Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)

pee wees playhouse christmas special dvd cover review
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Sheer camp and bizarre guests

For kids but not for kids

TV Show Info

TV Show Name:  Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special

Studio:  Binder Entertainment

Genre(s):  Comedy/Seasonal

Release Date(s):  December 21, 1988

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

pee wee playhouse christmas special magic johnson screen

Dang, Magic…your cousin’s crazy

It is Christmas time at Pee-wee’s Playhouse and all of Pee-wee’s friends are celebrating.  As Pee-wee’s wishlist for Santa grows longer and longer, the only thing Pee-wee (Paul Reubens) seems to be getting is fruitcakes.  More and more guests stop by, and Pee-wee is just hoping for all the gifts he can get.

Directed by Wayne Orr and Paul Reubens, Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special aired in primetime on December 21, 1988.  It is also known as Christmas at Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and Pee-wee Herman’s Christmas Special.  It was well received and has become a bit of a cult classic due to its strange “Pee-Wee” style.  It was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in in Graphic Design and Title Sequence, Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program, and Outstanding Costume Design for a Variety or Music Program.

pee wees playhouse christmas special grace jones little drumer boy paul reubens

Grace…you frighten me and intrigue me…

I loved watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse, but Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special kicks it up a notch.  It feels more adult than the standard playhouse but not quite up to the Pee-wee stage show (which is pretty crude at points).  The show is fun, odd, and a product of its time…which makes it near perfect.

This is just another prime example of why Pee-wee’s Playhouse was not for kids.  This special is amusing in its quirkiness and campy-ness and full of bizarre guests that look like they should be (and were on) The Love Boat rather than a kids’ show.  The show also has some weird content with some really strange sexual undertones (the like the actual Pee-wee’s Playhouse stage show).  In this show, I particularly like when Pee-wee says he added a room built of fruitcakes and opens the door to a bunch of buff shirtless construction men…bizarre, yet hilarious.

pee wees playhouse christmas special cher secret word year paul reubens

When anyone says the Secret Word, scream real loud!!!

The guests really make this show.  There are the Pee-Wee Herman regulars like Cowboy Curtis (Lawrence “Larry” Fishburn), Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart), Reba the Mail-Woman (S. Epatha Merkerson), the King of Cartoons (William Marshall), Ricardo (Vic Trevino), Jambi (John Paragon), and Mrs. Rene (Suzanne Kent)…who brings the “Hanukkah portion of the special”…which made fun of the PC  before political correctness was really a thing.  In addition to them, a ton of guest stars stop by like Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, k.d. lang, Cher, Grace Jones, Dinah Shore, Little Richard, the Del Rubio Triplettes, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Joan Rivers, and Magic Johnson (whose cousin is Magic Screen).

Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special is a great campy edition to the Christmas viewing list.  A sheer oddity, watch the show and question why people thought this was for kids at all…Christmas is Pee-Wee’s favorite time so have a merry one with this special and a Happy New Year!!! (AAAAHHHH!!!!  You just said the Secret Word!!!)

Related Links:

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Big Top Pee-wee (1988)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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