Thursday, December 25, 2014

Television Review: CHRISTMAS AT PEE WEE'S PLAYHOUSE (1988, Wayne Orr & Paul Reubens)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 49 minutes.
Tag-line: None.
Notable Cast or Crew: Paul Reubens (PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER), Annette Funicello (BABES IN TOYLAND, BEACH PARTY), Frankie Avalon (GREASE, DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE), Grace Jones (A VIEW TO A KILL, VAMP), k.d. lang, Dinah Shore, Little Richard, Cher, Magic Johnson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Whoopi Goldberg (FATAL BEAUTY, THE CELEBRITY GUIDE TO WINE), Oprah Winfrey, Joan Rivers,  Charo, Laurence Fishburne (APOCALYPSE NOW, BOYZ N THE HOOD), Chairry, Floory, Globey, Conky 2000, Clockey, Magic Screen, Pterri, Mr. Window, Dirty Dog, Cool Cat, Chicky Baby, Randy, Billy Baloney, the Dinosaur Family, and The Flowers.
Best One-liner:  "That was Cher!  Cher was right over there!  In the same room as my chair!  I hope I didn't stare!  Oh well!  I don't care!"
Secret Word: "Year."

Now this was an 11th Hour Christmas Eve recommendation from my sister, who let me know it was streaming on Netflix.  And holy cow, what an embarrassment of festive, camp-tastic riches!  Occasionally subversive for a children's program, it uses its substantial powers to celebrate diversity and kitsch in something approaching equal quantities.  It's madness down the line, but for the moment, let me regale you with the top seven most amazingly absurd moments in CHRISTMAS AT PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE:

#7.  The opening tableau, which involves sequined back-up singers and the UCLA Glee Club men's choir dressed as U.S. Marines in dress blues
cavorting in the background and ultimately hoisting Pee Wee into the camera lens where he caterwauls impressively.

#6.  L.A. Laker Magic Johnson shows up inside the Magic Screen

because Magic Johnson is cousins with the Magic Screen.  Later, they are chased by a cartoon polar bear:

#5.  Pee Wee forces Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon into a form of slave labor, the arts n' craftsy task at hand being to construct his Christmas cards.

Later, for all their efforts, he serves them bread and water.

#4.  Whoa-oh-oh!  Cher drops by to mess around with Conky and determine the Word of the Day, which is "YEAR."

Pee Wee then proceeds to make a variety of Cher-related puns.

This represents the content and flavor of the entire show condensed into a single freeze frame.

#3.  Little Richard minces in, flustered by his own inability to ice skate.

Pee Wee then delights Little Richard with a deft display of ice-skating.

However, the use of stunt double "Hans" saddens Little Richard, who pouts in disappointment.

#2.  There is an ongoing gag about Pee Wee receiving unwanted fruitcakes.  Naturally, he sets two beefcake-y construction workers to building him a tower out of them.

 Literally a tower of fruitcakes.

#1.  A crate is delivered by mistake to Pee Wee.

It is intended for then-lame duck President Ronald Reagan.

The crate contains Grace Jones, who is wearing a bizarro foam outfit with sculpted breast-molds, because of course she is.

Pee Wee attempts to repackage Grace Jones,

 but she insists on singing "The Little Drummer Boy" while she strips off her fur and gloves as if proceeding into a burlesque number

while Pee Wee himself sits on a tiny chair in childlike euphoria throughout.

Unfortunately, no one has ever accidentally delivered Grace Jones to my house.

I feel as if I have only scratched the surface here (I didn't even get to Charo, Whoopi, Oprah, or Laurence Fishburne!), and invite you, too, to visit this, which may very well be the most willfully insane of all the 80s Christmas specials.  (You'll note that the STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL is from the 70s.)  Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and here's to a tremendous New Year!

That's the secret word!  AHHHHHHHHHH!

–Sean Gill


Jason said...

I think I saw this when I was a kid, but don't remember ANY of this stuff. Happy New Year, Junta!

Sean Gill said...


Glad you enjoyed. I, too, was blown away by this (and probably saw it as a kid, too, just don't remember it.) Happy New Year to you as well!