PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE ON BLU-RAY

Pee Wee's Playhouse CONNECT THE DOTS

Paul Reubens was the most forcefully innovative and original television personality since Ernie Kovacs, period.

Pee Wee's Playhouse PENNY

“Pee Wee’s Playhouse” lasted five seasons, ending in 1990.  It was a show created by artists, and television has not been as bright since. Of course, TV still has clever programs occasionally, but it lacks the pronounced aesthetic that Reubens and company brought to a medium, which  has traditionally been artistically undemanding .

Pee Wee's Playhouse COWBOY CURTIS AND PEE WEE

A Wikipedia editor says:

The creative design of the show was concocted by a troupe of artists including Gary Panter (the art director), Craig Bartlett, Richard Goleszowski, Gregory Harrison, Ric Heitzman, Phil Trumbo, and Wayne White. The first day of production, right as Panter began reading the scripts to find out where everything would be situated, set workers hurriedly asked him, “Where’s the plans? All the carpenters are standing here ready to build everything.” Panter responded, “You just have to give us 15 minutes to design this thing!” When asked about the styles that went into the set design, Panter said, “This was like the hippie dream…It was a show made by artists … We put art history all over the show. It’s really like … I think Mike Kelly said, and it’s right, that it’s kind of like the Googie style – it’s like those LA types of coffee shops and stuff but kind of psychedelic, over-the-top.” Several artistic filmmaking techniques were featured on the program including chroma key, stop-motion animation, and clay animation.[1]

Pee Wee's Playhouse PHIL HARTMAN AND REUBENS

An erroneous explanation for the show’s demise has entered the ranks of urban legend, as has Reuben’s fall from grace.  Feeling burnt-out, Reubens had declined the option to produce a sixth season and wanted to take a sabbatical. His arrest for indecent exposure in 1991 happened after “Playhouse” had already been canceled. [2]

Pee Wee's Playhouse PHIL HARTMAN AND PAUL REUBENS

Despite being tainted by a posthumous scandal, “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” became, and remains, a cult hit. DVD releases were best sellers. In 2004, Image Entertainment announced a special edition collection, which fell through once Shout! Factory picked up distribution. Ten years later, a “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” special edition has come to Blu-ray. A pristine video and audio transfer with extensive supplements justify the decade-long wait.

Pee Wee's Playhouse DINOSAUR FAMILY

Accessible, educational and entertaining slapstick surrealism were the tenets of the Playhouse.  Mantling the man-child person originated by Harry Langdon, Reubens, along with the cast (both human and animated), share the role of a psychedelic Tod Browning promoting empathy for societal misfits, teaching ethical choice-making, and promoting creative thinking, all through a zany, frenetic language that was never sermonizing, and unlike anything before or since.

Pee Wee's Playhouse PEE WEE AND MISS YVONNE

“Pee Wee’s Playhouse” was like Shangri-la.  Death, or lack of life, is forever banished with everything, from the floor to a window, kite, chair, map, fruit salad (whom Pee Wee marries) and clock alive with personality. No theme, even adulthood, is ignored. In addition to making Christmas cookies, Pee Wee and company (the macho Cowboy Curtis, an amorous Captain Carl, a slinky Cher, and k.d. lang paying homage to Elvis in Jingle Bell Rock) even implicitly champion the purity of sexual ambiguity.

Pee Wee's Playhouse DRADEL SONGPee Wee's Playhouse magic screen

This was homogeneously blended with inimitable spirituality (Penny), ecumenical tradition (Grace Jones singing “Little Drummer Boy” in indescribable attire and Mrs. Renee singing “The Dredel Song” in the “Christmas Special”), rock n’ roll ice skating (Little Richard), geography lessons (Mappy), fairy tale mythology (Jambi), nostalgia (Magic Screen and the Del Rubio Triplets), racial diversity, feminism (Reba, Miss Yvonne), giddy prehistoric history with Pterri and the dinosaur family, Saint Nicholas, and even Blacula himself as the second King of Cartoons.

Pee Wee's Playhouse charro

Even a bully like Billy isn’t irredeemable, and eventually joins in the egalitarian fun. All comes wrapped in an avant-garde kitsch package that absorbs everything and filters it through a Skittles palette. The show appealed to academics and Saturday morning cartoon junkies alike. The only people immune to the day’s Secret Word were constipated right wing kooks and their illiterate redneck kin who are always provoked by beauty.

Pee Wee's Playhouse cher

“Building the Playhouse,” “Opening the Playhouse,” “Writing for the Playhouse,” “The Look of the Playhouse,” “Music of the Playhouse,” “The Cast of the Playhouse,” “Puppets of the Playhouse,” “Animating the Playhouse,” “A Very Merry Christmas Special,” and “Fans and Memorabilia of the Playhouse” are included in the plethora of extras in the Blu-ray edition (with the only notable absence of commentators being Reubens himself).

Pee Wee's Playhouse grace jones

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pee-wee’s_Playhouse#The_art_of_the_playhouse, quoting an episode of“Art Talk” by VICE magazine

[2] Additionally, an urban legend that has held sway with the muggles of the land that Reubens was arrested for child molestation. He was arrested for allegedly masturbating in an adult theater. However, Reubens, who initially pleaded no contest, has since disputed that claim. The police report describes him as using his left hand. Reubens is right-handed. This was not Reubens first arrest. He was arrested in 1971 for loitering in an adult theater. He was also arrested in 2002 on charges of child pornography. The charges were dropped when law enforcement discovered Reubens’ collection of vintage erotica included adult homosexual acts and Rob Lowe’s sex tape, but not child pornography.

Pee Wee's Playhouse CREDITS

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About Alfred Eaker

Alfred Eaker is a fine arts painter, an award-winning independent filmmaker, and has a masters of theological studies in the arts. His Masters thesis was: "Justification By Imagination.The Marian Art Of Thomas Merton." For nine years, he has been a film critic (for 366 Weird Movies). His essays for that site have been published in the yearbooks and quoted in various film biographies. He is the author of the forthcoming novel, "Brother Cobweb." He currently lives in Gresham, Oregon where he performs his character, Brother Cobweb at The House Of Shadows.