The Adventures of Pete & Pete was way ahead of its time. While it’s firmly rooted in the 90’s with its references, design, and logic, the ideas and sense of humor was leaps and bounds beyond anything on television at the time, kids show or other wise. Who didn’t want to watch the further adventures of these two red headed brothers both named Pete. Even in reruns, I always tuned in.
Pete & Pete centered on the Wrigley brothers, both named Pete. Older Pete (Mike Maronna) would narrate while each episode typically centered on one of the two characters. Younger Pete (Danny Tamberelli) not only had his own personal superhero, Artie (Toby Huss), but a tattoo of a woman, Petunia, on his arm. Ellen (Alison Fanelli) was older Pete’s best friend, while younger Pete eventually had his own female bestie with Nona F. Mecklenberg (Michelle Trachtenberg).
Pete & Pete started as a series of shorts for Nickelodeon way back in 1989. They starred Pete, Pete’s brother Pete, and Ellen, who narrated. Considering that each was only a minute in length, they did an exemplary job at setting up the characters and telling quick gags. The shorts, of which 26 were made, aired over the next two years. I remember seeing older Pete’s summer job cutting grass along route 34, learning the origin of Mom’s metal plate, and what younger Pete would do for a dollar.
The show eventually expanded into a full season run, starting in 1991 with a few specials. The opening credits did a fantastic job setting the tone of the show. All main characters, Pete, Pete, Ellen, Artie, Mom, and Dad were all introduced, along with an X-Ray of Mom’s Plate, and Petunia. All this was set to “Hey Sandy” by Polaris. No song screamed 90’s more than this.
Creators Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi wrote a smart show that still holds up today. There was the feud between Dad and Ellen’s father, played by Steve Buscemi, in “Apocalypse Pete.” In “The Call”, younger Pete decided to answer the mysterious payphone that’s been ringing for 27 years. “The Good, the Bad, and the Lucky” features a parody of Stand By Me.
Cameos like Buscemi’s weren’t uncommon. Selma Blair, LL Cool J, Janeane Garofalo, and Michael Stipe all guested on the show. Iggy Pop was even a series regular. Most of this was lost on me in my youth, but something I now appreciate.
After three seasons the show ended. McRobb and Viscardi wrote a movie to cap off the series, but Nickelodeon passed. The script was eventually produced in 2000, but by then Tamberelli and Maronna were too old to reprise their roles. The characters were changed and the movie became Snow Day. Sadly, it wasn’t as good as the series.
The Adventures of Pete & Pete was a staple of Nickelodeon, Snick, and Saturdays for all of the 90’s. When I say kids shows today aren’t as good, I point to this as a prime example. While there is a few anachronisms, there’s still plenty of entertainment to be had.
Which was your favorite of Pete & Pete’s many adventures? How much of the humor was over your head? Comment below!
Danny Tamberelli sounds like a chain smoker.