YMMV / Pee-Wee's Playhouse

  • Awesome Music: Mark Mothersbaugh (who also did music for the Klasky-Csupo cartoons on Nickelodeon, particularly Rugrats), Todd Rundgren, Danny Elfman (who worked on music for The Simpsons in its early yearsnote ), The Residents, Dweezil Zappa, George Clinton, and Van Dyke Parks provided music for the show, while K.D. Lang, Little Richard, and Grace Jones sang in the Christmas special.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment: When someone says the secret word, EVERYBODY SCREAM!
  • Ear Worm: "Get outta bed/there'll be no more nappin'..."
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In "Ice Cream Soup," Captain Carl is lost at sea, prompting Conky and Magic Screen to help him. They eerily foreshadow a modern car's GPS unit in the process—Conky explicitly uses a "satellite tracking device!"
    • While reading off a Chinese pen pal's letter in one episode, Pee-Wee excitedly says "I know Kung Fu!" Look again at who played Cowboy Curtis to see why this is funny.
    • Those freaky-looking toys on Pee-wee's toy shelf (for example, a dolly with a Frankenstein head) just might have been the inspiration for the mutant toys in Toy Story.
  • Ho Yay: All over, but particularly Jambi, who John Paragon said he played as a "dishy gay man."
  • Mis-blamed: Contrary to popular belief, Paul Reubens' indecent exposure arrest in a Florida porno theater didn't get the show cancelled (though it did get his merchandise recalled, the reruns CBS was airing had to be taken off due to the incident, and he became a punchline to many a dirty joke both on TVnote  and in real life). Reubens chose to end the show as he didn't want it to go stale from staying on the air for too long and he wanted to branch out and do other things.
  • Nightmare Fuel: If you caught it on [adult swim], you might find it more nightmarish than whimsical (of course, if this show scared you as a kid, it might trigger you in adulthood).
    • Pee-wee's toy shelf from Season 1 was in a class all its own, combining creepy stop-motion, surreal claymation and ghastly patchwork abominations into a single big circle on the Venn diagram of things that freaked kids out in the 80's. It's not hard to guess why Clockey replaced it on the Playhouse wall for the rest of the show.
    • The horrific, dead-eyed Salesman also disappeared after Season 1 for the same reason.
    • Pee-wee got his very own talking doll when the show was in its heyday. It wasn't the usual Creepy Doll, but it took a turn for the worse when you pulled the string: his trademark scream was rendered as the doll roaring at you.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Laurence Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis. You'll never look at The Matrix the same way again.
  • Special Effect Failure: The show had some very painful Chroma Key throughout its run. It's most obvious in "Luau for Two," when Pee-Wee does a limbo move—he literally becomes a 2-dimensional figure!
    • The By the Lights of Their Eyes segment in the Pajama Party episode has some very dodgy effects, especially when Roger's cartoon "eye" moves into the lit section of the floor behind him.
  • Values Resonance: The most prominent theme throughout the series was that it's perfectly okay to be different, a message that's just as important today as it was in the '80s. Even better is that this was simply demonstrated through the colorful, off-the-wall wackiness of Pee-wee and his friends, rather than preached to the kids at home.
  • What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Wayne White, who helped create the set and several puppets and provided the voices and puppeteering for Randy, Mr. Kite and Dirty Dog of the Puppetland Band (all of whom he also made) admitted that marijuana was a big part of the creative process for the show, though the show's aesthetic is supposed to be based on live-action 1950s kids' shows with bright colors and loud, energetic hosts.
    • Lampshaded years later by The Nostalgia Critic, who created a video on the top 11 drug PSAs and ranks Pee-wee's infamous anti-crack ad at number one.
      Critic: (showing clips of "Pee-wee's Playhouse") Look at this show and tell me it isn't somehow inspired by an illegal substance. No sober person could possibly come up with this! [...] [T]his is just a few weeks before the infamous movie theater scandal where Paul Reubens was found whacking off in public. Kind of a mixed message there, Pee-wee!