CBS was looking for a hit to anchor its Saturday morning lineup in 1986. A year earlier, they tried Hulk Hogan's Rock & Wrestling, but once viewers realized that Hogan didn't voice his own animated alter ego (Brad Garrett did), they tuned out, and the series was cancelled.
Enter Pee-Wee Herman. The alter-ego of performance artist-comedian-actor Paul Reubens had entered the national conscience a year earlier in "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure", significant also because it also put director Tim Burton ("Beetlejuice", "Batman") on the map. "Big Adventure" was a huge enough hit that CBS decided that Pee-Wee would be the anchor they were counting on.
Here's the intro:
Pee-Wee's Playhouse boasted a pretty good supporting cast, too, including future Oscar winner Laurence Fishbourne (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) as Cowboy Curtis, plus S. Epatha Merkerson (ex-Law & Order), and the late Phil Hartman (Saturday Night Live, Newsradio). The surreal imagery in the open had all the earmarks of video director Stephen R. Johnson, who won some MTV Video awards for his work on Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" & "Big Time".
Playhouse lasted 5 years, and reruns aired briefly on Cartoon Network's [adult swim] lineup last year. With Pee-Wee reviving his old off-Broadway show on Broadway, and set to appear on WWE's Monday Night Raw on November 1, could a rebooted Playhouse be far behind?