Pinwheel was the flagship program for the then-new Nickelodeon network back in 1979. In fact, the show actually predates the network itself. Premiering in 1977, it was first seen on Warner Cable's experimental QUBE cable system on channel slot C3, which was dedicated to this one shownote . It was a program similar to Sesame Street in many ways, having a standard human cast with numerous puppet friends, and various in-between segments. Not really surprising, however, as creator and executive producer Vivian Horner previously worked for Sesame Street's production company, the Children's Television Workshop, as director of research for one of Sesame Street's sister programs, The Electric Company (1971).
One of the interesting things about Pinwheel was that it exposed American and Canadian children to otherwise-unavailable European short subjects like Miximetric, Chapi Chapo, Bod, and Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings.
Pinwheel usually aired in three- to five-hour blocks in the mornings, and eventually became part of the Nick Jr. block of programming. The series ended in 1990, when it was replaced with newer Nick Jr. shows.
This series provides examples of:
- Anime Hair: On some of the puppets.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Minus
- Cute Mute: Coco, the female mime.
- The Dog Walks You: One of Coco's mime acts involve her being dragged around by a presumably large dog.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The very earliest episodes from the QUBE era (1977-79) only featured Jake, Coco, and Franci (who left the series after the move from QUBE to Nickelodeon) as the human characters. The puppet cast was likewise much smaller, featuring only Plus, Minus, Ebenezer, Aurelia, Luigi O'Brien and his vegetables, and a few characters who didn't make the transition to Nickelodeon, and the puppets themselves were more visibly cheaply made (this was especially noticeable with Plus and Minus). The biggest difference, however, was that the QUBE episodes featured no animated segments, relying more heavily on musical performances.
- Embarrassing Nickname: Whenever Ebenezer is on the phone with his mother, she keeps calling him "Little Ebby" even though he keeps asking her not to.
- Expy: For some Sesame Street characters: Plus and Minus for Ernie and Bert, Ebenezer for Oscar the Grouch, Admiral Bird for Snuffy the Snuffleupagus, Silas the Snail for Big Bird, Smitty for Mr. Hooper.
- Irony: Minus is the more cheerful and energetic one while Plus is the more thoughtful and serious (relatively speaking) one.
- Lethal Chef: During a cooking competition, Ebenezer tries to enter in one of his pancakes, but it's so tough, Coco, who's severing as the judge, can't even chew it. Needless to say Ebenezer doesn't win, but it isn't a total loss. The Hobo Bugs end up using the pancake as a trampoline.
- Meaningful Name: Visually, Minus is a photo negative of Plus; where Plus has orange skin, black hair, and a red nose, Minus has purple skin, white hair, and a green nose.
- Missed Him by That Much: Smitty is always trying to get a picture of the elusive Admiral Bird, which seemed to enjoy teasing him by being right behind him and leaving when he turns around.
- Parental Substitute: Aurelia's relationship to Plus and Minus is somewhat vague (though she is explicitly stated to be Kim's aunt), but she functions as their mother figure in the series by generally looking after them.
- Running Gag:
- In the "Plus Goes to the Moon" sketches, Plus would try taking a rocket to the moon, but he would get distracted easily, leaving the rocket to blast off without him.note
- Smitty is always looking for the Admiral Bird, a strange, goofy-looking bird that only appeared when he was out of the room and couldn't take a picture of him.
- Shout Out: The Admiral Bird's name is a reference to Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, an American naval officer, aviator, and explorer who reached both the North and South Poles by flying.