TCA: Pee-Wee’s Big HBO Adventure

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Pee-Wee’s Big Comeback takes him next to HBO, which just shot his Broadway show for a March special.

Paul Reubens, of course, saw his career take off in the early 1980s thanks to his original Pee-Wee Herman special on the channel. Thirty years later, Reubens/Herman doesn’t look all that different — and his new show still captures much of the quirk and innocence of the original.

Dressed in full Pee-Wee Herman attire (complete with grey suit and red bowtie), Reubens still possesses the character’s high-pitched laugh and sharp, sly wit.

All those troubles that put a halt to his stint as Pee-Wee in the early 1990s seem so long ago now. Was he surprised that he’d still be channeling the character 30 years after that first HBO special?

“I had no idea,” Pee-Wee told scribes at the TV Critics Assn. press tour. “If anyone told me I’d be doing this 30 years later, I would have laughed. I plan to do this 30 years later, when I’m 140.”

The Pee-Wee Herman renaissance, which began with a stage show in Los Angeles, comes as young fans of the character and his late 1980s CBS special are now all grown up. Reubens/Herman said the revival was part of a natural pop culture cycle.

“Certain things just come back,” he said. “If you wait long enough these suits come back and tie come back. I waited long enough and all these people seem to like it again.”

The character told the crowd that Judd Apatow’s Pee-Wee Herman movie remains in development; he and scribe Paul Rust turned in the movie’s first act right before Christmas. Further development is now on hold as Reubens/Herman focuses on the special and the Broadway show.

Apatow may still wind up directing the film, but he’ll won’t decide until a finished script is ready, Reubens/Herman said.

“This is a way more traditional movie,” he said, with a road trip component like “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.”

As for the HBO special, Reubens/Herman said the show will have a unique look thanks to a mix of footage filmed in front of an audience and other shots filmed up on stage without an audience.

“It’s going to be staggering really, it’s visually going to look like nothing in terms of a live stage production. I’m excited to see what it looks like.”

Next up, besides the Apatow movie, Reubens/Herman continues to pitch a new kids show to networks. He has also tossed a sitcom idea at HBO.

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