During our recent vacation, we spent some time with the family and a handful of 7- to 13-year-olds. Since not every day was sunny, the kids spent some time watching television and it was at this time that I was reminded of how superior Pee-wee’s Playhouse was to every children’s live action show ever made.
I use the words “children’s live action show” loosely because when I saw Pee-wee’s Playhouse I was in college. The show ran from 1986 to 1990 on CBS and I saw almost every episode. I was far from a child, but the fact that it could be enjoyed by children and adults is what was so brilliant about Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Pee-wee’s Playhouse was like The Muppets in that respect. It had two levels of humor that existed in the same show. The kids thought that you were laughing at what they were (and sometimes you were), while other times you were laughing at something much deeper.
The cast of Pee-wee’s Playhouse is something that could never be repeated and is the stuff of legend. You know that it starred Phil Hartman, S. Epatha Merkerson, Laurence Fishburne, Paul Reubens and others. But did you know that Peter Lord and David Sproxton (who did the animation on the show) were the ones who founded Aardman Animations, which does Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep? There was so much creative genius in Pee-wee’s Playhouse that one wonders how some network suit didn’t manage to screw it up for four years.
It’s hard to believe that Pee-wee’s Playhouse has just now come to Blu-ray. It’s all 45 episodes, the Christmas Special and 9 other special features including interviews with the puppeteers, fans, actors and more. It was against my fabulous memories of Pee-wee’s Playhouse that I saw the dreck that inhabits today’s children’s live programming during that vacation. The laugh track, stereotypes, poor writing, bright lighting and inane stories made me want to grab these children and show them what funny and family friendly funny can be.