between a woman and a gorilla is none of my business).

As a reward for his good work, Jennifer offers Paul a banana. Instead of the normal response, Paul becomes frightened and refuses the gift. Jennifer asks what's wrong (Nice reference of the lesson there, Skippy). Paul shows her a Spider-Man comic book that holds the key to his banana-phobia.

Deep within the jungle, The Mad Scientist (Played by Morgan Freeman!!!) leaves a trail of bananas to his secret laboratory. (Just like E.T. and Reese's Pieces. Only without the evil science aspect. Or a guy in a gorilla suit.)

Paul's friend Jennifer of the Jungle has noticed his absence and is looking for him (Wait, what? She's in this story too? And didn't remember it? Did this Spider-Man make a deal with Mephisto as well?). She finds a trail of discarded banana peels and begins to follow them.

Spider-Man - according to the narrator - is on vacation in the jungle. (Yeah, he carpooled with Bugs Bunny on his way to the beach. From what I heard the rabbit ended up meeting the abominable snowman. That right turn at Albuquerque must be a wormhole or something.) Spider-Man approaches Jennifer - who literally says "Thank grandma you're here" - (She could have said "Thank Granny Goodness" but I'm thinking DC would sue). She asks the frazzled superhero to help her find Paul. Naturally Spider-Man agrees.

They swing through the trees (According to the picture they used) following the trail of banana peels (Which are one ground, geniuses) to the secret lab of The Mad Scientist. Within the castle of doom (Could this be the Electric Company version of Dr. Doom? A Mad Scientist in a castle? Anyone? Bueller?) The Mad Scientist has been feeding Paul his special bananas loaded with his "Extract of Evil" solution. His plan is to transform Paul into a "monster monkey" full of incredible power and completely subservient to him. "He'll even wash out my socks," muses the comical amalgam of Albert Einstein and Morgan Freeman.

The one wrinkle in his plan is that Paul is now full after eating dozens of bananas and doesn't want another one. No worries. The Mad Scientist decides to hypnotize him into being hungry again (With a miniature disco ball he probably stole from Hypno-Huster. What? This happened before Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #24? Crap. As they say, timing is everything.)

Spider-Man and Jen, Jen, Jen of the Jungle arrive at this point and web up The Mad Scientist. Spider-Man takes the banana out of Paul's hands and throws it away. Jennifer must calm the simple-minded gorilla down as doesn't understand why his food was taken from him. She promises to take him to the diner for a banana milkshake. (Ursula's Diner, perhaps? I'm thinking Shep was the dishwasher. The equipment I mean. George would pull on his trunk and water would come out just like on the Flintstones.)

Spider-Man leaves The Mad Scientist for the local .. jungle? ... authorities and resumes his vacation.

General Comments

For the record, I checked about the "Albuquerque" line. Usually Bugs will say "I should have taken that left turn", meaning he went right. It is at this point, he'll end up in Scotland, 15th century Spain, or the the Himalayas. Yes I have the DVD set. It's part of my childhood and I'll never give it up.

Overall Rating

1.5 webs. Too brief to be entertaining. Morgan Freeman's involvement didn't help as there was minimal setup and an all-too-quick resolution.