Book Reviews

Book Review: Publishers Weekly

Book Reviews

In this comprehensive account, Gaines enthusiastically chronicles the arc of Pee -wee’s Playhouse — from Pee-wee Herman’s inception at the Groundlings Theatre in L.A. in the early 1980s, to the show’s entry into the “Saturday Morning television war zone” in 1986, to the recent Broadway adaptation. “Playhouse” was greeted with fervor by all ages–kids loved Pee-wee’s goofy antics, adults rediscovered their inner child, and the show’s avant-garde format created a cult following of college students. Despite minimal input from Reubens, Gaines insightfully reveals the more sinister vibe that existed behind-the-scenes, as many of the show’s contributors struggled with Reubens’s egotism. Though Pee-wee’s iconic persona and Reubens’s unique talents are unquestionable, the technical innovation of animators, producers, and directors is at least partly responsible for the show’s lasting impression. Stills from the Playhouse and a fantastic Episode Guide enable the reader to relive memorable moments and learn obscure trivia. Though brutally honest in recounting crew conflicts and the fickle world of show business, Gaines demonstrates the enchantment and broad appeal of the Playhouse, as well as the spontaneity of a show where “anything could happen.”

Book Review: Library Journal

Book Reviews

Can Pee-wee’s Playhouse—the transformational children’s show that was for an entire generation in the Eighties what the intellectually subversive Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends was in the Sixties—really be celebrating its 25th anniversary? Today’s secret word, boys and girls, is “youbetcha!” This serviceable and simple guide to Pee-wee’s seminal show also traces the trajectory of actor Paul Reubens through the TV show, movies, the notorious 1991 incident, and comeback, culminating in his recent successful Broadway adaptation. First-time author Gaines constructs an easy and gently flowing narrative blissfully devoid of academic semiotic deconstructions and metaphorical high-wire linguistic acts. Utilizing interviews with key cast and crew members, Gaines follows the development and run of Pee-wee’s Playhouse and liberally adds anecdotal material and behind-the-scenes gossip from numerous insiders. An episode guide for all five seasons and a “Puppetland Directory” that identifies key personnel enrich the text. VERDICT Gaines reached out to interview over 200 people connected with the show, including Reubens, who declined to participate because of a planned memoir. That will be the story we need to hear. Until then, all Pee-wee fans will enjoy this informative and fun text.—Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX