Hoping to reach a new generation of TV viewers, PBS is putting the power of Hip-Hop to use in a revamped version of its hit 70s show The Electric Company.
The shows executive producer, Karen Fowler, spearheaded the effort by hiring the creative team behind the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, as music supervisors, as well as improv Hip-Hop collective Freestyle Love Supreme.
The group will perform various musical numbers for the show that include “Silent E Is a Ninja” and “Miss Bossy R.”
Known for utilizing sketch comedy, animation and songs to help elementary school youth learn and develop literary skills, the original Electric Company premiered two years after Sesame Street as a follow-up to the iconic children series in 1971.
Among those featured on the show were actors Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno and Bill Cosby as well as Marvel Comics Spider-Man.
Upon its cancellation in 1977 after 780 episodes, the original Electric Company remained on the air through reruns in the early 80s and is currently available on DVD and iTunes.
For the new version of the show, sketch comedy will not be used. Instead, it will utilize narrative threads that run throughout each show.
The threads will include jokes, singing and dancing while teaching five vocabulary words per episode.
In addition, stories from the new Electric Company will focus on a group of four kids who have superpowers that allow them to manipulate words and help one another as well as stop the Pranksters, a rival group of neighborhood bad guys.
The arrival of the new Electric Company comes amid troubling times for elementary school students.
According to the shows producers, more than a quarter of fourth-graders in public schools read below grade level, with those from poor communities performing especially badly.
As a result, they hope the remake will play a role in helping underachieving kids catch up with their peers in reading.
The new Electric Company will premiere January 19 on PBS Kids Go.