Pinwheel (TV series)

Created by
  • Vivian Horner
  • Sandy Kavanaugh[1]
Written by
  • Lou Berger
  • Caroline Cox
  • Michael Holden
  • Michael Karp
  • Patricia Parmalee
  • Robert Perlman
  • Louis Phillips
  • Ellen Schecter
Directed by
  • Michael Bernhaut
  • James Colistro
  • Philip Squyres
  • George James
  • Arline Miyazaki
  • Caroline Cox
  • Lindanell Rivera
  • Dale Engel
  • Betty Rozek
  • Bill Cosby
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 260
Running time 60 minutes per episode (ran in 3-5 hour blocks)
Production company(s) Nickelodeon Productions (1979–90)
Distributor Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment (1977–84)
MTV Networks (1984–85)
Viacom Enterprises (1985–90)
Original network
Picture format NTSC
Audio format
Original release December 1, 1977 (1977-12-01) – July 6, 1990 (1990-07-06)
Followed by Nick Jr.

Pinwheel is a children's television show. It was originally broadcast on channel C-3 of Warner Cable's interactive system QUBE in Columbus, Ohio. However, the show began airing on the Nickelodeon network, from December 1977 (when Nickelodeon was first launched) until 1990.


Pinwheel was the flagship program of C-3, a children's network in Columbus, Ohio, in the earliest days of cable television broadcasting. C-3 soon changed its name to 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 would eventually become the model for the Nick Jr. programming for younger children.[2]

There were a total of 7 seasons and 260 Pinwheel episodes recorded from 1977-1984.[3] Pinwheel continued to air in reruns until 1990 on Nickelodeon and until 1991 on the channel's Nick Jr. block. 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 #6, behind All That, You Can't Do That on Television, Nick News, Rugrats and SpongeBob SquarePants. The program was also the last original program (upon its debut in 1979) on Nickelodeon to end.


The show was similar to Sesame Street with live-action skits mixed with animated shorts. 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 would interact with puppets, discussing various concepts familiar to children's programming like sharing and being considerate, basic learning skills like colors, numbers and letters. All of the characters lived and worked in the various areas in and around the house.



Human characters included 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) were 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) was another boarder who enjoyed music and whose hobby was collecting unusual sounds in small boxes. Franci was 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 1977–1981, Lindanell Rivera from 1982–1984) was a Parisian mime.


Aurelia was 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. Her nephews were Plus and Minus, twin boys who lived in the attic room. 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. Plus was very upbeat and enthusiastic, while Minus was more thoughtful and easily discouraged. A recurring sketch was Minus's attempt to board a spaceship, and Plus 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.

Other characters included 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 was 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 was a 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 and kindly Irish mole, lived in a tree in the backyard and often introduced cartoon shorts in the form of telling stories. Herbert and Lulu were 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. Finally, there was 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. During Pinwheel's earliest years there were a few other puppet characters, including Tika, Gorkle & Woofle, three bird-like alien marionettes from the Planet Zintar who lived in a garden terrarium. There was also another character known as Sorbin, a green and blue alien creature who also came from the Planet Zintar.

List of shorts

Nickelodeon secured the rights to a number of international short segments, including those that were already written in English, such as the Franco-British children's show The Magic Roundabout. Pinwheel became a showcase for these acquisitions and featured a wide variety of both animated and stop-motion animation shorts or cartoons from many different countries.


  1. Denisoff 1988, pp. 9–10.
  2. Hendershot 2004, p. 28.
  3. "Classic Nick Wed. – Interview with George James" (Interview). Yahoo! Groups. July 23, 2014. Retrieved February 21, 2017.

Works cited

  • Hendershot, Heather, ed. (2004). Nickelodeon Nation: The History, Politics, and Economics of America's Only TV Channel for Kids. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-3652-1. 
  • Denisoff, R. Serge (1988). Inside MTV. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers. ISBN 9780887381737. 
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