Pee-wee’s Big Holiday has a big heart and even bigger laughs but that shouldn’t block Emmy consideration
The Emmy television movie category is always crammed with serious subject matter. Looking back throughout the list of past winners, the award features true tales of historical figures and sweeping emotional dramas. The word “prestige” is often attached to these projects. Maybe it’s time for the Television Academy to embrace something looser, sillier, and absolutely from left field. Maybe it’s time for the Emmys to consider a comedic movie to shake up their streak of seriousness. Maybe it’s time for the Emmys to nominate Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.
This year’s major contenders include All the Way and Confirmation—two titles (both from HBO) that deal with real life events and real people. It’s the epitome of a film in the Emmy wheelhouse. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday is about a quirky guy breaking out of his boring life to form a bromance with Joe Manganiello. Seriously. Wouldn’t you rather watch something a bit cheerier Bryan Cranston glowering at the screen as he struggles with passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964? None of the comedic offerings eligible this season — Pee-wee, HBO’s hilarious tennis mockumentary 7 Days in Hell, or Sofia Coppola’s gentle A Very Murray Christmas — seem to be locked for a nomination.
Currently, television is sinking into the comfort of nostalgic programming with Gilmore Girls, Fuller House, The X-Files, and future reboots of MacGuyver and Twin Peaks. The new movie from Netflix is true to the original Paul Reubens character, and fans of the Playhouse or of his Christmas Special (diehard fans like myself) love this new outing. It’s packed with everything we love from a Pee-wee movie: quirky characters, a long road trip, and the boyish glee of our titular hero.
One of the reasons to go to bat for such a strange choice is how simple it is. This isn’t an overly complicated setup, but the payoff is incredibly satisfying. It’s straightforward and painless in its delivery. Pee-wee is trying to get to New York for a birthday party of a muscled True Blood star, and he has to weave around a trio of bank robbers, escape a nonet of amorous sisters vying for his hand in marriage, and be a passenger in a flying car. Paul Reubens does all this with Saturday morning charm. It’s not forced, and it’s not crude. It’s not too polite, though—it’s clever and harmless while winking at the audience. Emmy should consider Pee-wee’s Big Holiday just for the 2-minute sustained shot of him letting the air out of a balloon in front of a crowd of confused Amish people.
The movie also features one of the most innocent male friendships I’ve ever seen. Pee-wee and Joe just want to hang out together and eat some birthday cake, but there’s no macho mentality or offensive banter. It’s just two guys that want to enjoy each other’s company without requiring insulting hijinks and immature conversation. This movie proves that when guys hang out with one another it doesn’t have to be The Hangover. God forbid we show two men actually being…friends.
The Emmys are continually criticized for their lack of variety in their nominees. The same people are nominated every year, and some voters seem to just check their ballots for things they are familiar with. If you want to vote for standard TV Movie fare (looking at you, Sherlock and Luther!), be my guest, but that choice will only be remembered for being one thing—boring! Vote for Pee-wee’s Big Holiday because everyone deserves a big holiday from predictable awards nominees.