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Image Entertainment presents
Pee-wee's Playhouse #2 (1987-1990)

"The Playhouse will always be here, for everyone to play in. For ever and ever and ever. On that, you have my word!"
- Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: June 10, 2005

Stars: Paul Reubens
Other Stars: Lynne Stewart, Vic Trevino, S. Epatha Merkerson, Laurence Fishburne, John Paragon, Suzanne Kent, Sandra Bernhard, William Marshall
Director: (various)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 09h:35m:00s
Release Date: November 16, 2004
UPC: 014381251029
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-CB- D-

DVD Review

Image has issued the entire run of the Emmy-winning Saturday morning series, Pee-wee's Playhouse, in two separate five-disc boxed set editions, with the first covering seasons one and two, and this last chapter taking care of seasons three, four, and five.

Unfortunately, as with the first set, there are no original air dates, so it's a bit difficult to isolate the eps from a given season, but in watching this final block of episodes there is a feeling that Paul Reubens may have been getting tired of the schtick, or possibly realized that he may have run the concept dry. That's one of negatives of television series boxed sets, which is the ability to watch eps back-to-back-to-back, something that tends to show off the small imperfections and lazy "recycled" writing more prominently than the pre-TIVO days that only us ancient types remember.

The general ebb-and-flow of the show's structure remained the same, with eternal man/boy Pee-Wee holding court in his playhouse, dealing with an assortment of odd characters (both human and otherwise), all the while tying into some thematic thread per episode, such as the challenges of making a "to do" list, the hassles of unwanted house guests, or the fear of dentists. The morale value of Pee-wee's Playhouse was always a little tenuous, and the implied sexual tension between Miss Yvonne (Lynne Stewart) and just about any other male character was rarely underplayed and never appeared accidental, almost to the point of playing like a parody of a kid's show.

But that's where the series was able to crossover into that strange void between pure children's entertainment and something that adults could gravitate towards. The jokes were consistently simple and dumb, but why was it that Miss Yvonne sported more cleavage than any other woman on a kids' show, at least at that time? Just who was this show for exactly? That never was never very clear, and while all those Emmys would seem to indicate it had the best interest of kids in mind, there was a sense that Reubens was fooling everyone by trying to see how far he could distort things before the bigwigs caught on.

It's almost fitting that the final episode in this set deals with a mass misunderstanding amongst the supporting characters that Pee-wee has put the playhouse up for sale. This leads to some unusual recollections, all building to a syrupy The Way We Were montage moment that seems like a cry for help that Pee-Wee and the playhouse had reached the end of the line.

But that's not to say seasons three through five were awful, because they weren't, at least not completely; maybe uneven, or perhaps not as strong as the first couple of seasons. The good news is that even on its worst day, Pee-wee's Playhouse was a strangely rewarding bit of weirdness all its own, a bizarre half-hour of entertainment that I believe was just disguised as a kids' show.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The image quality on these transfers is no better than that found on the first boxed set, which is to say mediocre to poor, dependent on the episode. Grain is frequent, and as a result detail is hardly what you might call sharp. For a show with such vibrant, colorful sets, it deserves a better treatment.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: All episodes are presented with a rather plain 2.0 stereo mix, and while not glaringly awful, the audio lacks any substantial depth.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 110 cues and remote access
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
5 Discs
5-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras, unless you count the six "unreleased" shows. But like the first set, there is no indication which eps those are, which seems like a big oversight.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

As much as a I love Pee-wee, there was more than a trace of going-through-the-motions as this series reached its end, and in hindsight it's probably best it wrapped when it did. Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of moments rich in Pee-wee weirdness, but there are just many bits that seem to be stretched with no real direction that sort of diluted the magic.

A required purchase for completists, or for those too antsy to wait for the promised "deluxe" set due in the next year or so.


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