It’s strange to realize that, pop-culturally at least, you’re not alone in the world, and that other people love what you love too. It’s even stranger when that feeling comes after the thing you mutually adored has spent years languishing in obscurity. Still, when all that love comes together, like it did at last week’s reunion of the cast and crew of The Adventures Of Pete And Pete in New York City, it can be truly special.
The Adventures Of Pete And Pete started as a series of Nickelodeon promotional shorts in 1991, eventually evolving into a couple of one-hour specials and a then a series that ran for three short seasons before leaving the air in 1996. Created by a couple of young guys, Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi, the show was unlike anything else on the air, which was the main reason it worked so well. Katherine Dieckmann, one of the principal directors of the show, said at the reunion that they never had any idea what they were doing, and that that was a good thing. It was a charming homage to life in suburbia, a parallel universe where everything was a little off and that was totally okay.
If you’d told me when I was a bored, sad, 12-year-old in my parents’ basement watching Nickelodeon that 18 years later I’d have met someone from Pete And Pete, let alone worked with them, I’d probably have cried from glee. Now, it’s a little easier to be more restrained, but from the moment actors from the show started arriving at the Bowery Ballroom last Friday, my “what the fuck” meter was off the charts. Getting to ask all the questions I’d ever had about the show and act as the token über-fan onstage during the panel was mind-blowing. But sitting backstage while Alison Fanelli (Ellen) rifled through a suitcase of memorabilia, including her photo-booth costume, and hearing Michael Maronna and Danny Tamberelli (Big and Little Pete, respectively) call Judy Grafe and Hardy Rawls “Mom” and “Dad” jokingly was just too much.
This whole affair came together after a similar event the cast and crew did in November at L.A.’s Cinefamily. They’d recently started chatting again in part thanks to The A.V. Club’s reviews of the show, but also because, remarkably, they’d never really fallen that out of touch with each other. That event went so well that they decided to do at least one more, which ultimately snowballed into the two shows at the Bowery Ballroom (and maybe, just maybe, something else in the future).
McRobb and Viscardi got in touch with me because of the TV Club pieces and because the fine people at Cinefamily told them that the reunion out there had been my idea. (In actuality, I wanted to have a weekend-long Pete festival complete with land canoes and lookalike contests, but I digress.) I helped secure the venue and organize what we wanted the show to be, both from the cast and crew’s perspective and a fan’s perspective. We knew what had worked and what hadn’t worked at Cinefamily, but how could we make a one-off event something really memorable? Letting Pete fans down would be heartbreaking, to say the least.
All the organizers, myself included, were concerned: that the Bowery would be too big, that no one would want to come, and that maybe this whole thing was just a good idea in our brains. Once the show went on sale and sold out in minutes, we knew it would be something special and pushed to make the event bigger and better, inviting more and more cast members like Damien Young (Bus Driver Stu Benedict), David Martel (Teddy), Maris Hudson (Monica The Krebscout), and Justin Restivo (Wayne The Pain), as well as the show’s art directors, propmasters, costumers, and so on.
We also decided, after an e-mail from Marshall Crenshaw’s manager, to reunite The Blowholes, a band that only played once on Pete And Pete, but did four songs at the event, including “Hey Sandy.” That was one of the best decisions we made, and it allowed for many memorable moments, including the chance to watch Tamberelli teach Syd Straw (Miss Fingerwood) his solo from “Summerbaby” during rehearsal, and for the audience lose their shit when Straw drew a two in the air with her finger during one of the shows.
As weird as it was just to be involved in this whole shebang, all that was washed away by the realization that these people, even now, really love and care for each other. They were all more than happy to see each other, to catch up, share stories, and, in the case of Tamberelli and Maronna, to be called “Pete” at least once more.
Nostalgia can be a weird thing. All of these Pete people have jobs, lives, and livelihoods that have little to do with them being involved with a Nickelodeon show filmed from 1993 to 1995. That being said, The Adventures Of Pete And Pete is a defining moment not just in their lives, but also in the lives of fans around the world. It might have just been a one-time thing, but it was incredibly cathartic to have Toby Huss (Artie) yell “Artie… The Strongest Man…” to the audience and have them immediately respond with a very emphatic “in the world!”
McRobb ended the first show by talking about how all they were trying to do all those years ago was to make a show where viewers could feel like it was okay to be whoever they were, no matter what that was. Friday, in a room filled with people in buffalo plaid hats and full of boundless childlike enthusiasm, it became clear that Pete And Pete was not only a good way to kill a half an hour on a Sunday growing up, but a way to, in the future, come together with other kids that you didn’t even know yet. It was a way to realize that everything would be okay as long as you kept on keeping on, and that somewhere—even if it was just in Wellsville, a fictional town on TV—there were people looking out for you.