A Zipper for Pee-Wee

Ethel O\' Grady
History of Television
December 3, 1996

A Zipper for Pee-Wee Herman:

Leaders in childrens television are and always have been concerned about what

programs actually make it on the air. Most early programming for children of school age

in the 1950\'s was the western program. Another type was the science-fiction thriller which

tended to be based on hero\'s from the radio, comics, and films. However, a favorite of the

youngest audience was the children\'s equivalent of the variety show. This usually

contained circus, puppet, and/or animal segments. "Super Circus", which aired in 1949,

consisted of music, circus acts, animals, and of course, clowns.

In 1952, yet another type of program came about which reached a very similiar

audience as the circus variety shows. It was called "The Ding Dong School". The Ding

Dong School offered the conversation, low-key instruction, commercials, and

entertainment of Miss. Frances, a professional teacher.

With the help of these types of shows, a new genre was born. Children\'s television

which was a mixture of songs, education, fun, and a whole lot more. In 1969, the first

airing of "Sesame Street" took place. Sesame Street had programs which were sponsored

by different letters of the alphabet or numbers each day, and relied on very short,

animated cartoons with live and puppet segments which kept the interest of preschool

children. The show was an instant outstanding success, and still broadcasts today.


In 1970, "Mr. Roger\'s Neighborhood" was born. Mr. Fred Roger\'s used puppets

and music to teach patience and cooperation, while providing guidance to help children

cope with feelings and frustrations. Mr. Roger\'s land of makebelieve\'s handpuppet

characters interacted with humans in the mythical kingdom of King Friday XIII. There, the

puppets and humans would deal with their feelings and emotions as they solve typical,

everyday problems.

This new genre of programming was a sensation. The children loved it, and the

parents approved of it. During the following years, many new shows came about which

still fit this genre. In the year 1986, yet another show was born into childrens television.

"Pee-Wee\'s Playhouse". This series, starring host Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) used

animation, puppets, and vintage cartoons to entertain and educate its audience. Between

Pee-Wee Herman and his extraordinary playhouse, children were given the opportunity to

let their imaginations go crazy.

The "playhouse" had no permanent residents, that is, besides the furnishings. Not

ordinary furnishings, you see, Pee-Wee\'s furnishings could move, talk, dance, and sing.

These "characters" could be seen at the playhouse on a regular basis. Some of the

favorites were: Globey, a talking globe who would show Pee-Wee the countries that his

pen-pal\'s letters came from; Magic Screen, a toy of Pee-Wee\'s that enabled him to actually

get "inside the screen" and play a life-size game of connect the dots; Konkie, a talking

robot which revealed the secret word of the day; and of course Genie, who granted Pee-


Wee one wish a day.

The playhouse also welcomed a series of visitors during each episode, which

also be seen on a regular basis. Some of these favorites included: Rina the mail-lady,

came to deliver Pee-Wee\'s pen-pal letters everyday; Miss Yvonne, who Pee-Wee referred

to the most beautiful woman in Puppetland; and of course the King of Cartoons who

brought the "vintage cartoon of the day" to Pee-Wee.

Besides the spectacular furnishings and outrageous visitors, the television show

had an unusual daily theme. This theme could have been anything from "a fire in the

playhouse", "a trip to another planet", or even "Pee-Wee getting sick". In all of these

situations, Pee-Wee stressed the importance of friendship, sharing, and just being nice.

One particular show, "Monster in the Playhouse", was about being in the dark.

Pee-Wee explains that when your with your friends, the dark is less spooky. Suddenly

Mrs. Steve, a neighbor of Pee-Wee\'s, begins panicking because she thinks there\'s a monster

on the loose. Just then, a great monster with one eye and one leg enters the playhouse.

His name is Roger, and he stays and plays with Pee-Wee. All of a sudden Roger\'s mother

is on the picture-phone saying that Roger is late for dinner. This show ends with Pee-

Wee\'s elaborate closing: Pee-Wee mounting his scooter with Roger and giving him a ride


Unfortunately, Pee-Wee\'s Playhouse came to an