PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE (CBS 1986-91) Paul Reubens, Phil Hartman, Laurence Fishburne
This half-hour CBS-TV Saturday morning live-action ‘children’s show’ was enormously popular with children and adults alike – winning 22 Daytime Emmy Awards and a host of other accolades.
Incorporating clips from vintage cartoons and old educational films, newly produced 3-D animation, hand puppets, marionettes, and a cast of endearingly eccentric characters led by a grey-suited and red-bow-tied Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens).
The childlike Pee-wee welcomed viewers into his Technicolor fantasy-land and led them through crafts and games, cartoon clips, secret words, and ‘educational’ adventures via his Magic Screen.
Based on The Pee-wee Herman Show, the Saturday morning series was considerably less “adult” than the theatre piece had been, although it incorporated many of the same supporting characters, including lusty seaman Captain Carl (Phil Hartman in his pre-Saturday Night Live days) and the magical genie Jambi (co-writer John Paragon), the latter a disembodied Genie’s head in a box who granted Pee-Wee’s wishes.
Other human characters included Reba the mail lady (S. Epatha Merkerson), the pretty girl-next-door Miss Yvonne (Lynne Stewart), the King of Cartoons (Gilbert Lewis/William Marshall), Cowboy Curtis (played by future Hollywood star Laurence Fishburne), Tito the lifeguard (Roland Rodriguez), Ricardo the soccer player (Vic Trevino), and the obese Mrs Steve (Shirley Stoler).
Puppetry was employed to create the characters of bad-boy Randy, The Countess, Pteri the Pterodactyl, Conky the Robot, Globey the Globe, Chairy the Chair, and many others.
Newly produced animated sequences focused on a young girl named Penny, a family of miniature dinosaurs who lived in the walls of the Playhouse, and a refrigerator full of anthropomorphised food.
The complete series includes the Christmas Special with guests Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Oprah Winfrey, Dinah Shore, Little Richard, K.D Lang, Joan Rivers, Grace Jones and Zsa Zsa Gabor.