"Rangeboy" originally aired December 19, 1993
“Rangeboy” isn’t the best episode of The Adventures Of Pete And Pete. It’s not the episode that everyone talks about when they reminisce about the show, and people never really mention guest star Frank Gifford. It is, however, a pretty funny episode full of heart, and that’s good enough for me.
Here’s the gist: Don Wrigley manages a sweet, enormous double-decker driving range. (Why that makes sense, I don’t know, but it does.) After losing 10 rangeboys to insanity and forced relocation, he’s enlisted his older son, Pete, to do the job for the end of the season. Pete’s making $3.50 an hour driving around in the cart that sucks up golf balls, but he can’t let anyone see him, lest they make his social life a living hell. “Even amoebas laugh at rangeboys,” he says.
Pete avoids all human contact at the range, stays in his cart, and never goes to the bathroom. Then, horror of horrors, Pete’s nemesis, the fantastic Endless Mike Hellstrom shows up at the range to drive some balls while he thinks about Pete’s head. Don starts telling Endless Mike that, in fact, Pete is the rangeboy, to Pete’s horror. Luckily, Artie — at the range practicing for the annual long shot competition — throws a club into the forest several miles away, wrapping it around a tree and drawing Don’s Ire. Pete’s saved.
The next day, instead of, as Ellen suggests, being “true to [himself] and not car[ing] what other people think,” Pete puts on a bear costume and gets in the cart. You see, bears were once native to Wellsville and roamed free before they were driven out years before by civilization. (“They say the last bear in these parts died choking on a baloney and cheese sandwich.”) The range is even called the Mighty Bear range, so it makes sense.
Unfortunately for Pete, some local hunters driven to madness by a bad hunting season stumble onto the range and offer to pay twice as much for a bucket of balls if they can aim directly at the bear. Bear season’s open, and Pete’s nearly driven to madness himself by the constant onslaught of hatred and golf balls directed at him.
On the last day of the season, Don and Little Pete draw up an “unmask the bear” contest where whoever hits the bear with a ball gets to unmask him. Pete quits, of course, but after Don faces a barrage of angry golf balls himself once he says the bear went into early hibernation, he realizes there was more bear inside him than he knew and decides it is, indeed, time for him to finally go be a mighty bear.
Long story short, Artie beans the bear while trying to cure his turtle pal Clark of his turtle amnesia. (“Tell the boy about Paris. You, me, Hemingway, the shiny tugboat.”) Artie’s not concerned at all about unmasking said bear, taking off with newly memorable pal Clark, but Pete unmasks himself, showing that the bear is, indeed, just a rangeboy, much to everyone’s dismay. All in all, it turns out okay for Pete. He’s not a rangeboy — he’s a rangebear. Plus, he got to make $3.50 an hour.
For what it’s worth, that Artie and Clark subplot is one of my favorites throughout the whole series. As Artie, Toby Huss really gets to go for it here with physical comedy and facial expressions, hitting golf balls with clubs pulled from a headless Santa lawn ornament “golf bag” with such aplomb and voracity that it’s just amazing to watch. He uses a hockey stick, a pipe, and, after that club throwing incident, gets a club duct-taped to his hands for “smashing time.” Instead of “fore,” Artie says “five,” which is adorable, and when he accidentally hits Clark, he mumbles “unpipe.”
(This would be a good time to mention that it’s high time to bring back “pipe” as an exclamation of goodness, awesomeness, and all around happiness. Why that phrase never caught on, I don’t know, but a few people can make a word like “swag” a cultural phenomenon, I don’t see why we, The A.V. Club army, can’t make “pipe” happen.)
There’s another short but amazing subplot going on this episode with all the golfers at the range. The aforementioned Frank Gifford is there, and Don insists on calling him “Giff.” Also, for some reason, instead of using a regular club, he uses a club with a tiny man on the end who has his own tiny club that hits a tiny ball. Frank Gifford’s not the most amazing actor, but he somehow manages to pull this role off, and for that he deserves at least a modicum of Kathie Lee’s adoration.
Secondly, Bus Driver Stu’s at the range looking to cure himself of neverending sadness after fellow driver Sally Knorp left him again. This leads to a constant golf-announcer like self-monologue by Stu as he takes his shots, and they’re just amazingly written. For instance: “Stu, who’s been pretty depressed since his girlfriend left him over nothing could really use a good shot right about now.” Or “We’re here on the 15th as Bus Driver Stu Benedict, long paralyzed by his fear of failure, reaches deep inside himself and finds something he never knew he had.” It’s a quiet story of majesty, but it’s really well done and that Damian Young is a hell of an actor.
• “Escaping Dusseldorf in the bobsled… Hemingway driving, you in the middle, Gertrude Stein in the back…”
• The mother and younger daughter from “King Of The Road” are back as golfers. Small world, right?
• Hearing from Dan Fisher in the comments here and writing about this show every week has really made me hyper-aware of every little thing in these episodes, like the Santa club bag. This week, I’m dying to know who the older, bearded “rangeboy” is in the photos who went crazy and wore a bucket of balls on his head.
• I’m not really giving Endless Mike the talk he deserves here. I love, love, love Rick Gomez as Endless Mike. I love the name Endless Mike. I love the idea of Endless Mike. I just love Endless Mike. But this week’s about golf and bears, but next week, for “Tool And Die,” it’ll be all about Endless Mike.