Pinwheel (TV series)

Pinwheel is an American children's television show and the first to air on Nickelodeon. It originally premiered on December 1, 1977, on Channel C-3 of QUBE's local cable system in Columbus, Ohio. Channel C-3 made the move to national television in April 1979 when Nickelodeon first launched. The Pinwheel program would continue to air on the network until 1990.

Pinwheel television logo.svg
Created by
  • Vivian Horner
  • Sandy Kavanaugh[1]
Written by
  • Lou Berger
  • Caroline Cox
  • Stephen Fischer
  • Tom Harris
  • Michael Holden
  • Daisy Hutton
  • Michael Karp
  • C.C. Loveheart (1977–79)
  • Patricia Parmalee
  • Robert Perlman
  • Gregory Peterson
  • Louis Phillips
  • Arlene Sanford
  • Ellen Schecter
  • Barbera Shor
Directed by
  • Michael Bernhaut
  • James Colistro
  • Andrea Cvriko
  • Andrew Ferguson
  • Julian G. Lopez
  • Robert Ripp
  • Philip Squyres
Opening theme"Pinwheel Theme"
Ending theme"Pinwheel Theme" (followed by an instrumental arrangement)
Composer(s)George James
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes260
Executive producer(s)Vivian Horner
Lois Fortune
Producer(s)Sandy Kavanaugh
Production location(s)Columbus, Ohio (1977–79)
New York City (1979–84)
Running time60 minutes per episode (ran in 3-5 hour blocks)
Production company(s)Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment
DistributorWarner Cable Corporation (1977–79)
Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment (1979–84)
MTV Networks (1984)
Fremantle International (outside U.S.; 1982–84)
Original network
  • Channel C-3/The Pinwheel Network (1977–79)
  • Nickelodeon (1979–84)
Picture formatNTSC
Audio format
Original releaseDecember 1, 1977 (1977-12-01) –
1984 (1984)[2]
Followed byEureeka's Castle

In the late 1980s, Pinwheel was gradually phased out in favor of another puppet series, Eureeka's Castle. The Los Angeles Times called Eureeka's Castle a successor series to Pinwheel.[3]


Pinwheel was the flagship program of C-3, a children's network in Columbus, Ohio, in the earliest days of cable television broadcasting. Pinwheel was cited as "the world's first TV channel geared strictly to preschoolers."[4] Shortly after that, C-3 was nicknamed Pinwheel. In 1979, Warner Cable purchased the Sat-1 communications satellite from Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and rebranded the Pinwheel Channel as Nickelodeon, where it reformatted Pinwheel as hour-long episodes shown in three- to five-hour blocks, a format which eventually became the model for Nick Jr. programming for younger children.[5]

There were a total of 260 Pinwheel episodes recorded from 1977 to 1984.[2] Pinwheel continued to air in reruns until 1991. It remains the longest-running Nickelodeon show in episodes and hours on air and was the longest-running in years until You Can't Do That on Television broke the record. It is now #7, behind All That, You Can't Do That on Television, Nick News, Rugrats, SpongeBob SquarePants and The Fairly OddParents. The program was also the last original program (upon its debut in 1979) on Nickelodeon to end.

A half-hour version of Pinwheel was created for international distribution; it aired in Canada on Superchannel (from 1983 to 1988) and TVOntario (from 1990 to 1993), in the UK on Channel 4 and later on The Children's Channel, and on Nick Jr. during the show's final year of reruns.


The show was similar to Sesame Street; action scenes took place in and around a large Victorian-style boarding house called Pinwheel House with a pinwheel on one of the peaks. Live actors interacted with puppets, discussing various concepts familiar to children's programming like sharing, being considerate, the environment, and colors. All of the characters lived and worked in the various areas in and around the house. The QUBE episodes relied heavily on songs mostly performed by Jake.

Pinwheel underwent several changes when the Pinwheel channel was relaunched as Nickelodeon in 1979. Taping of Pinwheel moved to Matrix Studios in New York City, where the set was rebuilt. Arline Miyazaki, Betty Rozek and Dale Engel joined the cast as Kim, Sal and Smitty, Craig Marin and Olga Felgemacher created new puppet characters, and Nickelodeon acquired a package of children's shorts from Coe Film Associates to reduce the show's workload. These short films were also used for other early Nickelodeon shows, including Hocus Focus (TV series), and By The Way (TV series).



Kim (Arline Miyazaki) - Aurelia’s niece (confirmed on the Pinwheel Songbook VHS video) who was also the resident artist of Pinwheel House.

Sal (Betty Rozek) and Smitty (Dale Engel) - an elderly couple who ran a local newspaper called The Daily Noodle. One of Smitty's long-running obsessions was to capture a photograph of the elusive Admiral Bird for the front page of the Daily Noodle, though he was constantly missing his chance.

Jake (George James) - a boarder who enjoyed music and whose hobby was collecting unusual sounds in small boxes.

Franci (Franci Anderson) - an artist and storyteller; she was on the show during its earliest years, but her character was eventually phased out.

Coco (C.C. Loveheart from 1977–1979, Lindanell Rivera from 1979–1984) - a Parisian mime who didn't speak.


Aurelia - a bohemian-style character who owned Pinwheel House. She had a ginger bob, olive green eyes, fuchsia lips and wore colorful head scarfs and large hoop earrings. She was friendly and bubbly, but firm.

Plus and Minus - twin boys who lived in the attic room and were Aurelia's nephews. The color schemes for the twins were the exact opposite, with Plus having black hair and orange skin and Minus with white hair and purple skin. Minus was very upbeat and enthusiastic, while Plus was more thoughtful and easily discouraged. A recurring sketch was Plus's attempt to board a spaceship to the moon, and Minus distracting him and causing him to miss the take-off. Their favorite game was "Gotcha Last," a combination of tag and hide and seek that went on eternally.

Silas the Snail - an elderly snail who was constantly on his way to an annual snail gathering (although during the series run, he never made it further than the back garden due to snails being so slow), who extolled the virtues of slowing down and enjoying life, telling people that "half the fun is getting there."

Ebenezer T. Squint - a grumpy, green-skinned boarder who lived in a dusty basement storage room where he conspired to be featured in Smitty's newspaper. He pretended to be grouchy and antisocial but secretly enjoyed being included in the house activities.

Luigi O'Brien - an Italian produce vendor who ran a small vegetable stall in the backyard of the boarding house. All of his produce also talked, sang, and had individual personalities, but were only known by their respective fruit and vegetable names (Pear, Tomato, etc.).

Molly McMole - an elderly mole who lived in a tree in the backyard and often introduced cartoon shorts in the form of telling stories.

Herbert and Lulu the Hobo Bugs - a brother-and-sister pair of marionettes who liked to dance and play on the hedges in the backyard and often appeared at Luigi's produce stand to ask for special items, such as an impossible pair of custom sandals that Luigi somehow manages to produce. They also loved to play with Ebenezer, who would typically tell them to leave him alone in a grumpy manner, even though he really enjoyed their company.

Admiral Bird - a bright red bird marionette who would drop from the sky with a strange, echoing call. Admiral Bird rarely appeared, but seemed to enjoy teasing Smitty.

Buzzy - Ebenezer's fun and somewhat dimwitted cousin who enjoyed sports.

Tika, Gorkle & Woofle - three bird-like alien marionettes from the planet Zintar who lived in a garden terrarium. They were removed from the show along with Sorbin in 1979.

Sorbin - a green and blue alien creature who also came from the planet Zintar.


  1. ^ Denisoff 1988, pp. 9–10.
  2. ^ a b Blog, Classic Nickelodeon Fan (2014-07-23). "The Classic Nickelodeon Fan Blog: Interview with George James". The Classic Nickelodeon Fan Blog. Retrieved 2019-02-03.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Preston, Marilynn (December 6, 1977). "Qube -- the TV system that brings the viewer into the picture". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 12, 2020.
  5. ^ Hendershot 2004, p. 28.

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