Sometimes, loving an old show is kind of a double edged sword. If The Adventures Of Pete And Pete were on now, we’d know all the actors intimate lives through their twitter accounts, and maybe even get a five-part episode by episode description of the series from its creator. Instead, because Pete hit before the Internet really went bananas, we’ve got a couple of scanned articles, a cassingle that came in a cereal box, and some orange VHS tapes, meaning that fans of the show who want to know more than just what they saw on the screen are S.O.L.
Like, how did they land all these sweet guest stars? What was the inspiration for the show? How involved was Stephin Merritt? How did they cast the actors, and so on? A while back, Filter did a mini oral history on the show, but for Pete obsessives, myself included, it’s just not enough. There’s just not enough material out there, for Pete’s sake. Heck — Season three isn’t even out on DVD.
That kind of stuff can drive a fan crazy, and while answers might be out there in the ether somewhere, sometimes you just have to speculate and infer — and sometimes that’s just more fun.
Danny Tamberelli played Little Pete on the show, and he, along with Michael Maronna (Big Pete), is on Twitter. Tamberelli’s mainly focused on his band, Jounce, now, but from time to time you’ll see the Petes @-ing each other, and it brings a warmth to all their followers hearts. At the same time, you don’t want to interfere, you know? No one wants to be the “HEY PETE” person, or the one who just asks stupid questions about tiny, insignificant things they might not even remember from 15 years ago, right?
This week’s episode, “Apocalypse Pete,” really makes you want to ask all those questions, especially of Tamberelli. He really goes for it in this episode, and his acting is actually really understated and subtle, in stark contrast to his work years later on All That and Figure It Out, but I digress. Over the course of the episode he vacuums his face, collects his burbs, plots revenge against Ellen’s dad Phil (played by Steve Buscemi — and how did they get him?), and put a high gloss finish on the lawn with a floor waxer, just in time for Father’s Day, and he does it all with this kind of calm, quiet serenity that’s really kind of refreshing to watch, especially when you’re talking about kid actors, who have a tendency to really ham it up.
In fact, that might be one of the reasons this episode — and this show, for that matter — really works. Don and Joyce Wrigley, or the actors that played them at least, are kind of over the top. Everyone knows that Mom’s got a plate in her head, so when Phil Hickle wants to get his revenge on the Wrigleys, he finds her frequency and broadcasts 14 straight days of polka and “Marmalade Crème” (A song that, as far as I can tell, was written for the show) direct to her plate. This results in a lot of hammy mom bopping, all while she’s wearing a Green Bay Packers helmet. At one point, she loses it and crawls along the road, only to be rescued by her family.
Dad’s cartoonish, too. Hardy Rawls plays Don, and while he does a perfectly serviceable job, it might be worth noting that, like so many other Nickelodeon “parents,” he didn’t really go on to do much else after his run on the channel ended.
“Apocalypse Pete” is a really great Pete episode, and that’s not even because Steve Buscemi has such a major part in it. It’s got action (a car chase!), suspense (a bomb!), romance (kind of — crossing guard Kenneth Keegan, played by the awesome Martin Donovan thinks that Ellen and Pete are in love), espionage (how this whole mess got started in the first place), and, of course, subtle comedy, like when Artie moves the Hickle homestead one inch off its foundation. It’s funny, and it’s charming, and Danny Tamberelli, in particular, does a really great job in it. Here’s hoping that he appreciated what he was a part of with this show and isn’t sullied by the “hey Little Pete” screamers, because lord knows Pete And Pete is definitely something special.