Exploring The Adventures Of Pete And Pete’s genesis and highlights (Part 3 of 4)

Exploring The Adventures Of Pete And Pete’s genesis and highlights (Part 3 of 4)

The Adventures Of Pete And Pete creators Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi recently spoke with The A.V. Club about 15 episodes of their mid-’90s cult-hit show. Following part one and part two, this section covers six episodes from the series’ second season, “Grounded For Life,” “Field Of Pete,” “Halloweenie,” “X=Why?,” and parts one and two of “Farewell, My Little Viking.” Check out part one, part two, and part four.

Grounded For Life” (September 4, 1994) 
After ruining his dad’s prized lawn, Little Pete is grounded for the rest of the summer. He tries to tunnel out of the basement so as to not miss his favorite holiday, the Fourth of July, and meets new neighbor Nona (Michelle Trachtenberg) in the meantime.

Will McRobb: Was that the first time the world saw Nona?

Chris Viscardi: Yeah, that’s when she moved next door. And it was the first time we saw Iggy [Pop] as her dad.

I think we definitely wanted another female character on the show. The show was kind of devoid of that. There was Ellen, who we didn’t do too much with; and there was Mom, who we didn’t do too much with. So we definitely were in need of another female character. I think we had talked about, in the first season, wanting to do more with Little Pete and his friends. We had some of them sporadically in some of the episodes, but we definitely wanted to create a character that Little Pete could be friends with and we could use more almost every episode, and Nona was born. 

WM: She was great. I think some of the difficulties with her in that first episode was that it was kind of difficult to understand what she was saying because she had that heavy Brooklyn accent, and she talked a million miles an hour. Eventually it got all straightened out, but she was the most motor-mouthed character I’ve ever worked with. She was hilarious. 

The A.V. Club: How did you land Iggy Pop to play the role of her father?

WM: We probably get the most questions about how we got him, what it was like to have him, and the buzz surrounding somebody so legendary. I know we had talent people who were always looking around for cool people who were in the area doing shows, and we would try to get them to appear for one or two days out in the suburbs. But do you know anything at all, Chris, about how we actually managed to find Iggy Pop and get him on the show?

CV: I don’t. I think because we had [Michael] Stipe and Kate Pierson and Steve Buscemi and various others in the first season, it started to get a little bit easier for us to at least have the talent folks at Nickelodeon get calls back from the people who represented these rock ’n’ rollers. I think it was the Stipe factor, for sure, that helped us get Iggy. But I don’t think anybody on the show, unless I’m mistaken, had any connection with Iggy. I think they just went through his agents and managers and sent him the script and some episodes. I think for that second season, we did a cameo clip reel that was a couple minutes long and had Syd Straw and Richard Edson and Stipe and Kate and all the others in there. And I think once some of these actors and musicians got to watch that, that really helped a lot. It made them realize that they were stepping into something that seemed pretty cool.

WM: As far as that episode goes, the idea of being grounded for life seemed very Pete And Pete, and had been in our notebooks for a long time. Being a fan of the show, you can see that we sometimes, with great strain—like with the “Don’t Tread On Pete” episode—try to merge American history and our show, and this Fourth of July episode was another attempt to do that. I think, for the most part, it worked pretty well.

CV: Remember, Will, that the genesis for that whole episode came from the very first thing that we sold in the world of Hollywood, when we were working with Jim Jinkins, and we sold that pilot. I don’t remember the name of it.

WM: Suburban Tall Tales?

CV: Yeah. We sold a project a couple years prior to that called Suburban Tall Tales to Warner Bros. Television, and we wrote a half-hour single-camera comedy pilot script. I can’t even remember what the whole pilot was about, but I remember in that script some kid got grounded. I think we called it “Grounded For Life,” and there was lots of comic things that were going on with the kid stuck in the house and the things that he was watching from his window. That never went anywhere, but I think we always loved the idea of a kid getting grounded for life. So you’re right: It was still in our notebooks. We did take a stab at it in something else, but we liked it enough to resurrect it for this one. We talked about trying to take something ultimately mundane from a kid’s life and making it mythic, and this seemed like a pretty great way to do it.

Everyone gets grounded, and you feel like you’re stuck in there for your life even though it’s just an afternoon or a weekend. So we just take that to the next level where the kid really is grounded, theoretically, for life, and just play it more like Prison Break.

WM: It also has some elements of The Great Escape, with the dirt and the trousers. How to get rid of the dirt—that was the big part of The Great Escape.

AVC: Put it in dad’s coffee.

CV: Right, exactly. And something that we like to do is just play with our suburban reality, which is two dueling neighbors who are always bitching at one another about their lawns, and one guy just sticking in the other guy’s face that he’s got a better lawn than he does. That just felt like something very funny, that Don Wrigley would definitely be super into his lawn. And connecting the dots of the kid who is stuck in his room, the kid who wants to get out, the father who wants to maintain his lawn, the kid who is digging out ruins the lawn, and it all just started to come together in a really nice way.

WM: It forced Don to decide, “What do I love more, my son or my lawn?” That’s the ultimate question.

CV: And the episode was directed by Adam Bernstein, who had directed a number of episodes prior to that, and I think did a few after that as well. [According to the episode’s credits, it was actually directed by Don Pietra. —ed.] But he was always one of our favorites. Just a great guy who has gone on to do a ton of fantastic TV stuff including Breaking Bad and Scrubs.

WM: He got his start doing They Might Be Giants videos. They Might Be Giants, at least for me, were a big influence on the writing of Pete And Pete, and how I thought about it. And Adam had done all the early videos for them. He was actually going to be the original director before Katherine [Dieckmann] came aboard. But his style is very cartoonish and heightened, and it’s interesting now that he’s like the number one guy at Breaking Bad. He’s come a long way from “Grounded For Life”. [Laughs.] 

Everyone remembers that episode for the Jimmy Hoffa joke. I guess that’s probably one of our top 10 completely inscrutable references for kids that people seem to remember.

CV: But it is interesting, larger picture, to look at the two directors who were involved in the show the most early on. Obviously Katherine Dieckmann… Will talked the other day about how he reconnected with Katherine at his high-school reunion. And I think the reason why we chose Katherine was because she had directed the music video “Stand” for R.E.M., as well just been a journalist for Village Voice and everything, and just being a smart creative person. But it was definitely her “Stand” video that got us really interested and was the thing that helped Nickelodeon buy into her as a first-time director of these short films. 

And then there was Adam Bernstein and, as Will just mentioned, he did They Might Be Giants and he did [one of] the Beastie Boys’ early videos. All these very cool, alternative, very hip music videos. And those were the people we really relied on to bring us the visual style of the show. They weren’t traditional TV directors by any stretch of the imagination. 

Sometimes I do think about what the show would have been like if we had gone with somebody who was a little more of a standard TV guy or woman. We went with people who were really learning that craft as we were learning it, and they made mistakes as we made mistakes. But it always was imbued with a certain kind of indie rock ’n’ roll spirit to it. [Laughs.] They really didn’t know the rules so, like us, they just did what felt right. And that’s what helped give the show a certain ragged charm early on.

WM: Those directors, if you talk to them today, they all have good things to say about the show, but in the category of “being more ambitious than we had any right to be.” They would probably remember never, ever again in their lives did they have to do more setups per day than they did on Pete And Pete. It was sort of legendary. A normal show would do like, 20 setups, and we would do like, 55. That’s the way we did it, and then we just had to figure it out.

CV: Also compounded by the fact that you’re working with kids, and you have a limited amount of time each day, so you’re really running and gunning all day long. It was a very tough show to shoot. 

We’ve talked about this before, that every episode we approached differently, in terms of there being no house style other than Michael Maronna, as Big Pete, had to be shot on camera, talking to camera at some time. And that’s pretty much the only parameters we gave the directors. Each director came in and treated every episode as if they were making their own half-hour movie, and that was fantastic for us as the creators of the show, because those guys were just pouring everything into it. It was a lot of fun for the crew because they got to do something different every week, but it was also really brutal for the crew because they were forced to do something very different every single week. We had no sets; everything was done on location, and location production is much harder and more time-consuming than doing something in a studio, on a set. It was a really tough shoot, but ultimately extraordinarily satisfying. That’s why all those directors wanted to keep coming back and doing more, because every one of their own episodes even got to look different than the one they did prior.

Field Of Pete” (September 11, 1994) 
Drug imagery and fake limbs abound as the Petes’ baseball team, the Prosthetics, goes on a winning streak due in part to Little Pete’s penchant for psych-out chatter. The team’s coach rewards them with near-toxic Orange Lazarus slushies for each win, until the drinks—and Pete’s shit-talking—threaten to ruin baseball forever.

WM: That was written by Bob Mittenthal, a longtime friend of ours. We had a fair number of freelancers who wrote scripts, and I’m sure most of them would complain about how rewritten they all ended up being. It was a show that was very heavy on us rewriting other people’s work. And I think Bob was one of the few that kind of nailed it. He’s a big baseball fan, and he brought a lot of his own childhood stories into his love of the game. It’s a pretty great episode; it’s one of my favorites. I think what we were trying to do was have as much fun with brain freeze as possible, and we all remember brain freeze. I think the selection of that polymorphic lens is what made it seem so tripped out. But I don’t think we were ever intending to make it druggy; I think it was more about how everyone was drunk with power from this drink. And then we have the whole Oppenheimer connection, which is maybe more obscure than Jimmy Hoffa, but it was a fun way to talk about a slushy.

AVC: Did you get in hot water for the drug references?

CV: We did get some hot water for it, [but] not until after it was done; the script seemed just as quirky and eccentric as all the others. 

Chris Koch directed the episode. That was the first episode that he did for us, and he went on to do a ton of episodes in season two and three. He’s one of our dear friends and also one of our favorite directors on the show. He’s now a big Modern Family director. Chris has a certain style that makes things, at least back then, very bright and shiny. You just really want to touch it and eat it. [Laughs.] There’s something so candy-colored about his stuff. And he had this idea to do the lens on the camera, and we all thought it was really funny. Obviously we knew we were treading into druggy territory, but it all seemed so harmless and funny when we were doing it. And then when it was cut together, it still seemed very funny. But when we started adding music to it, and then we started showing it to people, and you started seeing it through an outsider’s eyes, yeah, the drug stuff definitely became an issue.

WM: It was probably the most controversial episode we did in terms of network people getting up in arms about it.

CV: We were like, [adopts oblivious voice] “What are you talking about? They just got headaches!” But the kids are wandering in the parking lot, falling under cars, and a guy who seems drunk about to get into his car, and another kid is climbing the backstop looking like he’s on LSD. [Resumes oblivious voice] “Well, you can look at it that way, or you can look at it as the kid’s got a headache.” [Laughs.]

WM: Now that I think about it, though, what really made it seem druggy—more than that one sequence—was Coach Narrons, who we had dressed up to look like Tom Landry from the old Dallas Cowboys. He had a ’60s suit, and he had the fedora and was totally intense. I think one of the jokes in the script was, he just sat in his Lincoln Continental, and he would hit the electric window, it would come down, he would say something, and it would slide back up. That story came out of real life, because one of Bob’s coaches did that. [Laughs.] Those were always the best stories. But, to me, what made that a druggy episode was just how clearly addicted Narrons was to that drink. There was that one scene where he comes up and he’s trembling. He’s clearly jonesing. I forgot about that. He’s kind of sweating and tense, and intimidating the guy, then finally gets the drink. That was great.

[pagebreak]

CV: I also always loved—and it was something that we did often—the silly, kid logic that we would apply to this world. The Orange Lazarus machine had a couple different dials, and there was one where, if you clicked it all [the way] to the end, that made it so super cold. And the guy who ran the Lazarus Shack warned Ellen, [adopts angry, foreboding voice] “Never bring it all the way to that level. You don’t know what will happen!” [Laughs.] It was so silly that that was the actual device.

WM: His name was Oppenheimer, the guy who ran the shack, and just like the real Oppenheimer, he had created the slushy/atomic bomb to bring peace to the world, and he had never intended it to be used for such evil. That was a big statement for us. It was intended for good.

CV: [Laughs.] But at the end of the day, Kevin Kay—he was an executive at Nickelodeon—was a real fan of the show even though he was an executive, and he was just howling at this episode. But even on that episode he was like, “You guys basically gotta go see the principal about this one.” [Laughs.] So we had to go see Herb Scannell, who was running Nickelodeon at the time, and Herb was Kevin’s boss. We definitely got called on the carpet on that one.

WM: It was episodes like that that gave us a bit of a hard road to till. We basically had to re-pitch the show for season three. It was like, “Convince me that you can do a season that is more kid-relatable, and then maybe we’ll pick it up.” And so we were really sweating that third season; we attempted to come up with episodes that were more kid-relatable, more about kids’ lives.

AVC: “The Call” played into that too, right? It’s the episode where a telephone repairman falls in love with Mrs. Wrigley, which isn’t very kid-friendly.

WM: [Laughs.] I think “The Call” and “Field Of Pete” were probably the weirdest episodes we ever did. I do remember Herb bringing up “The Call” as well. I think those were tied together as being Exhibit A of where the show has gone too far.

CV: I think he was always very uncomfortable, and he would say, “That Artie guy—he’s funny, but he makes me uncomfortable.” [Laughs.] I think he was relieved by the fact that Artie was gone at the end of the second season, but still we had our knuckles slapped a few times for some other episodes that season.

Halloweenie” (October 9, 1994) 
Although he’s committed to breaking the record for most houses visited in one night, Big Pete decides he’s too old for trick-or-treating, lest he draw the ire of the neighborhood jack-o-lantern-wearing gang, the Pumpkin Eaters. He has to decide whether to be true to his family or risk social shame.

CV: I think we were both fans of Halloween: being in costume, running around your neighborhood, people giving you candy. Along with Christmas, it’s the ultimate kid holiday. It all takes place outside at night, and there’s something obviously magical and creepy and funny about it. So we always wanted to do something with that as the backdrop. As always, we were looking for ways that we could explore the brother relationship, and it felt like a natural one, in terms of two brothers who were very close for a long time and one was growing older and growing away from those childish things. One of those things we could explore was Halloween and how the older brother wasn’t really into doing what they always did on Halloween. It felt like a pretty rich territory to mine for conflict and comedy between Pete and Pete. I think the story grew out of there. 

Peter Lauer was the director of that episode. We’ve talked about Peter; he [directed] “Tool And Die” and some other ones. Again, he could not have been more perfect for that episode. That was a pretty huge episode because 75 percent of it or more was outside at night.

WM: It had snarling dogs and bikes going into swimming pools.

CV: It was the first episode that we ever did with stunts. And you’re shooting at night with kids, and you’ve got to be done by midnight or 1 a.m. It was pretty hard to shoot, but it remains one of my favorite episodes just because lots of times we strive to make things mythic but, cinematically, I think Peter Lauer really did make it feel mythic in that episode. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it was nighttime, and it felt kind of creepy and scary. And it had a great role with Endless Mike, who was always one of our favorite secondary characters and villains. Because it took place in the suburban town, we also got to play with some of our favorite suburban joes: the crossing guard, and various others. So it’s still one of my favorite episodes.

WM: Yeah, that was near and dear to us because we had so many episodes that were about brothers growing apart as they grow older, but nothing really speaks to that more than Halloween, in our opinion. From age 5 to whenever the cusp is—11 or 12—you’re at ground zero of being a kid. And then suddenly, one year, it seems lame. We so cherish those years where you’re fully caught up in your kid-ness and how sad it is when you start to drift away from that. That decision to give up on Halloween always sounds so tragic to us, so in my mind, that was Big Pete’s last Halloween. He just says, “I’ll do one more,” and so he went out with a bang.

CV: One of my favorite moments in that episode is a little thing, but it gets at something that many of us feel at times, which is when Ellen and Pete are together in the alley, and he picks up the pumpkin, and Ellen—in a very un-Ellen way—is like, “Smash it! Break it! Smash it!” It just gets at, deep down, no matter how good you are, when you get a pumpkin in your hand and no one is around, you just want to feel what it’s like to hurl that thing against the wall or against the curb and watch it explode. It’s something so primal that really only a kid would feel. An adult would never really have those feelings, but when you’re a kid, that’s crossing that line into what the bad kids do in a rather inane, innocuous way. It seems so ripe for us to explore.

WM: It was another one of those episodes, like “Yellow Fever,” where Endless Mike beckons Pete to the dark side. Another thing about that episode I remember too, and this came out of talking to Alison [Fanelli] at the reunion in New York—it was the first episode where she got to wear something relatively sexy. She had a tight purple sweater on, and I think—along with the decisions in that episode which spoke to moving on past childhood—from a wardrobe perspective, we thought, “Let’s have Alison look not so much like the girl next door. Let’s make her look a little more hot.” And I think that was part of what made that episode interesting. It’s like she’s not just that nice girl next door; She’s got some curves on her.

CV: One scene that we shot was the crossing guard, and he’s got this little “Stop” shield and his little helmet on with a spinning light on the top, and he’s yelling at the Pumpkin Eaters to stop their mayhem. And they just started pelting him with eggs. So, off-screen, probably 30 guys on the crew holding cartons of eggs, hurling them at this poor guy, so he was just bombarded with 50 eggs at one time. It was pretty hilarious. The great Jim Lally was the actor and, damn, he kept doing it take after take after take. And, you know, when you get hit with an egg, it hurts like hell. [Laughs.] He was just getting creamed. He deserved combat pay for that episode.

WM: As a side note, we as creators only had time to write one episode per season, and Chris had written “The Nightcrawlers” in season one—that was his first-ever script—which is a towering episode. And then to follow that up he did “Halloweenie,” he was on quite a roll.

X = Why?” (October 23, 1994) 
After years of mathematical torment, Ellen finally rebels against word problems, throwing her school’s math teacher, Ms. Fingerwood, into a state of emotional chaos. 

WM: That’s an interesting one. It holds up better now. Having watched it recently, I liked it a lot more than I did at the time. But it was an attempt to do a girl-power episode, and the questions that it raises about, like, “What’s the point of algebra?” It was another one of our “fight the power” episodes. It had some great moments in it. But why, in general, did we feel underwhelmed by that episode, Chris? I know we never thought of it as one of our best.

CV: I think, cinematically and story-wise, it’s definitely well executed and funny, and it’s got some good heart to it. And it’s got some really funny Syd Straw moments, especially with Steve Buscemi… with her doing the bingo and all the stuff with Steve and his daughter Ellen, all that stuff was great. 

I think, for me, what always makes me hesitate a little bit about that episode, I think it’s really satisfying as a TV viewer, but it wasn’t about either of the Petes. And they really took a secondary role in that episode. It always felt a little bit odd that the show about these two brothers who were stepping aside so that Ellen could have her show. And there’s nothing bad about that; it just always struck me as one of those episodes that is different from all the others, but not in a bad way. Alison was great in it, and we definitely gave her a ton of great material. Katherine Dieckmann wrote some great stuff, and Ellen was just feisty and funny and adorable. So it totally works. 

WM: It is noted in my mind for having a three-second cameo by [Violent Femmes singer] Gordon Gano. It had that going for it.

AVC: He was one of the substitutes, right?

WM: [Laughs.] Yeah, that’s right—all those different substitutes. He was great. I wish we had done more with him. He has such a great, innocent face.

CV: It has some great weirdo moments, like that guy that comes in and sings the song on his guitar—

AVC: Shreck?

CV: Shreck. And all the kids freak out, and then Ellen breaks him down and he goes running off down the hall. Many great moments like that. 

One of my favorite Syd moments, I have to say, is in that episode, when Ellen stands up and asks her why word problems are important—what’s the value of learning them in our life? And the performance by Syd—who did not have an answer for it, and her life was completely turned upside down—was just great. That always struck us as a very funny thing: these word problems that we all had to do as kids that we all pretty much hated. When you question the authority figure, “Why are we doing these?” And they don’t have an answer.

WM: Yeah, that’s the ultimate fantasy.

CV: Miss Fingerwood’s life goes spinning out of control, and she doesn’t know what to do with herself because her life suddenly has no meaning. 

It’s funny with Syd, like when you see her and you hang out with her, and then when we were shooting Ms. Fingerwood with her, there wasn’t much of a variation. That’s Syd. She’s obviously turning it on a little bit as the character. But that kind of quirky, adorable weirdo charm is so there in real life that it was very easy to get that on the screen. She’s so naturally funny. I was just thinking about the reunion in New York: She came out, and I think the first thing she said was, “Last time we all met, you were virgins!” [Laughs.] What a great way to start the show.

“Farewell, My Little Viking”
part one and two (November 13 and 20, 1994) 
The International Adult Conspiracy moves to rid Wellsville of Artie, The Strongest Man In The World. Little Pete, faced with losing his own personal superhero, has to either get Artie back or learn to stand up for himself.

WM: Those two episodes are really near and dear to us and, it seems like, to the fans as well. I guess it’s our “Puff The Magic Dragon” story, but it really seemed to encapsulate what’s at the heart of the whole Pete And Pete idea. We’ve talked about that moment where Artie realizes that Little Pete doesn’t need his help, that everything he needs to learn, he’s already learned from Artie, and it’s time to move on. In the narration from Big Pete, there’s some line about “Artie had left the world a little bit weirder and a little bit better.” We thought stuff like that summarized perfectly what we were trying to do with the show. We were all pretty emotional ourselves about saying goodbye to Toby [Huss], so that worked into the feelings that got onto the screen as well. We were saying goodbye to one of our best friends and favorite players, and that just made the whole episode very emotionally fraught.

CV: It was written by Chris Marcil and Sam Johnson, who did a number of episodes for us, and we all chipped in as the two-parter unfolded. 

Toby, as a performer, had been doing Artie for a long time—or long enough—and just wanted to move on to other things. I always found it interesting that within those two episodes, Artie the character was also turning into another character, this slick, super-suave dude. Those parallels are kind of interesting. It was great to see Toby play other characters. He played other characters in other episodes—he was the Home Ec teacher in “X=Why?” and a couple other things in other episodes—but it was great to see him really cut loose and play another role in that episode. It gave us a lot of opportunity to do stuff with Little Pete and Dad—Dad representing most adults that don’t really understand this guy, “He makes me uncomfortable,” then eventually coming around to him at the end.  

WM: We also had this other component, which was it’s not that he’s just a weirdo. Don’s trying to rationalize Artie and is talking about how it’s great that his kid has a superhero, and McFlemp, this nasty neighbor says, “Gee, I always thought that a dad should be a kid’s superhero.” So there was this feeling of being overshadowed by Artie that added more poignancy to Dad’s dilemma. He’s thinking, “Shit, I should be the hero, not this weirdo.” 

CV: It’s interesting, making that episode and looking back at it now. It’s like, culturally we were in a much different place then. We were people making a show, and it was time for this character to leave, and this is what we came up with for him to leave. And it felt right and felt appropriate in a lot of ways. We were all sad and heartbroken when Toby left because we loved him dearly and he’s a pal, but I don’t think we realized the effect that episode had on people until much later. There wasn’t email, Twitter, and all that social media that would’ve let us know that immediately back then, so we just made the episode in two parts, and then Toby’s gone and we partied with him after that episode—and then, okay, we have five more episodes to shoot that season, you know? We just move on to the next one, and we’re all a little sad inside, but you just have to keep moving on. 

We’re guys making this show for Nickelodeon, this thing in a little bubble; we didn’t really hear what people thought of the show episode-to-episode. We just finish the season, then do another season, and sometimes we’d hear from people, “Oh, Artie leaving was always so sad,” but it’s only as the years go on that we realize how profound and how sad and how meaningful those two episodes were to so many of the fans of the show. We had no clue until years later. 

WM: But at the same time, when we wrote those episodes, we were determined to write the most crushing two-parter of all time.

CV: Oh, totally. Totally. 

WM: We gave it our all. We wanted to make it worthy of the characters. Once it aired, we had no idea what its effect was, but at the time, it was, “Let’s just pull out all the stops and make the saddest, most beautiful episode we’ve done.” 

I’ll always remember that show for one of my favorite tableaus ever, in a show that had a lot of great visuals, was that sequence where Don has to play Judas to Artie and lie to him about Little Pete wanting him to go. If you remember that scene, it’s a big field, and in the background there’s a giant water tower, and in the foreground Artie’s playing tetherball. When the Judas moment occurs, Artie’s knees just buckle, but meanwhile we’re in this super sunny, super surreal suburban environment. I always found the combination of all those elements the show at its best. 

CV: One thing I do remember about that episode is that the executives at Nickelodeon, as we’ve talked about, kind of stayed away and let us do our thing, except on certain occasions. I do remember that they were not that happy with the fact that we were making it a two-parter. Artie, to them, was a confusing, unsettling character—

AVC: A guy in underwear. 

CV: Yeah, a guy in underwear running around suburbia with little kids thinking he was a strongman. Certainly the executives at Nickelodeon—and, I’m sure, many parents out in the world who were watching the show with their kids—probably felt the same way as Pete’s dad and all the neighbor folks did about Artie: They just wanted the guy to go away. 

WM: That episode also features two of the greatest things that ever came out of Iggy Pop’s mouth, a guy who’s had many fine things to say in his musical career. The lines “I hate canoes” and “He got gunk in my soup,” I think would rival anything he did with The Stooges. 

CV: I know that those were also the two episodes where Iggy started to have the most fun on the set, because it was his second time back after the “Grounded For Life” episode. He started to really bond with the kids, particularly Daniel [Tamberelli]. It was a two-part episode, so we shot it in two weeks rather than one week. So he was around for most of that shoot, as were most of the adults in the neighborhood. I remember hearing over the walkie-talkie a couple of times, people saying, “Uh, Iggy’s sticking around. If we need him for any other scenes, he’s up for it.” I remember that’s when Iggy started to teach Danny how to play the bass. So, it was a pretty amazing episode on a lot of levels, but we definitely started to notice the comfort level Iggy had on the show. 

I think that was also the debut of our first Magnetic Fields song used to great effect, in that episode. “Why I Cry,” which was the perfect song for that episode. That was another great achievement, getting the Magnetic Fields onto that show. 

WM: I can’t remember—when did Michelle leave the show? Did she leave in the third season?

AVC: She left in the third season.

CV: She had a real “stage mom” mom, and I think they wanted to move her on to bigger and better things. 

WM: Actually, the truth was that she was offered the part of Harriet the Spy in a Nickelodeon movie, which pissed us off to no end, because—make no mistake—we found Michelle. We auditioned her, she had never done anything before, maybe some commercials, and we got her on the air and everyone loved her. Then fucking Nickelodeon comes in, “We have this Harriet The Spy movie, we want Michelle.” What parent wouldn’t want their kid to leave a show to go do it? I remember feeling really burned by that at the time, because they were basically taking her away from the show, and she was such an integral part of the show at that point—she just helped us get so much of a different dynamic out of Little Pete. Wayne the Pain, and certainly Monica, to a certain extent, helped us in the third season, but it was never quite the same after she left.


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