The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway

Season 1 Episode 1

The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway

Aired Saturday 10:00 PM Mar 19, 2011 on HBO
out of 10
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Episode Summary


The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway, from the television series of the same name, showcases the extravagant production of the The Pee-Wee Herman show as it makes its broadway debut. This episode follows the cast and crew of the show as they rehearse for the play and work towards the final production.

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  • I love the ghost of the Sham-Wow Puppet: "No such thing as a tracer? What a sham--wow!"

    Hello, boys and girls.

    It's been a while since we've all seen our good friend Paul Reubens don his grey suit and red bow tie so naturally, the revival of The Pee Wee Herman Show at Los Angeles's Club Nokia and later on Broadway was a majorly anticipated work. This is a good thing and a bad thing: when I first saw the play on the first night of previews in New York, I was disappointed by it. The play made me laugh a lot but still felt largely unfulfilling as a comeback show, mostly because it was just an exceptional comeback show. A lot of well-timed fan service is sprinkled throughout including a lot of soundbites and familiar characters (Pterri the Pteradactyl! Clocky! Globey! Jambi!). Heck, the show's central conceit is that Pee Wee can never grow up and hence can't move past his signature tics and mannerisms, making The Pee Wee Herman Show on Broadway a necessarily a stodgy and at times depressing experience. The jokes are so funny so why does it feel so wrong to laugh at them?

    First, some good news: it's a little easier to laugh at this new Pee Wee Herman show at home than it is at the theater. By now, the aura that's surrounded Pee Wee's character since his premature departure from the spotlight has crystallized to an impossible degree. Pee Wee's schtick is a lot funnier when viewed on a TV at home than it is when you see it in person and are surrounded by fellow Pee Wee fanatics. The live format of the theatrical show was that much more unnerving: you could hear an entire crowd of vocal would-be misfits responding with you during the show's call-and-response segments. The HBO special on the other hands allows you to sit comfortably at home and have the kind of private, totally insulated experience that the show always thrived on. Shouting whenever one of the characters says the secret word certainly doesn't feel as alienating when you watch the HBO special as this time, you can still imagine your Pee Wee's bestest friend.

    Still, one of the main reasons why The Pee Wee Herman Show on Broadway is a fun but somewhat disenchanting experience is because of its nature as a show-length refresher course on who the character is. Reubens knows that his audience has grown up and wants to reassure them that while they've changed, their old pal hasn't. Pee Wee now exists in the 21st century and as such he says things like "Chillax" and "No worries! Same difference! It's all good!" He also wants to use a computer now instead of just relying on the encyclopedic knowledge of his more animated house appliances like Conky 3000 or Magic Screen. The biggest change and the one that momentarily pushes the show beyonds its comfortably staid limits comes from Pee Wee's new Chastity Ring. The ring provide a redundant symbol of the character's genially asexual nature. The burgeoning threaten of sex threatens to overwhelm the playhouse in the show's end during one of its more forced and unfunny skits where the power goes out in the Playhouse and all of the characters wind up feeling each other up. The repetition of a gag as corny as the "That's no flashlight" routine and an even more icky retort like "And that's not my belly button" only serves to overstate the obvious: sex was never the province of Reubens's character and it never will be.

    Where The Pee Wee Herman Show on Broadway scores big points is its cast's instantly attractive performances. Human characters like Sergio and Bear and puppets like Josh Meyers's talking Shamwow rag are both perfect examples of how the show can and frequently does very well by incrementally complicating Pee Wee's world with new faces and situations. Garcia is especially funny and is probably the break-out star of the show in spite of the gleefully shallow nature of his goofy oversexed Latino routine. After performing "The Forbidden Dance" for Pee Wee, Garcia hits his mark perfectly when he responds to Pee Wee's inevitable question of "How come you're doing it if it's so forbidden?" with "Because...I'm a rebel!" That line is an important deviation from the show's status as a fun throwback. It has a history backing it since it mirrors Pee Wee's own iconic line from Pee Wee's Big Adventure where he warns his love interest Dottie not to get too attached to him: "I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel." Garcia's paraphrase is one of the few few times that the new Pee Wee Herman Show uses the audience's knowledge of their beloved man-child hero for something more than just fan service. Garcia's high-energy performance confirms that Sergio's a character that can share the spotlight with Pee Wee. He proves that times can change within the Playhouse walls, if only on a scene-by-scene basis.

    Still, realistically, The Pee Wee Herman Show will always revolve around Reubens and his boundless energy. His performance starts out a bit rocky at the show's beginning--his nervousness and hyper-awareness of HBO's equally hyper-active cameras is palpable. He thankfully hits his stride shortly thereafter once other human characters show up and provide him with foils that he can work with. Though his jowly cheeks are an unwelcome reminder of his relatively advanced age, Reubens's Pee Wee has still got it. It's nice to see him parade around in his signature suit again, even if by now it's a few sizes too small.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions