Stream On: Some shows defy categorization—Pee-wee’s Playhouse and MST3K

By on October 15, 2020

Pee-wee Herman and Cowboy Curtis (Yes, that’s Laurence Fishburne) enjoy a moment in Pee-wee’s Playhouse. (IMDb.com)

Something special was going on in the 1980’s. Perhaps it was the advances in digital technology that brought us first, personal computers, and soon, the internet, as we wore the colorful outsized fashions of the ’70’s that leveraged the expanded social freedoms of the ’60’s, that washed everything in the 16 surreal colors of the Commodore 64 home computer and early videogames. Two landmark shows especially reflected this gaudy and fun esthetic of the times.


(Amazon.com; Prime Video; Netflix and elsewhere) 1986-1991 [TVPG]

Elton John is to Jerry Lee Lewis what Pee-wee’s Playhouse is to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Is this what attention deficit disorder looks like?

Pee-wee’s Playhouse starred Paul Reubens as the childlike Pee-wee Herman. It ran from 1986 to 1990 on Saturday mornings on CBS, and aired in reruns until July 1991. Now it streams on Netflix and other platforms. The show was developed from Reubens’ popular stage show and TV special The Pee-wee Herman Show [IMDb.com], produced for HBO, which was similar in style but featured much more adult humor.

In 1985 Reubens and Tim Burton made the film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (which can be seen on [Hulu and elsewhere]). It became one of the year’s surprise hits, costing a only $6 million to make but taking in $45 million at the box office. In 1986, CBS signed Reubens to act, produce, and direct his own live-action Saturday morning children’s program, and Pee-wee’s Playhouse is the result. “Daylight madness” pretty much sums it up. Peewee is a man-child dressed in a tight silver suit with white shoes and a red bow tie who careens around his playhouse like a pinball. S. Epatha Merkerson (Law and Order, Chicago Med) made her television debut as Reba the Mail Lady. Lawrence Fishburne (The Matrix Trilogy, Boyz n the Hood) appeared as cowboy Curtis. Phil Hartman [NewsRadio] played Captain Carl, and the cast included talking chairs, a talking window, a magic genie’s talking head in a jeweled box, and a pugilistic marionette named Randy, along with a few actual children.

Here’s a Shout! Factory TV trailer of this bizarre and wonderful show on [YouTube].

Tom Servo, Joel Robinson and Crow T. Robot critique The Atomic Brain. (IMDb.com)


(Amazon.com; Prime Video; Shout! Factory TV; Tubi TV; Netflix; Channel 488 on Pluto TV) 1988-2018 [TV14]

Mystery Science Theater 3000 [official site], also known as MST3K, pronounced “misty 3K” is even stranger yet.

In it, Joel Robinson (creator Joel Hodgson), a janitor trapped by two mad scientists (“The Mads”) on the Earth-orbiting Satellite of Love, is forced to watch terrible B movies and worse in order to monitor his reaction to them. To keep his sanity, Joel crafts sentient robot companions, including Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, and Gypsy, to keep him company and make sarcastic comments on each movie as it plays.

Appearing on local Minneapolis TV in 1988, MST3K didn’t have high ratings, but organically grew a fanatical viewership among self-identified “Mysties” on the then-new public internet. In 1989 The Comedy Channel paid creator Joel Hodgson’s production company, Best Brains, $35,000 an episode while allowing Best Brains to retain the rights, and to keep filming in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, at a quarter of the cost of Hollywood or New York.

In 1989, Comedy Central was created with the merger of The Comedy Channel and the Ha! Network, and MST3K was its flagship program. In 1997, MST3K was picked up by the Sci-Fi channel for three seasons and reruns were shown until 2004; in 2017, two seasons were produced for Netflix.

Each hilarious two-hour episode shows Joel and his robot friends, seen in silhouette at the bottom of the screen, commenting on one movie, such as Plan Nine from Outer Space, and includes some monkey business outside the screening room with Joel and the robots during intermissions. The comedy is superb, in a low-rent mise en scène that perfectly complements the movies watched onscreen.

Here’s a Shout! Factory TV trailer on [YouTube].

Next, WWII bookend series Band of Brothers and The Pacific.

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV columns by Pete Hummers.


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


Sussex Development is soliciting bids to turnkey supply and install FF&E for the new Tulls Creek Elementary School, 125 Campus Drive, Moyock, NC27929. This project is a new ground-up 2-story, Pre-K thru 5th grade school, approximately 118,000 square feet. Bid documents may be obtained through Christopher West Interiors LLC. Request bid documents via email to interiors@cwiusa.com. Pre-Bid RFIs will be accepted via email until Wednesday, July 31, 2024 at 5:00PM EST. Pricing proposals are due Wednesday, August 14, 2024 by 5:00PM EST. All bids and inquires to be sent to interiors@cwiusa.com. Certified NC Hub, MBE, WBE, DBE, SBE are highly encouraged to participate. Sussex Development is an EOE and maintains a drug-free workplace.


Comments are closed.