Characters: The Electric Company
The (ORIGINAL) Electric Company
J. Arthur Crank
- Butt Monkey
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: In the first season, he was strictly off-camera as an annoying voice making crank calls.
- Large Ham
- Nice Hat
- Punny Name: A Double Pun, based on director J. Arthur Rank and, in the first season, his propensity for making crank calls as an offscreen voice.
- This Loser Is You: We've all had trouble pronouncing words. He just took it Up to Eleven.
Fargo North, Decoder
Jennifer of the Jungle
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: With her sidekick Paul.
- Jungle Princess
- Nice Hat: Her pith helmet.
- Signature Roar: "Oi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oi!"
- Speaks Fluent Animal: To her faithful companion, Paul the Gorilla.
- Cool Shades: Part of his wardrobe.
- Expository Character Theme: "Easy Reader, that's my name ... mmm, mmm, mmm!"
Valerie the Librarian
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Her name was Valerie, and she worked as a librarian.
- Shout-Out: Luis Avalos patterned his character after Groucho Marx and Dr. Doolittle.
Otto the Director
- Deadpan Snarker: Otto has seen it all in her time, and is more and more frustrated with each blown take.
- Exhausted Eyebags: Each segment begins with a hilariously absurd take number (often in the 50s or 60s), and all on simple lines.
- From Bad to Worse: Each take becomes progressively worse, where inept actors flub simple lines worse than the previous take.
Paul the Gorilla
- Killer Gorilla: Although he really was harmless, several skits had other characters faint or flee upon sight of Paul.
Pandora the Brat
- Absentee Character: Letterman is absent from one episode: "A Friend in Need" (which centers around Spellbinder escaping from prison).
- The Bad Guy Wins: Several times, although victory was very temporary. Examples:
- Once, Spellbinder managed to get one-up on his foe, once turning "Letterman" into a "Wetterman" (switching out the first letter and causing him to fall into a deep swimming pool). Letterman avoided drowning by finding a "b" and turning himself into a "betterman" (a better man than he was before).
- In "Small Talk" (probably the best known episode), Spellbinder broke into Letterman's home, hid in the attic and — as Letterman was packing a trunk for a vacation, Spellbinder turned the "trunk" into "junk," then the "junk" into "shrunk." Eventually, the tiny superhero showed resolve and removed the "s" and "r" to turn himself back into a "hunk." Letterman then bends Spellbinder's wand, rendering it useless and causing him to break down in tears.
- Yet another time, Letterman declares he feels "good". Spellbinder changes the "g" to a "w" for "wood", turning Letterman into a talking tree. Spellbinder then proceeds to get a drill to try to drill holes in Letterman. Before Spellbinder returns, Letterman is able to convince a small bird to take a "g" from his front and replace the "w", thereby turning him back into the "feeling-good" Letterman, just in time as Spellbinder attempts to drill into him. The drill breaks and engulfs Spellbinder in the twisted metal.
- In another, the narrator declares Letterman good as "gold". Spellbinder removes the "g", leaving "old" and turning Letterman into an aged version of himself. Letterman summons what little strength he has and takes a "b" from his sweater to make "bold", restoring him to his youthful condition.
- Clark Kenting: Although there is no discernible difference between his "normal" persona and — after his introduction — his heroic Letterman persona. Presumably, he is always Letterman.
- Heroic Build: He was handsome, brave and strong.
- Just in Time: Letterman often shows up just before the situation becomes too dire, saving everyone's necks and ruining Spellbinder's criminal activities.
- Not Quite The Right Thing: Sometimes, even Letterman whiffed when trying to restore order and foil Spellbinder. Example: "Sticky Finances," where Spellbinder turns a man's "money" into "honey." To de-liquefy the assets, Letterman only has "bal" available, forcing him to turn the "honey" into "baloney." The annoyed man asks, "What am I going to do with all this baloney?" Letterman sheepishly replies, "Open a delicatessen?"
- Very Special Episode: Although these were connected to Spellbinder one-upping his foe (see above The Bad Guy Wins entry). Another was an Origin Story detailing Letterman's background and how he became a superhero.
- Arch-Enemy: Of Letterman.
- Child Hater: It seems his ultra-sadistic side is reserved for children, as many of his antics seem to be target situations involving children, putting them in extreme danger. See Would Hurt a Child.
- Deadpan Snarker: Cracks a lot of these one-liners.
- Evil Foreigner: Of the evil Arab variety. That he was from the Middle East led to criticism, including (most notably) from Jack Shaheen, a professor emeritus from Southern Illinois University, who in his essay "The TV Arab" said that the character was a negative stereotype of Arabs and contrary to the Children's Television Workshop's realistic portrayal of minorities.
- Evil Laugh: After he changes a key letter to create mayhem and mischief. Often of the rolling-on-the-floor-laughing variety.
- A Friend in Need: Literally, the name of one of the shorts, and the only one in which Letterman himself does not appear. It centers around Spellbinder escaping from prison ... with the help of a "friend." Created when Spellbinder unbends his bent wand and turns "fiend" into "friend."
- Harmless Villain and Poke the Poodle: Much of Spellbinder's mischief was, in reality, harmless mischief — some uncomfortable situations resulted but not too dangerous, and were done for Spellbinder's own amusement. However, there were times where this was dangerously averted, such as turning a school bus into an octopus (and the annoyed octopus squeezes the children hard), or his most despicable stunts: turning a plane (full of children and other passengers) into a plant and causing it to plummet toward the earth, and nearly causing a passenger train (again, full of children) to plummet into a deep ravine.
- Harsher in Hindsight: Spellbinder's plant/plane stunt. See Hilarity Ensues entry.
- Hilarity Ensues: In circa 1975, the year the plane/plant Letterman short was released — despite the potentially deadly situation faced by the passengers and crew of the plane — Spellbinder's fun might be seen as quite humorous. (Indeed, Spellbinder thought the possibility of nearly 100 children, their parents, chaperones, teachers, principal and the flight crew dying in a plane crash ... and the thought of their families plunging into a catatonic state of grief, was quite funny.) However, this became much Harsher in Hindsight after the 9/11 attacks (which, ironically enough, were instigated by Middle Easterners) ... and today, Spellbinder might be shot on sight or swiftly and surely sentenced to death in a federal court. note
- A similar situation, in a segment titled "Broken Bridge," involved the destruction of a railroad bridge (by Spellbinder removing the "b" from "bridge"). Again, in a pre-9/11 world, this might have gotten a few laughs from those who didn't know better, particularly in the 1974-1976 era. Today and in the real world (since the situation involves removal of infrastructure by non-natural means and a potentially deadly situation), Spellbinder would be arrested immediately and left to rot in prison. note
- Kryptonite Factor: Spellbinder, by changing a letter in a word to affect Letterman's situation, temporarily rendering Letterman helpless. (See The Bad Guy Wins entry under Letterman for details.)
- Obviously Evil: He's an Arab, this is the mid-1970s (when tensions between the United States and Middle Eastern countries hit a new low) ... he's the perfect way to depict the series' antagonist.
- Oh, Crap: When he tried to shrink Letterman to six inches tall, but Letterman found a way to turn himself back into the muscular hunk he always was, Spellbinder decides it's time to flee ... but doesn't make it. (His wand pays the price.)
- Perspective Magic: Spellbinder literally grabs the sun in "A Rolling Bun Gathers No Seeds" — after turning it into a "bun," of course — and hurls it toward the earth and a beach wherein he had earlier been banned.
- Prison Episode: "A Friend in Need," which ends with Spellbinder's escape.
- Terrorists Without a Cause: In today's post-9/11 world, several of Spellbinder's actions could easily be classified as terrorism, as they involved potential mass death and destruction of infrastructure and aircraft. He worked alone, and his only goal was to amuse himself.
- Tickle Torture: Spellbinder tried to put this onto the CEO of a pickle factory (turning "pickle" into "tickle"). Once Letterman restores order, the superhero turns the tables on Spellbinder by sending the feather onto the very ticklish villain. As the narrator enjoys her pickle, an exhausted Spellbinder — having apparently gotten away from the feather after hours of being tickled non-stop — finally concedes defeat ... this time.
- Would Hurt a Child: Not only does Spellbinder have no reservations about putting children in life-threatening situations, he revels in it, finding it to be cute and funny. (And in the real world would have him arrested on sight.) Examples include:
- The plane/plant situation (see Hilarity Ensues).
- School bus/octopus/platypus (turns a bus into an octopus).
- "The Roar of Rage," involving cage/rage, wherein a lion, irate at being caged and now glad to be free, is about to pounce on a group of second graders.
- "Broken Bridge," involving bridge/ridge. After removing the "b" to create "ridge," a bridge over a deep ridge is removed from a rail line ... far too late for a train loaded with schoolchildren to stop. Letterman shows up in time and restores the bridge.
- Heroic Mime: Danny Seagren played this portrayal of Spiderman to a fault this way.
- The Voiceless: His communiation was via speech balloons, which his friends, adversaries — and most importantly, the audience at home — would read.
The (NEW) Electric Company
- Almighty Janitor: He remains useful to the Electric Company, even after he starts running the diner at the beginning of Season 3.
- Dark and Troubled Past: In one episode, he explains to the rest of the company that he used to be the champion of an annual limerick contest, but was (unfairly) defeated by Manny on one year. He has never entered said contest since.
- The Hero
- One Head Taller
- Sibling Rivalry: Among the greatest aversions of all time. Jessica and Hector are not just friends, they are on Bash Brothers level.
- Improbable Use Of A Wordball: In one episode, Hector is chasing Sigmund Scrambler around the neighborhood. He creates a detour sign using a wordball which Sigmund follows, leading him into a dead end.
- Will Not Tell a Lie: Mentioned on the show's page
- The Lancer
- Series Mascot: She is the favorite Character of the fandom. She also has preformed live with Hector, Manny and Shock, sings the end-of-show rap 90 percent of the time and even interviewed an actor from the original version.
- Shout-Out: Was seen wearing a "Zoom" T-shirt at the beginning of Season 2.
- The Chick
- Cute Clumsy Girl
- Good Is Not Dumb: She is probably the smartest member of the Electric Company.
- Put on a Bus: In season three.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The blue to Annie's red.
- Audience Surrogate: We learn the premise of the show along with him.
- The Smart Guy
- Token Black: To the Electric Company, before Marcus showed up.
- Accidental Misnaming: Francine calls him this name quite a bit.
- Cousin Oliver: The Electric Company is meant for gradeschoolers. Because the original Audience Surrogate hit puberty, the show needed a new one.
- Fifth Ranger
- How Do I Shot Web?: A nice way to sum up his debut. He spends the episode learning to aim word balls properly.
- Jumped at the Call
- Promotion to Opening Titles
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad
- The Quiet One: He rarely speaks, only beatboxes.
- Dark Chick
- Evil Counterpart: Annie is supposedly this in comparison to Lisa.
- The Napoleon
- Pet the Dog: Sometimes is genuinely helpful ("Bananas"), and quite literally likes dogs ("Pies For Puppies").
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The red to Lisa's blue.
- Acrofatic: Averted so very much.
- Evil Genius
- Evil Is Hammy
- Gadgeteer Genius
- Large Ham
- Mad Scientist
- Mecha-Mooks: The robots he builds for small tasks. Most notably, Count Vacula.
- Robot Buddy: Has one that assists him.
- Art Shift: A number of animated shorts from Season 3 depict him as a cartoon character.
- Berserk Button: Never break a promise to Danny Rebus; It's just not a good idea.
- The Brute
- Criminal Mind Games: The main use for his powers.
- Hair-Trigger Temper
- Large Ham
- Nice Hat
- Pet the Dog: Sometimes is genuinely helpful ("Oh, Danny Boy"), and quite literally likes dogs ("Pies For Puppies").
- Rebus Bubble: His superpower.
- Ascended Fangirl: Towards Francine.
- The Dragon: And how!
- Hyper Competent Sidekick: Is fond of making lists and being organized. Plus, she often comes up with ideas that Francine commandeers with a Glad I Thought of It.
- Also, if the "Breaking Records" song is any indication, then Gilda is actually kind of awesome.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Is quite fond of them.
- The Stool Pigeon: This kid tells Francine everything.