Connect the dots, la la la la la. In case you missed it the first time around 20 years ago, Cartoon Network recently began airing repeats of one of the greatest, coolest, and most bizarre children’s shows ever–“Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” Monday through Thursday nights at 11:00 PM (it’s part of the “Adult Swim” portion of their programming) you can experience a different episode from the five-year run of this Emmy-winning and highly influential series.
Created by Paul Reubens after his Pee-wee character’s big screen debut in Tim Burton’s “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” (1985), the show gives a major nod to retro pop culture while incorporating live action, puppets, old cartoons, claymation, dinosaurs, silly furniture, robots, magic screens, and an occasional life lesson or two with a dose of humor. The list of talent that was part of the ensemble is startling, especially for what was supposed to be an odd little kids’ TV show: Phil Hartman (Captain Carl), who was also a co-writer; “Larry” Fishburne (Cowboy Curtis); Shirley Stoler (yes, the Shirley Stoler from “Seven Beauties” and “The Honeymoon Killers” plays Mrs. Steve); Natasha Lyonne (Opal); and William Marshall (of “Blacula” fame!) played the King of Cartoons. Production design was by underground comix legend Gary Panter, and the music featured contributions from producer extraordinaire Mitchell Froom, Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, Danny Elfman, The Residents, Todd Rundgren, and Paul Reubens himself.
So set your VCR or Tivo or DVR and revisit one of the true bright spots of 1980’s culture–you’ll love it, but your kids will be especially thankful.