Childhood Rituals: Watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse

It’s Saturday morning. Though we hate getting up at 6 or so during the week so we can go to school, this is different. This is Saturday…OUR time. First on our agenda ? Grab a big bowl of the sugary-ist cereal that we can find and–ZOOM–…Into the living room and stake a claim in the nearest chair or simply plop onto the floor right in front of the tv. Cartoons often repeated the same plots and character types over and over again, but did we care ? No. They were fun and, best of all, had nothing to do with school. One of the best shows that I remember from childhood is Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

What is it about nostalgia that makes us feel so good ? Our entertainment was oft times simple. But we were kids. We didn’t care. Sometimes, we wanted to be like our older brothers and sisters and so, watched whatever they watched. But every now and then, something caught our attention, something that we felt was just ours. It could’ve been something as simple as a cartoon. Or, in this case, a tv show.

Nothing made us happier as a kid than Saturday morning. After suffering through school all week, we just wanted to veg out in front of the tube with our friends. We’d go on adventures with the Gummi Bears, solve crimes with Inspector Gadget, or enter a strange and wonderful world of mirth and amusement. This world was Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse was a strange show. It wasn’t action, it wasn’t animation, it wasn’t… wasn’t really a show you could classify as anything other than pure fun. It had bright colors, odd situations, and puppets for the kids. And it had subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, moments and jokes for the adults. This was a rare occasion where both kids and adults could like the same show.

The star of the show was a tall, gangly, man-child named Pee Wee.

The huge, red leather door would swing open and Pee-wee would enter a kid’s biggest dream ; a big room filled with all sorts of toys and games. Pee-wee steps up to a robot made from a jumble of a record player, typewriter, and junk, unplugging the robot from the wall. With a flick of a switch, the robot, Conky, whirrs to life.

As he does every episode, Pee-wee asks for the secret word. Conky does a spastic dance and a card or strip of paper slides from a slot in his (or was it her?) front. Pee-wee reads the word, the mention of which is an indication for everyone to scream.

Pee-wee’s Playhouse is so odd. But I think that’s what we loved about it as kid. There were tiny little claymation dinosaurs that lived in a hole in the walls. The window, flowers, and the clock spoke. The food in the fridge was alive…which really makes you wonder what happens to them when Pee Wee starts to makes snacks. There was a speaking Pterodactyl, a speaking cow, and countless other strange sights and sounds…including a part of the floor that would lift up and talk ! The Christmas special is even more strange. Pee Wee makes an entire room out of the seemingly hundreds of fruit cakes people give him.

Pee-wee’s Playhouse is the perfect kids shows ; loud, colorful, and pretty much nonsensical. But it is great fun.

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