DVD Review: Pee-wee’s Playhouse (Seasons 3, 4 & 5)

While Pee-wee Herman was a child-like figure, it was hard to figure if children would want to experience him. His HBO special was aimed at adults who enjoyed juvenile humor. But CBS took a chance and put him on the air. Not just any air, but the sacred Saturday morning. This was the time that gave us live action fun of Lancelot Link Secret Chimp, Isis, Land of the Lost and H.R. Pufnstuf. Could kids accept Pee-wee? Not only did kids get hooked on the delightful weirdness, but grown ups figured how to wake up from Friday night in order to hear the word of the day. The show was an instant hit. Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Special Edition – Seasons 3, 4 & 5 wraps up one of the most amazing series to go with Cap’n Crunch.

The third season was very short. How short? Only two episodes. Kids television is notorious for short seasons after the first outing. But why only two episodes? That’s because the focus of the production for that year was on creating the greatest star stuffed Christmas special ever made in the history of television. This is also the reason to buy and cherish this DVD set. “Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special” is a glory to behold. The guest stars include Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Grace Jones, k.d. lang, Dinah Shore, Little Richard, Cher, Del Rubio Triplettes, Magic Johnson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Oprah Winfrey, Joan Rivers and Charo. That’s not even including Laurence Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis and William Marshall as King Of Cartoons. That’s Morpheus and Blacula. This ought to be the centerpiece of anyone’s holiday TV party. Pee-wee brings out the joy of season as he gets piled under a wave of fruit cakes. Who could dream of Grace Jones caroling?

The fourth and fifth season each had 10 episodes. They were equally as fun as the previous seasons. “Fire in the Playhouse” nearly burns down the place. Eventually someone needs to hose down Miss Yvonne when she gets her hands on a firefighter. “Heat Wave” introduces games kids can play on hot days. “Front Page Pee-wee” puts out a newspaper. They need to remake this episode for the internet. “Playhouse for Sale” puts the joint on the market. This is the kind of house that will have to find a particular buyer.

Pee-wee become a bizarre version of Mister Rogers. But it wasn’t a spoof like Eddie Murphy did around this time. Pee-wee was able to give out educational advice while still being the goofy cartoon character with a bowtie. The show came to an end in 1990 while still the best thing on Saturday mornings. Why did the series end? Most think CBS shut down Pee-wee’s Playhouse after Paul Reubens got busted in an adult theater. But the truth I’ve received from various staffers was Reubens had already told the network he wasn’t coming back. He created a great children’s television show that stands up 25 years later.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are an improvement over the previous release. You might want to consider snagging the Blu-ray release to take in the beauty of the production design. The audio is Dolby Digital stereo. You will get a jolt when the word of the day is revealed. The episodes are Closed Captioned.

Audio Commentary on the “Christmas Special” includes insight from Paul Reubens, the great Wayne White and Miss Yvonne. They let people know what it took to make this legendary special. Turns out the singing Marines weren’t really Marines.

Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Special Edition – Seasons 3, 4 & 5 is worth getting for just the “Christmas Special.” The regular episodes are an added bonus.

Shout! Factory presents Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Special Edition – Seasons 3, 4 & 5. Starring: Paul Reubens, William Marshall and Lawrence Fishbourne. Boxset Contents: 23 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: March 10, 2015.