Review: Pee-wee’s Playhouse Seasons 1-5 on Blu-Ray

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Image: Shout Factory.

Mecka-lecka hi…Mecka-hiney ho!

This week Pee-wee Herman fans in Canada and the U.S. will be greeted with Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray and DVD. Our family had a chance to preview the Blu-Ray discs of all five seasons, consisting of 45 episodes. My husband and I enjoyed a trip down memory lane back to the days of traditional (and recently defunct) Saturday morning cartoons, and our 9-and-11-year-old sons couldn’t stop laughing at the silliness.

For those unfamiliar, Paul Reubens got his start in the early 1980s as a stand-up comic in Los Angeles, inventing the Pee-wee Herman character as part of a routine that ended up generating an incredible following. In fact, throughout the mid-1980s Reubens didn’t appear in public other than as Pee-wee. Many fans didn’t even know his real name throughout the 1980s…which in the pre-internet age wasn’t that difficult to conjure. The sellout stand-up shows featuring Pee-wee introduced friends such as Cowboy Curtis and Miss Yvonne. In 1985, a very young Tim Burton worked with Pee-wee on the full-length feature film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, now a cult classic for Generation X’ers everywhere, including my husband and me.

After the movie’s success, Pee-wee’s Playhouse was developed for CBS’s Saturday morning television lineup, featuring Pee-wee having a fun, silly, time in his house exploring the world around him. His friends Chairy (a chair), Magic Screen, and Pterri (a young pteradactyl) were joined by visitors such as Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne), Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart), and Reba the Mail Lady (S. Epatha Merckerson in her first television role). Phil Hartman also makes numerous appearances as Captain Carl in one of his earliest television roles. You can also hear Cyndi Lauper singing the Betty Boop-styled opening theme song.

Even though viewers experience chaos and silliness in each episode, know that in each one there’s an underlying message: be kind, and others will be kind in return. Randy, a puppet character, will often do or say something mean, and this will turn into a lesson for viewers.

In addition to the 45 episodes of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, viewers will enjoy the interviews and featurettes that provide an additional four hours of viewing. Unfortunately, there is nothing that explicitly spells out where the featurettes are located among the discs. There’s a table of contents inside each of the two clamshells that outlines each episode title, with a header about there being bonus features “near” the contents of the 3rd disc in each set. But know that they’re on each set’s 4th disc. It’s very sweet hearing the cast and crew talk about some of the clever things Paul Reuben did for his colleagues, such as the “yearbooks” he had made to commemorate the end of each season’s filming. Also, the writers and artists regale throughout the interviews about the creative license they had in set design, skit design, and writing. Hear Mark Mothersbaugh and Danny Elfman talk about the music, and hear about Stephen Johnson and the artists of Aardman Animation discuss the skit sequencing. The bonuses are definitely more interesting to the adults than to the kids, with the following topics to enjoy:

Building the Playhouse
Opening the Playhouse
Writing for the Playhouse
The Look of the Playhouse
Music of the Playhouse
The Cast of the Playhouse
Puppets of the Playhouse
Animating the Playhouse
A Very Merry Christmas Special
Fans and Memorabilia of the Playhouse

Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series is timeless and will capture kids’ attention and enthusiasm even nearly 30 years later. The Blu-Ray box set will be available everywhere starting October 21, 2014, will retail for $149.99, and can be pre-ordered through Amazon for $96.99.

GeekMom received this product for review purposes.

Patricia Vollmer is a geeky meteorologist mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 11 & 14. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which for now is in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.