Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special
-- posted on January 5, 2013
As a general fan of children's entertainment, I am always on the look out for the next thing to watch that I have never seen. I don't care if it's a children's classic or a soon to be classic, I just want to see it. For me, there are two special times of year that I just go co-co nuts for, Halloween and Christmas. Whilst Christmas doesn't quite trump Halloween, it's cut-throat close. Now, Christmas for my family and I suppose most, involves awesome Christmas Special's. Every family has their own special's, for mine it's a Jingle all the Way, Mickey's Christmas Carol type situation, with some of the South Park Christmas Specials thrown in for good measure. This year, we had the inclusion of three new ones: The Victorious Christmas episode, Drake and Josh's Christmas Special and probably more importantly, Pee-wee's Christmas Special. But we are only going to be talking about Pee-wee's glorious special this time. I just wanted this article to be a little more of a laid back, relaxing affair than the usual where I can just spit some love and tell my personal story and experience with one of my personal favorite Christmas Special's ever made.
So how come I was so late to the party? Well, I have explained in an article before, but for clarification, Pee-wee isn't really a thing in the United-Kingdom. The only time Pee-wee was ever really shown in the UK was very early on in Sky TV's lifetime on Nickelodeon in the very early mornings. At this point in time, most people hadn't transitioned to Sky yet and because of the very early airings, most people, even at the time of the show airing, didn't know who Pee-wee was, which is a real shame considering just how fantastic the show is. However I feel my introduction to Pee-wee was probably most fitting for me. The first time I ever saw Pee-wee Herman was the Tim Burton movie Pee-wee's Big Adventure. The movie immediately captured something in me, this child-like sense of wonder and humor that tends to pull me in and since then, I was hooked on that movie. Watching it continuously throughout the years, I felt like it was finally time to pull out the big guns and get the whole Pee-wee's Playhouse collection on DVD. There was absolutely no way I could watch the show legally in the UK, even through DVD rental and such. But before I did this, slight excitement in finding out Pee-wee's Christmas Special was available on LoveFilm (UK rival service to Netflix, Sky Movies, etc) drove me to renting it. I should point out that at this time, it was around March.
As soon as the special came, I hit up the living room to watch. I was in my University housing at this point in time and one of my friends decided it might be fun to watch it with me, eventually finding one other person to also watch with us. I was not prepared for what was in store for me, neither were they, but I guess mine and theirs were different reasoning. For me, it was one of the best episodes of television I had seen, a creative masterpiece filled to the brim with witty humor, vibrancy and imagination. For them, it was one of the most surreal experiences of their lives and I assumed by their reactions to the special, that it just wasn't for them. Was it different to Pee-wee's Big Adventure? Oh sure, but it wasn't like I wasn't expecting it, I went into the special fully knowing the history of Pee-wee Herman, despite the fact that I hadn't seen a lot of the history itself. Also, if I'm to be perfectly honest... well, I preferred the Christmas special to the movie. It's not that the Christmas special was any funnier or anything it was just the way that the house was set up, the stop-motion, clay-mation aspects of the show it was all oozing with such effort and child-like charm, pessimism and cynicism completely absent from this viewing, it was like this show was robotically synthesized to be my entertainment heaven.
Of course what I didn't know precisely, was that this was just the beginning. After this Christmas special, I had SO MUCH Pee-wee's Playhouse to enjoy. For this, I'm terribly thankful as Pee-wee's Playhouse would eventually become my favorite form of Pee-wee, beating out the two movies. But back to the episode. Now this was something special, celebrities filled to the brim, the same saturated, colorful world that you get from every Pee-wee episode but, in my opinion, better. The humor was certainly almost non-stop throughout the episode, with classic moments such as Magic Johnson exclaiming “The Magic Screen and I are cousins!” and Jumbi's implied angry reaction when Pee-wee asks for two wishes instead of one.
Paul Reuben's has always said that Pee-wee was supposed to teach kids a lesson in a way that didn't play down to them, which is pretty much exactly what I have always advocated. Children are not idiots that you can just feed mindless-drivel and expect them to take it in. Pee-wee gave them a fantastic Christmas special that they could invest in every year, it has fantastically creative effects, over-saturated color and mood and a great message about the real meaning of Christmas. What's great about this show also, is that it doesn't racially or ethnically segregate. The part about Hanukka fascinated me to no end and I had never learned or heard the Feliz Navidad song until I heard it on this special. Even for an adult, watching Pee-wee was an educational experience. I wonder if people could get away with asking the real meaning of Christmas and then going into the birth of the Christ these days... but I digress.
Some of my personal favorite celebrity cameo's (and there are a lot to choose from) on this special have to be Whoopi Goldberg, Magic Johnson, Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. Whoopi's appearence, asking Pee-wee whether she can be in the special and Pee-wee explaining that he is booked until the Christmas special after next year, whilst being so mean about it in a sense, almost viciously upfront, is just perfect comedy and makes for one of the funniest moments (for adults) in the episode. Magic Johnson's surreal appearance as The Magic Screen's cousin is really saying enough for anyone who hasn't seen the special yet to want to check that clip out. Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon's appearance making Christmas-cards is hilarious just in Pee-wee's reaction to Frankie.
Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special is something I never got the chance to watch when I was a kid and just because of regional and cultural differences, that's the sad part. The internet completely changed everything, not just the way we communicate and the way we get our entertainment, it changed the culture that I could enjoy and that truly, changed my tastes in entertainment as a whole. Pee-wee's Playhouse ended up being one of my personal favorite shows and then became a houshold Christmas special for my family. I guess I have the internet to thank, really. So thank you internet, thank you Pee-wee and Merry-Christmas, everyone. Comment >>