Pee-wee's Playhouse (1986)

Genres - Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Family-Oriented Comedy, Absurd Comedy  |   Run Time - 30 min.  |   Countries - United States   |  
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Pee-wee Herman, the effervescent man-child created by actor Paul Reubens during his years with the Groundlings comedy troupe, was the star of the delightfully "retro" CBS kiddie show Pee-Wee's Playhouse. Each week (beginning Saturday, September 13, 1986), the titular hero whisked the viewers to puppetland, a magical world filled with anthropomorphic furniture, talking animals, and some of the zaniest human characters this side of the Milky Way. Joining Pee-Wee in his surrealistic adventures were Lynne Stewart as Miss Yvonne, "the most beautiful lady in Puppetland"; John Paragon as Jambi, a disembodied genie head who grants Pee-Wee one wish per week; Gilbert Lewis and later William Marshall as the King of Cartoons, who showed vintage animation clips on his own portable projector; Shirley Stoler and Suzanne Kent as Pee-Wee's neighbors Mrs. Steve and Mrs. Rene; and Gregory Harrison as Conky, a frequently malfunctioning robot. Prominent amongst the very animated inanimate objects in Pee-Wee's oddly shaped (but warmly inviting) playhouse were Chairry the Chair, Globey the Globe, a bunch of talking flowers, the all-purpose Magic Screen, and even a chatty floor named Floory. And there was a veritable honor roll of puppet and marionettes characters, ranging from Countess the Cow to red-headed troublemaker Randy. Oh, and let's not forget such peripheral personalities as the Dinosaur Family, the Ant Farm, and Penny (all depicted via stop-motion animation), and, during season five, a Spanish-speaking cartoon superhero named El Hombre. In addition to the above-mentioned "regulars," Pee-Wee's Playhouse featured a number of stellar performers on their way up. Laurence Fishburne was seen as rope-twirlin', knee-slappin' Cowboy Curtis, Phil Hartman showed up as crusty Captain Carl, Law & Order's S. Epatha Merkerson popped in as Reba the Mail Lady (replacing Johann Carlo, who during the series' first season was cast as trumpet-blowing mail carrier Dixie), and future leading lady Natasha Lyonne was Opal, one of the many children who congregated at the Playhouse each week. And speaking of children, the kids at home were invited to join in on the fun by "screaming real loud" whenever anyone spoke the Secret Word of the Day. The bulk of the series' 45 half-hour episodes -- which featured everything from indoor luaus to sleepovers to space travel -- were filmed during the first three seasons, with seasons four and five yielding only a handful of new installments. Contrary to popular belief, Pee-Wee's Playhouse was not canceled by CBS in the summer of 1991 due to adverse publicity involving Paul Reubens' private life; rather, Reubens himself had already made the decision to pull the plug on the show at the end of season five. The recipient of no fewer than 22 Emmy nominations, Pee-Wee's Playhouse has also been voted one of the Top 25 Cult Shows by TV Guide -- and like most cult shows, it entertained on two levels, as nonstop fun for the kiddies and sly satire for adults. To quote Jambi the Genie, "Mekka-lekka-hi, mekka-hiney-ho!"

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Keywords

play [recreation], puppet [doll], friendship, surrealism, visit, animation