Not even Jambi the Genie could conjure up new episodes of Pee-wee’s Playhouse now that Pee-wee himself, Paul Reubens, has declared this fifth season his last. Though it won’t be back in the fall, viewers still have until September to catch reruns of Reubens’ hyper, hip-enough-for-adults kids’ show, which has won 12 Emmys and drawn raves as Saturday morning’s most innovative program.
Among Pee-wee‘s consistent delights were its stylish animated segments, put together by producer Prudence Fenton. She takes particular pride in the hard-edged El Hombre cartoons that joined regulars Penny and The Dinosaur Family late in the show’s run. Hombre began, she recalls, because ”Paul had this black velvet painting of a Spanish guy that he really liked. So we came up with the idea of this Spanish-speaking hero who helps kids with urban problems,” such as litterbugs and bullies. Capturing the portrait’s light-on-dark look was a challenge, but the hardest task was keeping story lines clear enough to follow without subtitles.
While Fenton misses the show’s ”incredibly grueling” schedule, Reubens apparently does not. There were no contract squabbles, says his agent, Michael McLean: ”He just felt he’d done it” and needed a rest. So, boys and girls, you all know what to do for the rest of the season whenever anyone says the secret word: Sigh real loud.