June 04, 2022


(Channel C-3, Nickelodeon, December 1, 1977-July 31, 1984)
Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment
            Pinwheel was a children’s television show aimed at preschoolers aged 3-5. Created by Dr. Vivian Horner and produced by Sandy Kavanaugh, two veterans of Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop), the series was set around a large Victorian-style boarding house called Pinwheel House (and happened to be powered by a pinwheel on the roof). Like CTW’s Sesame Street, human characters lived alongside and interacted with puppet ones. The humans included storyteller and artist Franci (Franci Anderson); Parisian mime/handyman Coco (Caroline Cox Loveheart & Lindanell Rivera); music enthusiast Jake (George James, also the series’ composer), who liked to collect unusual sounds in small boxes for future musical inspiration; elderly couple Smitty (Dale Engle) and Sal (Betty Rozek) who published local newspaper The Daily Noodle; and Kim (Arline Miyazaki), the house’s resident artist. The puppets included Aurelia (Brad Williams), a bohemian-style character who owned the house and worked as a fortune teller; Ebenezer T. Squint (Williams), an inventor and part-time magician that lived in the basement; Luigi O’Brien (Williams), an Italian produce vendor that worked out of the backyard; Aurelia’s nephews Plus (Williams) and Minus (Jim Jinkins) who were opposites in every way; Molly the Mole (Olga Felgemacher), an elderly mole that lived in a tree and introduced cartoon shorts; Admiral Bird (Craig Mann), a pirate bird that was elusive and hard to catch; Silas the Snail (Mann), constantly on his way to a snail gathering that he never makes due to his slow speed; siblings Herbert (Mann) and Lulu (Felgemacher), a pair of bugs that danced and played on the hedges; the Wonkies Tika, Gorkle and Woofle (all Anderson), aliens that live in in Franci’s garden terrarium; and Spiderbelle (Anderson), a bonnet-wearing spider.

            Pinwheel debuted on Columbus, Ohio’s Channel C-3 on December 1, 1977. Like similar programs, episodes dealt with concepts such as sharing, manners, the environment and other topics children should be exposed to. Short skits were interspersed with song numbers, mostly performed by Jake. It was specifically geared for the short attention span of younger children. In 1979, the network went national and became Nickelodeon, making Pinwheel one of the first programs broadcast on that network. Along with the shift came a bigger budget, allowing production to move from Columbus to New York City, the inclusion of imported animated shorts, and an expansion into a full hour (edited down to a half hour for international distribution). After five seasons and 260 episodes, production on Pinwheel ended in 1984; however, the network continued to air it for the remainder of the decade. Following the cancellation of Captain Kangaroo, Bill Cosby’s Picture Pages segment was incorporated into Pinwheel’s reruns. When Nickelodeon launched the Nick Jr. programming block, Pinwheel became the first program aired on it; promoted by Nick running a series of commercials where the logo took the shape of two pinwheels. In 1990, Pinwheel was finally taken off the air, making way for another puppet series aimed at preschoolers: Eureeka’s Castle.

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