Monday, August 20, 2012

Get outta bed, there'll be no more nappin!

A Partial List of Things You Might Not Remember All That Clearly About Pee-Wee's Playhouse, If You Are An Old Like Me and Watched It In Middle School the First Time Around

--The reason it's not creepy, this adult man cavorting in a too-small suit with an array of puppets, kids, weirdos and animatronic household objects, is: You totally buy Pee-Wee as a kid. He sits too close to people, he bops around from one thing to another, he responds to things like a seven-year-old (very quick with the "I know you are but what am I" and "I dunno -- CAN ya?"), he's all ugh -- kissing!, etc. It's not like Michael Jackson -- it's really, genuinely childlike (and childish, which I think is an even bigger signifier). He earns your trust.

--Miss Yvonne gets some of the best lines. The Most Beautiful Woman in Puppetland can really knock 'em out -- playing stewardess, she intones into the PA system, "Please refrain from smoking while the Captain has turned on the no-smoking sign, and for the rest of your life." Getting dragged by the elbow into some game or other, she says -- laughing but utterly serious -- "You know I don't like to play any game that messes up my hair!" I love her, for reals.

--They go really light on the edumacational lessons. I mean, there are occasional facts and stuff, and Pee-Wee does learn about hurting people's feelings and how situations can get out of hand, etc., but this is not The More You Know.

--The old filmstrips are hilare! There's an ancient airplane safety video that contains the narration that if an emergency exit is necessary, "two male passengers" should open the hatches; a montage of dancing people from the '60s that is at once the grooviest and the squarest, whitest thing I have ever seen in my life; a Gamera short ... so awesome.

--The intro is really long -- like two minutes -- with two distinct movements; the first part is Pee-Wee riding his scooter through a Claymationed forest and into the alleged exterior of his playhouse, which features trippy atmospheric instrumental music, and the second is the song we all kind of remember. Both are fantastic, and I do believe Mothersbaugh was involved in this -- another link in the DNA that connects Pee-Wee's Playhouse to Yo Gabba Gabba!.

This post brought to you by the fact that my kid is obsessed with the show, obviously. You should check it out -- it will awaken weird parts of your brain from back in the day. And it is enormous fun, even if the DVD transfer didn't get what you'd call a careful treatment in the transferring. 

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