The Adventures of Pete & Pete was a series about two brothers named Pete, which aired on Nickelodeon. It was created by Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi and began as a series of one-minute shorts in 1989 that were shown in between regular programs on Nickelodeon. Owing to the popularity of the shorts, five half-hour specials were made, followed by a regular half-hour series that ran for three seasons (1993-1996) and continued in reruns until around 1999.
The show featured many humorous and surreal elements both in its narrative and its recurring themes. It was set in the fictional town of Wellsville. The state Wellsville was in was never mentioned, however some believe that Wellsville was in New Jersey or New York. It was originally filmed in Bayonne, New Jersey (school scenes) and South Orange, New Jersey (neighborhood scenes). In the third season filming was moved to Cranford, New Jersey.
Big Pete Wrigley (Micheal Moronna)
Older Pete serves as the narrator of each episode (except for "New Year's Pete" and "Crisis in The Love Zone"), often acting as a voice of reason in contrast to the strange happenings and people around him. Typical sibling rivalry aside, he and his brother are best friends.
Little Pete Wrigley (Danny Tamberelli)
Four years younger than his brother, is often engaged in struggles against adults and other authority figures. He frequently uses insults like "blowhole" and "dill weed" — since Pete & Pete was a children's show, actual swear words could not be used. "Petunia," a tattoo on younger Pete's arm depicting a woman, is frequently made to "dance" and gets its own credit in the show's opening sequence; the origins of that tattoo, and one of a sailing ship on younger Pete's back, are unclear.
Ellen Hickle (Alison Fanelli)
Ellen is older Pete's best friend; though romance develops between the two on rare occasions, Pete generally sees Ellen as "a girl and a friend, but not a girlfriend". At one point she labored under the misconception that she was "a dot," due to her placement "riding the I" in the Wellsville marching band's show.
Joyce Wrigley (Judy Grafe)
More often simply called "Mom," is the Petes' mother. She has a metal plate in her head from a childhood accident; it can pick up radio stations — and, in the case of little Pete's "WART Radio," it can broadcast them too. "Mom's Plate" is also listed as a separate character in the opening credits.
Don Wrigley (Hardy Rawls)
Better known as "Dad," is the Petes' father. He and Joyce met when the metal detector he was using on a beach led him to the metal plate in her head. He is an extremely competitive driver, particularly on the family's excursion to the Hoover Dam.
Artie, the Strongest Man in the World (Toby Huss)
Younger Pete's personal superhero, who is very eccentric but quite powerful — for example, he can skip stones on Neptune and hit a golf ball 300,003 feet. Originally an imaginary friend of little Pete, Artie later began interacting with other characters. His catchphrase is "Artie — the strongest man ... in the world!"
Stu Benedict (Damian Young)
An eccentric and occasionally manic-depressive bus driver who drives both Petes to school, often while nursing wounds from a relationship with fellow bus driver Sally Knorp. His character served as a replacement for Artie after Toby Huss left the show.
Nona F. Mecklenberg (Michelle Trachtenberg)
Younger Pete's best friend. Her middle initial F. stands for Francis, but she wants to change it to Frank, Farfignuten, or Forklift. She wears a cast not because she has a broken arm, but because it creates an annoying, itchy feeling on the area it covers. She enjoys the sense of relief she feels when she scratches the itch.
Monica (Maris Hudson)
One of younger Pete's friends, is the resident Kreb Scout who is ready for anything. Her unfortunate luck with pets has given her a reputation as the "Girl Scout of death."
"Endless" Mike Hellstrom (Rick Gomez)
Older Pete's mortal enemy. He is endlessly repeating the same year in high school, and endlessly beating up on Pete. He reigns over shop class, has a car, and loves Neapolitan ice cream.
Fran 'Pitstain' Jones (Eric Kushnick)
Younger Pete's mortal enemy, who has a gland problem that gives him huge, smelly armpit stains. He is often seen with his goons Hairnet and Drawstring.
Mr. Tastee (Toby Huss)
The mysterious ice cream vendor who symbolizes summer for the neighborhood kids. He never removes his mascot costume head and is very reluctant to let his customers get close to him. When the Petes' attempts to strike up a friendship cause Tastee to flee, they and Ellen spend a summer tracking him down.
The many guest stars that appeared on Pete & Pete include:
- Selma Blair — Penelope Ghiruto, school bus passenger from whose name older Pete can make 27 words ("Das Bus")
- Steve Buscemi — Phil Hickle, high school guidance counsellor and Ellen's dad
- Ellen Cleghorne — Sally Knorp, bus driver, on-again-off-again girlfriend of Stu Benedict ("Day of the Dot," "Yellow Fever")
- Sally is also mentioned in episodes in which she does not appear.
- Marshall Crenshaw — "Lightning" Mel Ratner, meter reader who joins younger Pete's band ("A Hard Day's Pete")
- Art Donovan — himself, talking to older Pete about playing with Johnny Unitas ("Space, Geeks, and Johnny Unitas")
- Martin Donovan — a crossing guard who passes messages between older Pete and Ellen ("Apocalypse Pete")
- Donovan also played Smith ("Smitty"), a security guard who younger Pete and Petunia distract in "Space, Geeks, and Johnny Unitas."
- Richard Edson — school janitor Mr. Beverly ("Valentine's Day Massacre")
- Chris Elliott — Meterman Ray, a meter reader who foretells younger Pete's future ("Sickday")
- Gordon Gano (of Violent Femmes) — Mr. Zank, the first of many substitute maths teachers ("X=Why?")
- Janeane Garofalo — Ms. Brackett, an English teacher ("X=Why?")
- Frank Gifford — himself, a customer at Dad's driving range ("Rangeboy")
- Debbie Harry (of Blondie) — a neighbor whose lawn the Pete's sweep for land mines ("New Year's Pete")
- Juliana Hatfield (of Blake Babies) — Emma, a young lunchlady ("Don't Tread on Pete")
- Patty Hearst — Mrs. Kretchmar, member of the family who moves into the Wrigley house ("35 Hours")
- William Hickey — Grandpa Wrigley, Dad's dad ("When Petes Collide")
- David Johansen (of New York Dolls, a/k/a Buster Poindexter) — Park Ranger Thorsen, who scrutinizes Dad's activities until learning he is hunting for Bob ("On Golden Pete")
- LL Cool J — Mr. Throneberry, younger Pete's teacher ("Sickday")
- Luscious Jackson — the band that plays at the school dance ("Dance Fever")
- Ann Magnuson (of Bongwater) — Eunice Puell, mail carrier and object of younger Pete's affection ("Crisis in the Love Zone")
- Heather Matarazzo — Natasha, a neighborhood kid who stays awake by pulling her pigtails ("What We Did on Our Summer Vacation," "Nightcrawlers")
- John McLaughlin — himself, devoting a portion of his show to support older Pete's bid for Dad's bowling ball ("When Petes Collide")
- Miracle Legion — the four-piece version of Polaris that younger Pete sees in a garage ("A Hard Day's Pete")
Polaris, in turn, was Miracle Legion minus guitarist Mr. Ray.
- Bebe Neuwirth — Mail Lady McGintee, a mail carrier who younger Pete comes across on his sickday adventure ("The Call," "Sickday")
- Larisa Oleynik — a nurse who rushes younger Pete through the hospital ("Dance Fever")
- Kate Pierson (of The B-52's) — mysterious blind millionaire Mrs. Vanderveer, who calls Mr. Tastee "Leonard" ("What We Did on Our Summer Vacation")
- Iggy Pop — James Mecklenberg, Nona's dad
- Suzzy Roche (of The Roches) — PEO MacMillian, meter maid and Inspector 34's love interest ("Inspector 34")
- Sarah Shannon (of Velocity Girl) — a grocery store employee who gives younger Pete a label from an expired can of tapioca pudding ("Sickday")
- Michael Stipe (of R.E.M. (band)|R.E.M.) — Captain Scrummy, ice-cream vendor known for the Sludgecicle ("What We Did on Our Summer Vacation")
- Syd Straw — math teacher Miss Fingerwood
- Liza Weil — Margie Corsell, a girl for whom older Pete abandons his brother ("35 Hours")
- Weil also played a bully in "Yellow Fever", with her mother Lisa as a teacher in the same episode.
- Adam West — younger Pete's school principal Kent Schwinger
One widely reported guest appearance — Hunter S. Thompson's, in "New Year's Pete" — has been described as "apocryphal" by show creator Will McRobb, who has said the Hunter Thompson listed in the credits is instead a similarly named actor... or is it?
The show featured music by such independent artists as Luscious Jackson, The Magnetic Fields, RACECAR, and The Apples in Stereo. Polaris, a side project of Mark Mulcahy's Miracle Legion, served as the show's "house band," providing the theme song and many other tunes heard throughout the series and even appearing in "Hard Day's Pete" as a local four-piece playing out of a garage. Some of the Polaris' music from the show was released as a CD, Music from The Adventures of Pete & Pete, including the theme song "Hey Sandy".
There was also production music from Associated Production Music in the show. A list of production music includes:
- "Drama Impact #3"
- "The Gunfighter"
- "Fisticuffs" by Laurie Johnson
- "Killer Birds"
"The Adventures of Pete & Pete" is unique amongst contemporary children's television series in that it is an abstract and rather absurd portrayal of everyday suburban life in the United States. The antics of the two brothers of the same name and their various friends and enemies are ludicrous in nature, but it is often easy to identify with the potent suburban truths stated in the narrations of Older Pete. Upon paying careful attention to each episode, it is easy to pick out dozens of obscure cultural references, strange little truths of life, and other oddities that do not appear in other series. This has made the show, which only aired as a weekly series for 3 seasons, a lasting classic amongst the children of the early nineties. Incredible demand for the show resulted in its selection as one of Nickelodeon's first two "Rewind Collection" DVD releases, and spurred the speedy release of second- and third-season sets.
Although Pete & Pete was a children's show aired on a children's network, many of the jokes and allusions were lost on the younger generation. It is not to say that some subject matter was mature, but simply that many referential antecedents fall outside of the target audience's experience.
Some such allusions include:
- Citizen Kane - Little Pete drops the snow globe in "Sick Day"
- Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Possibly a minor influence in "Sick Day"
- Jimmy Hoffa - While digging a tunnel out of his house, Little Pete finds a wallet and reads the name inside: "Hoffa!" he says.
Peculiarly, almost every product mentioned on the show was manufactured by KrebStar products -- if someone on the show were to have some coffee they would drink "Kreb Full o' Nuts Coffee", their underwear would be "Kreb of the Loom", and they would wax the floor with "KrebStar Industrial Floorwax". In other words, KrebStar was to Pete & Pete what Acme was to the Coyote and Road-Runner.
There are countless other "Easter Eggs" to be seen in the show that require a keen eye and a sharp wit to pick up on.
Broadcast historyThe Adventures of Pete and Pete first-ran on Nickelodeon from 1993 to 1996. Reruns continued to air from 1996 to 1999, and again from 2003 to 2004 on U-Pick Live. It also aired in reruns on The N from 2002 to 2003.
The Adventures of Pete & Pete was one of the series mentioned as a potential future series that would air on The '90s Are All That. However, despite clips from the show appearing in the often-shown commercial promos, no episodes of the series were ever aired on the block. Licensing issues in regard to the extensive amount of music used in the program have been an obstacle in clearing the series for reruns. However, the 1989 shorts were aired to coincide with the show's 20th anniversary in 2013. When the block was rebranded and expanded as The Splat in 2015, the Pete & Pete shorts were included as part of the block's lineup. The show itself will finally appear on the block for a two-night programming event on June 17-18 of 2017.
- → Main article: The Adventures of Pete & Pete episode list
Home video releases
- → Main article: The Adventures of Pete & Pete videography
- Both Petes are left-handed.
- Nona's dad, "Pop" is played by Iggy Pop, who often refers to the neighborhood kids as "stooges."
- Nobody has ever been able to find a real, complete version of the song "Marmalade Cream," heard in several episodes including "A Hard Day's Pete."
- There is one line of the theme song, "Hey Sandy," which is even more indecipherable than the rest of the song. The "Mystery Lyric" is often interpreted Could you settle to shoot me?, and this is the subtitle on the DVD, but an interview with one of the creators of Pete and Pete said that those are not the real lyrics, and he has became passionate about keeping them a secret.
- Filming was moved to Cranford, NJ after cast and crew made such a mess of South Orange during the filming of "Halloweenie" that the town opted not to have them back.
- All of the slushy flavors in "Field of Pete" are named after biblical characters. Examples are Lime Balthazar, Grape Judas, and dangerous Orange Lazarus.
- Actors Damian Young and Martin Donovan have both worked with director Hal Hartley, as has cinematographer Michael Spiller.
- The original intro music used in the specials and many of the shorts is R.E.M.'s version of "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers".
- Jeremy Frens's fan site at Indiana University
- Another fan site
- Overview of Pete & Pete music, including lyrics of theme song "Hey Sandy"