Question: Last night the dinner discussion was Pee-wee's Playhouse and we were trying to recall who was who on the show. We remembered that Samuel L. Jackson was the cowboy, but was he also the King of Cartoons? Phil Hartman was the Genie, but who made up the rest of the cast? Also, wasn't the show cancelled after Paul Reubens's arrest in Florida? It was a great show (except the cartoons were rather dumb, in our opinion). Thanks. — Laura F., St. Louis, Mo.
Televisionary: One can only hope your food was better than your memory, Laura, for your facts are just slightly off (though I commend you on your taste — the show was indeed great and I'm betting you folks make for an entertaining dining experience).Since there were way too many characters and cast members for my fingers (and your eyes) to cover in this column, I'll just hit the most recognizable players. First off, you've fallen victim to the same phenomenon that, according to reports, has Jackson and Laurence Fishburne correcting fans right and left. I don't think they look alike at all (though I suppose they often play similar parts), but people are forever mixing them up. 'Twas Fishburne who played Cowboy Curtis on the show, which ran on CBS from September 1986 to July 1991. The late Phil Hartman played Captain Carl, not the King of Cartoons, who was portrayed by Gilbert Lewis for the first year and then by William Marshall. Others of note include Law & Order's S. Epatha Merkerson (Reba the Mail Lady) and Natasha Lyonne (American Pie, Everyone Says I Love You), who played Opal in the show's first year. And yes, CBS did indeed cancel the brilliant Playhouse after Reubens, who created and played Pee-wee, was arrested for allegedly indecent behavior in a Sarasota, Fla., adult theater. (And for those of you who've been paying attention to the news lately, police recently obtained a search warrant for Reubens's house after being told he was keeping child pornography there, but no charges were filed and his spokesman said in an interview that the tip was given to police by someone trying to blackmail the actor.) Me? I remain a fan and would love to see Pee-wee make a comeback.