I remember when Nickelodeon announced their 90’s are All That a few years back. The idea was to bring in all the old Nick shows many of us who were/are college age had grown up with. I remember my brother and I got psyched because we were thinking “Yes, the return of Pete and Pete.”
Sadly, we only got an overplay of about 3 “classic” shows and an episode here and there of Hey Arnold.
If you haven’t heard of the show or need a refresher the Adventures of Pete and Pete aired for 3 seasons from 1993-1996 and was created by Will McRobb and Christ Viscardi. The show revolved around two brothers both named Pete who lived a small town called Wellsville. Older Pete (who’s in high school) typically narrates the show by telling a story either about his little brother or himself. The short lived series is quirky, surreal, original, and comedic. It was stapled into my mind as a kid and through a recent discovery of episodes on Youtube, I found that the show still holds up pretty well.
There was so much I had actually forgotten which made my re-watch oddly refreshing, but familiar enough to give me that sense of nostalgia. Sure, there are scenes that are a bit too gimmicky along with a noticeable loss of quality in season 3, but that doesn’t steer it away from being a fantastic show. The narration reminds me a great deal of a Christmas Story – usage of long words, looking fondly back on childhood memories (even though the events usually take place a day or two ago), and talking about the kid world as a separate entity from the adult world, yet still giving the adult characters development and arcs. There’s something in there for everyone and even my dad got excited when he saw there were episodes up online because he loved watching it just as much as my brother and I.
I think what truly caught my eye was the surrealism. It sounds strange saying that about a show geared towards kids, but the style is there and it doesn’t try to hide itself from the audience. The show has a nice variety of odd characters all living in this small, seemingly normal town. There’s Mr. Tasty, the ice-cream man, who never seems to take off his mask so no one knows his real name or face. He’s an enigma who travels the world in his spare time while still never taking off the mask. It’s weird, but it works for the show. It’s goofy, but interesting. There’s an episode about the hottest day during summer where the temperature is so high that people are hallucinating. During this we see Mr. Tasty in front of what looks like the Apocalypse and it’s comedic while still holding onto the oddity that is Wellsville.
There’s another episode that focuses on a mysterious payphone out in the middle of nowhere that rings every day and has been for almost 3 decades. It drives the residents nuts, but no one has enough courage to answer the call. It’s a legendary mystery that haunts the town so much that there’s a call center to comfort anyone who is losing their mind to it. Eventually younger Pete decides to answer and the viewer gradually learns just who this call is for and why. It’s all done in a comedic fashion, but it’s still an original plot that I can’t say I’ve seen handled before. At least, not in this fashion. Strange phone calls are a norm in scary movies, but this ringing payphone at the edge of town was something entirely different. It’s plots like this that give the show a voice – a creative one. A voice that may not be for everyone, but one that’s amusing and authentic.
It’s also quite sweet in that it shows the relationship between siblings, friends, and being more than just friends. The age difference between the two brothers is important because older Pete is growing up. He cares more about dating, driving, and becoming an adult while younger Pete is still clinging onto childhood because he knows that time is dwindling. He’ll be in his brother’s shoes before he knows it, but for now his world revolves around a set of separate ideals. Still, they try to adjust to the difference and keep a strong bond that I found genuine. The character’s plots may not always intertwine, but older Pete is still there to talk about what happened with his little brother the other day. This tells the audience that even if they don’t do everything together anymore, they still tell each other about their day if something bizarre happens (which is often). It’s a nice dynamic and, again, presents something for people of all ages to follow. Older kids can relate to the high school life of big Pete and younger kids can relate to the middle school adventures of little Pete. Even older audiences can look back at both characters and think, “Yeah, I remember thinking about that when I was around that age” or “I used to worry about that or imagine that.”
And of course the unique and insanely endearing characters like Artie (the strongest man…in the world), Bus Driver Stu, whatever Mr. Tasty is, and so on, give the show something special to make it stand out. It’s comical and real (for the most part) plots through an imaginative and somewhat dreamlike mindset make it entertaining and memorable. It makes it a classic and it’s a shame it didn’t make it into the 90’s are All That line up. It’s even more of a shame that only the first 2 seasons were ever released on DVD and the rest has to be found somewhere on Youtube. At least it remains reachable in some form.
If you’ve never seen an episode or haven’t watched it in years, I’d highly recommended looking one up on Youtube the next time you need a break or you’re looking for something new to watch. It’s charming, strange, and nostalgic. A series you won’t soon forget.