1.26.2013

My Adventures with Pete & Pete


 This is me when I was 12. I was happy, but things, including the mustard/purple tortoiseshell combination on my gigantic glasses, were complicated. 


Thankfully, a couple of young writers wanted to make a kids' tv show that spoke to sensitive, precocious nerdlets like me, and against all odds, Nickelodeon let them put it on the air. If you're not between the ages of 27-35, let me school you. The Adventures of Pete & Pete was a show about two red-headed brothers, both named Pete, and their lives in the fictional suburb of Wellsville. It had the most ridiculously perfect indie rock soundtrack and score, thanks to musician Mark Mulcahy, and featured guest stars like Michael Stipe, Steve Buscemi, Adam West, and Debbie Harry. Like a less maudlin Wonder Years and a way goofier Freaks and Geeks, Pete & Pete was hands down the best thing that came out of the 90's, and I'm including Hypercolor in that proclamation.


I think sincerity was the key to the show's popularity with my demographic; while quirk for quirk's sake was a huge part of the show (a squid as school mascot, an existential bus driver, the intoxicating sports beverage Orange Lazarus, and of course, Artie, The Strongest Man in the World), the ever-present undercurrents of deep sadness that children often feel gave Pete & Pete a depth that I understood even then.


They took great care to not dumb jokes down, to be as absurdist as possible (Artie reminiscing with a turtle about their expat adventures with Hemingway and Gertrude Stein?!), and as honest as possible about the confusion and deep questions that all kids have. In re-watching the show, the nature really shines; crunching leaves, freshly-mown grass, ice-cold December air. It's no surprise that I remember it so well; all those scenes filmed outdoors instead of a stuffy soundstage really worked to create a reality unlike any other kids' show.
Then, of course, there was big Pete. 


TV crushes are serious business when you've only been exposed to the same fifteen boys since preschool (thanks, Catholic school!), and I spent a good deal of time fantasizing about the grand times I could have with Big Pete if only we could somehow meet. It was awesome, and way more satisfying than my earlier crush on Dr. Doogie Howser. I would also like to plac blame on Big Pete 99% for the three dates I had with a sociopathic goober, initially drawn in by his Pete-esque auburn mop.

Anyway, what I'm saying is that I never stopped loving the hell out of Pete & Pete, especially now that I'm a grown-up writer who can appreciate the detail and skill that went into its creation even more. So I was super stoked to get my own red-headed little brother and I tickets to see the Pete & Pete 20th Anniversary Reunion Show, which happened last night thanks to the always awesome SF Sketchfest.

showing choice scenes before the show began

It was a packed house, and while I was a little nervous about how they were going to fill two hours, it just couldn't have been more perfect. Everyone was so gracious, funny, and seemed just as nostalgic as the audience. Mark Mulcahy, who I now adore even more, sang a bunch of songs from the show, and he and Toby Huss (Artie AND the voice of Kahn Supanousinphone on my other favorite show, King of the Hill!) just shredded my soul with a duet. Mixing a kids' show with the saddest, most heartbreakingly hopeful music was the best idea anyone ever had. 

pic snaked from Toby Huss' Twitter
 It was great to hear the writers talk about their goals for the show, and that they really were targeting kids exactly like me. I didn't get any direct quotes (two negronis and the total giddiness of my inner teen shoved my inner journalist to the curb) but one of them mentioned how they wanted to capture the feeling of a summer sunset and what it might mean to a kid playing outside. iCarly just doesn't cover that kind of territory.

The Petes were lovely, Endless Mike was there, and the special guest players were some of my favorites from the Sketchfest pool of usual suspects, James Urbaniak, Paget Brewster, Doug Benson, and Colin Hanks. Paget Brewster did the most spot-on Miss Fingerwood impression and now I want her to be my best friend.
pete and pete, peteandpete, the adventures of pete and pete, cross stitch, embroidery, pollyannacowgirl, polly conway

Oh, and I meant to have this little number completed by the night of the show so I could give it to someone or something, but now it's done and will have to live here at my house.


It was the best show ever, and the best night ever. Thanks for the memories!

2 comments:

My Hideaway said...

I looooooved Pete and Pete!!! Little Pete was (and still is) one of my biggest all-time heros. There are few shows that are just perfection, and that was one of them. I love that the writers said they wanted to capture a summer sunset and a kid playing outside. I think you kind of had to experience it in its time though. I tried to show it to my bf recently, who never saw it growing up, and it didn't have the same magic for him. He liked it ok, but he wasn't happy glowing and smiling and unicorns like I was-haha. :)

Vixie said...

This post popped up in my reader about half an hour after, while looking for blank CDs (!), I came across a copy of Pete & Pete that I was given by a friend at university. I never saw it when I was a kid either, so I feel like I'm missing out on some of the joy!