The Pee Wee Herman Show is kicking off with a huge, sold-out stage show, a new version of the original stage show that served as a launching pad for the Saturday morning TV (AHHHHHH!) show, Pee Wee's Playhouse. The show starts a run on Jan. 17, 2010 at Los Angeles' Club Nokia. The producers had to move the show to a bigger club so they could accommodate the large number of ticket holders who stormed the box office when seats went on sale.
Given the buzz and heavy interest in this new stage show and the character's return from the depths of popular culture, could a TV (AHHHHHHH!) version -- either for kids or adults -- be far behind?
If the years 1960 to 1964 were a time when the networks put their toes in the Saturday morning waters to see what it was like, 1965 was the year where they took a few steps in. Not completely enough to submerge themselves, mind you...that would be left until the Fall of 1966. But, just enough to feel comfortable enough to dive in.
Like the nation, television was changing in 1965, and the shift could be felt on Saturday mornings. Gone were many of the post-primetime, live action shows that filled the schedule during the first few years of the 60's. In its place was more animated fare. And, that programming was geared to current fads that were taking place in pop culture during that time. It was also the year that a certain animation studio known for its primetime and syndicated fare took its first tentative steps back into original Saturday morning programming.
The creation of Foofur, a Saturday morning cartoon that ran on NBC for two seasons starting in 1986, is typically credited to Freddy Monnickendam, the man who helped bring The Smurfs to American television and who later created The Snorks. However, Don Markstein of Toonopedia writes that the cartoon is more precisely attributed to Phil Mendez, who created Kissyfur one year earlier. Whoever created it, Foofur was a staple of my Saturday mornings, and I was glad to find a few episodes on YouTube.
I'm just old enough to remember watching Schoolhouse Rock on ABC, and getting all those catchy but educational songs stuck in my head. The series of shorts that popped up between cartoons on Saturday mornings was conceived by Thomas G. Yohe and based on the simple idea that rock lyrics stick in kids' minds easily, so why not make them educational? The series has become one of the defining pop cultural icons of Generation X, and YesButNoButYes has a brief history of the series and the men and women behind it, complete with video clips. The piece mentions Jack Sheldon (the "I'm Just a Bill" guy) lent his voice to an episode of Family Guy, but it forgets to mention he was also the voice of the "Amendment To Be" in an episode of The Simpsons: "There's a lot of flag burners / who have too much freedom / I wanna make it legal for policemen / to beat 'em." It's a great bit of TV history, definitely worth checking out.
Tom Snyder Productions, the company best known for its use of the Squigglevision animation technique which resulted in such cult faves as Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist and Home Movies, also tried its hand at Saturday morning children's entertainment with Science Court, a show which dipped from the same well of humor as his other productions but with more of a kiddy slant. You know, dry and witty science humor for little kids.
Actually, it was probably the "dry and witty" part that pretty much guaranteed the show wouldn't last more than a year, since it was clearly aimed at little kids who weren't necessarily interested in the kind of cerebral humor the show would occasionally delve into. Those of us who knew Snyder's other productions, though, could at least enjoy hearing many of the same voice talents, including H. Jon Benjamin. Still, the show, which would pit lawyers against one another in a trial over scientific principles (thus, the "learning" part) managed to stick out from whatever else was on ABC Saturday morning in 1997. Unfortunately, it was one of many Saturday morning gems, like Freakazoid and The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley, that never quite gained the audience it deserved.
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