Series: The Adventures of Pete & Pete
Ellen: Nickelodeon presents The Adventures of Pete & Pete! Starring Pete, Pete's brother Pete, and me—Ellen—as Pete's girlfriend—
: This is [person/place/thing]. And this
is [something associated with it].
Left to right: Pete Wrigley, Pete Wrigley.The Adventures of Pete & Pete
was one of several sitcoms aired by Nickelodeon
during the early 1990s, about two brothers and their oddball family/neighborhood/school/world in the town of Wellsville. Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi
, two members of Nickelodeon's marketing department, created the series in 1988 as shorts meant to advertise Nickelodeon in a more roundabout way. The commercials took off, leading to half-hour specials being produced (five from 1991 to 1993), and eventually a full-series order with a three-season run. The plug was pulled in 1996.
The two titular brothers are named Pete Wrigley for reasons that are never explained within the series propernote
; co-creator Will McRobb once noted that, should you feel the need to ask, you're probably watching the wrong show
. This is, after all, the same show where underpants inspectors are guardian angels, a metal detector can find an entire car (still in good condition) buried at the beach, you can run to the Canadian border in four hours (or use a riding mower), and a mentally challenged man who speaks incoherent sentences and runs around in spandex pajamas is the personal superhero of the younger Pete Wrigley. Why two brothers have the same name should be the least of your issues.
The series was fairly successful on Nick when it aired, alongside other live-action shows such as Salute Your Shorts
and Clarissa Explains It All
. The first two seasons were also released to DVD as part of Nickelodeon's "Rewind" series, which showcased shows from that era. Pete and Pete
in particular was also a hit with college-aged young adults
—a demographic that Nick wouldn't attract again in such large numbers until Invader Zim
in 2001—who enjoyed its quirkiness. Additionally, by being shot on location and eschewing a laugh track, it pioneered a format that became the preferred one for sitcoms by the time the 2000's came around.
This is The Adventures of Pete and Pete
. And this
is its recap page.
Hey, look! A character sheet
This show provides examples of:
- The Ace: Inspector 34, who is perfect at everything... except at having fun. Being scrutinized for bringing a fork, knife, and napkin to a messy outdoor barbeque is what causes him to finally break his "everything must be perfect" attitude.
- Acme Products: Everything from the Krebstar corporation.
- Adults Are Useless. Indeed, even the International Adult Conspiracy itself does little but gossip and moan over the phone.
- Not all adults are useless though, some are quite wise and insightful like Mr. Slurm (the shop teacher) and the Janitor at Pete's school.
- Applied Phlebotinum: The metal plate grafted to Mrs. Wrigley's skull usually gets used for something sooner or later, and she never seems to catch on (though she usually does feel a "Ping" when it happens.) Examples include being used as a magnet, getting struck by lightning, using it as a radio antennae to pick-up a radio station from halfway across the world and reflecting the signal from a garage door opener off in order to close it. It's also how Dad found her in the first place- with a metal detector at the beach. They hit it off and the rest is history.
- April Fools' Plot: In "The Last Laugh" Little Pete concocts a simple prank against his principal that has an elaborate strategy of subterfuge and unusual alliances in order to get past the principal who is Properly Paranoid
- Animated Tattoo: Spoofed. Little Pete can flex his arm muscles to make Petunia "dance". It has a hypnotizing effect on whoever watches, making them forget what they were talking about.
- Baseball Episode: "Field of Pete"
- Beachcombing: In a typically surreal and hilarious manner. The Wrigleys take a trip to the beach, and using his metal detector, Don finds a car buried in the sand. Then the family digs it out and drives home in it.
- This is also the way that Don met Joyce for the first time when they were younger, all thanks to the metal-plate in her head.
- Berserk Button: In "Yellow Fever", Bus Driver Stu Benedict's is his and his ex-girlfriend's song - "If You're Happy and You Know It".
- Bigger on the Inside: Another source of the show's quirky humor. Artie's residence looks like a normal Port-A-Potty, but apparently it's big enough to host a dinner party with a lot of people...?
- Artie is a Time Lord? That actually makes a lot of sense.
- Big Bad: Oh god, Endless Mike...
- Big Damn Heroes: Little Pete saving Big Pete from the Pumpkin Eters in "Halloweenie".
- Book Ends: In "Nightcrawlers", little Pete's mother interrupts a game of flashlight tag he is having with his friends near the beginning. At the end, she plays flashlight tag with Pete to keep him on track to break the world record when there was no one else around.
- Brand X: Most Krebstar products are thinly veiled parodies of existing brands, including Kreben Up soda (7-Up), Kreb of the Loom underwear (Fruit of the Loom), Kreb Newtons (Fig Newtons), Krebbin Donuts (Dunkin Donuts), Kreb Duds (Milk Duds), etc.
- Buccaneer Broadcaster: WART Radiois a radio pirate station managed by little Pete. And it's a little bit infamous with the neighbors.
- Call Back: Several, especially considering how continuity ends up working with the series (which could or could not affect a determined person's Character Development). For example, the main plot for big Pete about dating Ellen in "Time Tunnel" goes on from the Opening Narration from the original shorts. She is a girl and a friend, but was she a girlfriend?
- The Cameo: One of the great joys of the show was the plethora of guest stars such as Steve Buscemi, Janeane Garofalo, Adam West, LL Cool J, and Bebe Neuwirth.
- The show was also crawling with cameos from alternative rock musicians including Iggy Pop (who had a recurring role as Nona's
dad pop), Kate Pierson of The B-52s, Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, Marshall Crenshaw, Syd Straw, Michael Stipe of REM, David Johansen of the New York Dolls, the rock band Luscious Jackson and Richard Edson (the original drummer for Sonic Youth)
- Canada, Eh?: In "Grounded for Life", Little Pete attempts to run away from home by riding a riding mower to Canada. A mountie catches him at the border, hitches the mower to the back of his horse and drags him home that way.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : Pretty much everything and anything that either Pete tries to pull off ends up biting them back later on.
- Catch Phrase: "I am Artie! The strongest man...in the world!"
- "The International Adult Conspiracy"
- Teddy: "What, you didn't know that?" and "¡Excelente!"
- Big Pete's Narration: "This is [person/place/thing]. And this is [something associated with it]."
- Mike Maronna apparently didn't pick up on this; he once autographed a photo with "if I had a catch-phrase I'd write it here."
- Wayne: "Super genius!"
- Character as Himself: Mom's Plate, the metal plate in Mrs. Wrigley's head; Petunia, Little Pete's tattoo.
- Character Aged with the Actor: The time in the series progressed as almost the same as in the real life. Both Michael Maronna and Danny Tamberelli were just kids at the time the first short was aired (11-12 and 7 years old respectively), and at the end, both were in High School and Middle School.
- Just to take an example, compare the narration/voice off of 'Valentine's Day Massacre' with the acting's audio of the same special. Michael's voice was cracking... and it didn't helped they were recording in cold days.
- Charlie Brown from Outta Town: Mr. Bear (Big Pete in disguise)
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Given the changes in between the series received the promotion from shorts to TV Specials TO TV series, expect this to happen with some characters. Especially, and notoriously the bullies, before the introduction of Endless Mike and/or Pit Strain for the respective older and younger Petes. The sad case, however, and much more present in the is the sudden dissapearance of Nona in season three, especially after being promoted in the opening credits.
- Cloud Cuckooland: Wellsville, though the outside world doesn't seem any saner.
- Clothes Make the Superman: One of the shorts credits at least some of Artie's powers to his outfit, which is a 60/60 blend (60% titanium, 40% cotton).
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Downplayed — a group of boys trying to force Little Pete to reveal a secret take out black markers and draw all over Petunia.
- CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): Dad attempts to use CPR to revive his lawn. It doesn't work, because it's a lawn
- A Day in the Limelight: "X = Why?"'s main focus centers on Ellen and her father (Steve Buscemi), with Big Pete playing a supporting character to her instead of the other way around.
- Drive-In Theater: Used as a setting when big Pete and Ellen go on a date.
- Darkest Hour: The second part of "Farewell My Little Viking.". John McFlemp is purging Artie's memory, and has turned him into just another white collar guy in a suit, and Little Pete, who's normally The Determinator, is on the verge of giving up. But then, Pete's dad has a Heel Realization and heads to find Artie, who goes back to his old ways while Little Pete stands up to Papercut on his own.
- The Determinator: Little Pete rarely gives up on anything, and in a world filled with people for whom adult swim (No, not that one) is treated like oppression of free speech, Little Pete is the king of it, doing insane things solely on principle.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The shorts for beginners, Hardy Rawls does not take the role of 'dad' until so much later, another actor played him in the first shorts.
- Little Pete not using his iconic hat as much as in the TV series. This is more evidently in "New Year's Pete", where you see him without it so much longer than later.
- Speaking of, Petunia. Though the design is the same during the whole 7 years of filming the series, the position of it was different since it was originally in little Pete's left arm, not right. Danny Tamberelli is left-handed, assuming that this made the design harder to maintain clean or perfect during shots (since it needed to be redrawn or recolored), and that he was going to school at the time, it was later changed during the filming of the eight episodes of the first season.
- The use of other bullies, the shorts had Hat Head; and in "Valentine's Day Massacre" we have Open Face, and they were never used or seen again.
- Embarrassing Tattoo: Little Pete's "Petunia", a lounging woman in a Spanish-style dressnote ; subverted in that Mrs. Wrigley is the one embarrassed by it.
- Enemy Mine: In "Last Laugh", Pit Stain and Little Pete team up against Schwinger.
- Escalating War: Ellen's father and the Petes' father got into a huge prank war in the episode "Apocalypse Pete".
- Fleeting Passionate Hobbies: Basically Ellen's defining character trait.
- Funny Background Event: You can see Bus Driver Stu beating the
crap straw out of a scarecrow through the bus window while Mike is talking Big Pete into pranking Bill on the bus in "Yellow Fever".
- Garden Hose Squirt Surprise
- Geek Physiques: The show largely avoids this trope, but Joe Jones from "Space, Geeks, and Johnny Unitas" plays it painfully straight (although admittedly he proves to be both a football and UFO nerd and an alien).
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Several examples, most notably Endless Mike's dating advice in "Time Tunnel": "No fog, no fun"
- A significant portion of Little Pete's lines are Parental Bonus.
Dad (to Little Pete): Pete, we need to have a talk, as father to son.
Little Pete: Oh, don't worry, dad. Artie already had that talk with me.
- And again in "Field of Pete":
Little Pete (pointing to a chart which the camera is behind and therefore the viewer cannot see): And that, my friend, is how you turn a colt into a gelding.
- This quote from "Yellow Fever", where the bus has pulled over for its passengers to pee:
Della: It's hard for me to go with everyone thinking about me!
Bus Driver Stu: Nobody think about Della! (to random student) You! You're thinking about her. You disgust me!
- In "Farewell, My Little Viking", when Artie is hawking aluminum siding, he uses the side of the house to give himself a back massage:
Artie: You too will enjoy the feeling of the pleasure ridges!
- G-Rated Drug: Extra-frosty Orange Lazaruses give those who consume them too fast brain freezes of such intensity that the victims start tripping.
- Guardian Angel: Inspector 34.
- Handy Feet: Happens in "Time Tunnel" in which Big Pete is trying to date Ellen. He calls her on the phone while she's barefoot and meanwhile he asks her random questions, he also asks her "try writing something with your foot." She holds the pencil with her toes and does just that.
- Heat Wave: "How We Spent Our Summer Vacation" and "The Call" have used this in their own plots.
- In "How We Spent Our Summer Vacation", the heat affected severely to the kids (as consequence of Tastee escaping from Wellsville, they couldn't have something to relieve it), to the point of being hypnotized by the arm fat of one of the neighbors.
- The phone ringing "curse" in "The Call", combined with what was the most hot summer day everyone has passed through their lives, literally, made everyone crazier than usual.
- Human Alien: Joe Jones
- Iconic Outfit: Little Pete wore a red flannel cap almost everywhere he went. It gets lampshaded when he's wearing it in the middle of the summer.
- He also uses long-sleeved shirts EVEN in the middle of the summer (because of hiding Petunia, mandated by his mother) and boots if not all the time.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: The theme song, "Hey Sandy", is made of this, the most commonly misinterpreted lyric was "Don't you talk back" as "Does your dog bite?". The lyrics have since been published, except for the third line, which according to the DVD commentary will remain a mystery but according to the DVD subtitles is "Can you settle to shoot me?".
- Danny Tamberelli (Little Pete) claimed on Reddit that the line is "Can you settle a sure bet?". It would make sense, as it properly fits the song's rhyme scheme.
- It's been widely rumored to be "can you stand to shoot me", as part of the larger subset of rumors regarding the song being about a victim of the Kent State shootings.
- Interactive Narrator: Big Pete, who tells the story after the fact. Early on, the show was supposed to mimic the sort of long, rambling stories small children have a tendency to tell, but this angle on the narration was dropped during the series proper when Big Pete became too old for this to work.
- I Uh You Too: Big Pete cannot spit it out to Ellen ("I...I"), to which Ellen responds "It's OK, I know" and smooches him in the middle of a packed high school stadium.
- Kids Versus Adults: Try mostly with the International Adult Conspiracy. They might be completely evil (McFlemp, for example, conspired with the adult neighbors to get rid off of Artie), but not every adult is neccesarily evil. They just live mostly with the rules that adults need to live with...
- Large Ham: Every guest star. And Artie, of course.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The main theme, "Hey Sandy," is a peppy alt-rock song that is widely rumored to be about the Kent State Massacre. (Naturally, however, it was a chore to get even most of the lyrics clarified—finding out the meaning is all but a lost cause. See Indecipherable Lyrics above.)
- Little Pete's favorite song from one episode is "Summerbaby" (performed by Polaris, who also did the opening theme) which includes lines like "When I'm alone I do things nobody knows" and "Every drop of sex and every little mess I make".
- Though the version sung in the episode was altered to "Every time I guess and every little mess I make".
- At this point, almost if not all the music used in the series that is authored by Polaris and Mark Mulcahy, completely fills this thanks to their lyrics, that is if you want to interpret them with pretty deep meaning in the lyrics as "Hey Sandy" or even on what "Waiting for October" hide in. Not even the creators are sure about what the songs specifically talk about, except Mulcahy himself, perhaps.
- Meaningful Name: Many of the bullies, such as Open Face (who loved his open-faced sammiches) and Papercut (who had an obsession with dealing out...well, paper cuts - and he always threw Paper during Rock-Paper-Scissors).
Slushmaster Bob: "I have become Slushmaster, destroyer of brains!"
- In "On Golden Pete," involving the Petes' Dad's obsessive quest to catch an elusive striped bass, his HAM radio nickname is revealed to be Ahab.
- Metaphorgotten: "The Day Of The Dot"
- Mundane Fantastic: Spandex-clad superheros, radio signals being picked up by skull plates, sound-proof burp chambers, black-market expired pudding and underwear-inspecting guardian angels are amongst the many bizarre and improbable things no one bats an eye at. Hell, the Wrigleys ones found a fully-functioning car under a beach with a metal detector and drove it home. Perfectly normal.
- Noodle Incident: Little Pete has the ability to find out about these and unnerve people by making passing mention of them.
- Little Pete has his own incidents too. He had a hand in causing a lake to dry and partly responsible for the collapse of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
- And no one knows for certain how he got the tattoo...
- His first footsteps were on the ceiling of the porch. You look up above the front door and you see painted black footsteps walking across it.
- "Field of Pete" has a ton of them, when Little Pete goes from using his epic trash talking skills to using an apparently endless amount of blackmail material he has on the other baseball teams, all of which he implies with only a few words. As an example, we never do get to learn why their mom won't let Big Pete buy the lard any more, except that a small amount of it had previously proven amazingly "explosive."
- One of the Kids: A very rare case of a "good" adult child was Artie, who was the local super-hero, best friend to all children and a positive (yet very weird) role model to anyone who actually listened to him.
- One Steve Limit: But of course. Goes the extra mile by including their surnames.
- Orphaned Punchline: We don't hear Bill's entire joke that causes Teddy to explode milk from his nose, other than the punchline of "So I'll put it OVER HERE!"
- Parent Trap Plot: "Apocalypse Pete" to the extreme.
- Pig Latin: "Ikay ankay ountkay onyay ooyay."
- Platonic Life Partners: Played straight and with. By the writers' own admission on the DVD Commentary, they were unfamiliar with character arcs, so every episode was written enitrely self-contained, meaning Pete and Ellen's friendship was sometimes bent to fit the plot at hand. Most episodes played the trope straight, but several have one pining for the other, most notably "Day of the Dot", "The Big Quiet", "Time Tunnel", and "Crisis in the Love Zone". See also Relationship Reset Button below.
- The Power of Rock: Little Pete, in an attempt to fish out an Ear Worm, starts up a band and experiments with various chords, one of which has a disruptive effect on Artie.
- Power Trio:
- Put on a Bus: Poor, poor Artie. (In retrospect, all Toby Huss can remember of his reasons for leaving is that he did it "of his own accord", according to his commentary on the DVD.)
- Perhaps lampshaded, as Little Pete thereafter kept regular company with Bus Driver Stu.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: There actually are a few, Mr. Slurm comes to mind, in fact the Aesop of the episode he's featured in is about Pete overcoming his prejudices about him and his shop class, in general.
- Relationship Reset Button: Whether Pete & Ellen were friends or toying with being more than was irrelevant by the next episode. They had a series-finale-quality kiss in front of a high-school-stadium audience in episode 2, and nothing ever really came of it. By the writers' own admission on the commentary, "I think we just forgot about it."
- Rock-Paper-Scissors: Papercut, who always threw paper.
- Running Gag: "Sally left me. Again. Over nothing!"
- Serious Business: Pretty much the point of the show.
- The school marching band, bedtimes, shop class, bowling balls, school tests, dodgeball, favorite songs, baseball, awkward silence, Daylight Saving Time, Halloween, underwear inspecting, fishing, field trips, good-luck charms, pool piss, pool hierarchy, spring fever, Varsity sports, how fast your electricity meter is spinning...
- The above is only a very partial list. Every episode has at least one thing receiving the Serious Business treatment, however, it's more likely the show has two, one for Big Pete and one for Little Pete. It's also not uncommon for side characters to demonstrate their own serious businesses, without following up on their plot. The final episode "Saturday" simply follows half a dozen characters and their big reactions to very little things.
- "I created Orange Lazarus... for world peace..." The Orange Lazarus is a slushy drink. This is the ONLY time in the entire series that people think someone is going overboard on how serious they take things. However, that's just the World Peace part. Everyone else 'merely' treats it like a Gargle Blaster with nigh-occult powers.
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: See the page quote.
- They tried going on a date once, in the episode "Time Tunnel", but in true sitcom style, it was a disaster. But the night still ended well for them (by TV-Y standards anyway).
- Ship Tease: Going hand-in-hand with the above trope. 2/3rds of the show played Pete and Ellen straight as Platonic Life Partners. The other third falls hard in this.
- Shout-Out: In "Tool and Die", when Pete sneaks around Mr. Slurm's classroom and is caught, the shot of Pete on his back with Mr. Slurm standing over him, both pointing flashlights at each other, is a direct shout out to Reservoir Dogs and its iconic image of Mr. White and Mr. Pink in a standoff. In "X = Why?", there are movie posters in a theater promoting Reservoir Pups and Pup Fiction; this episode also features Steve Buscemi, who appeared in both of the Tarentino movies being referenced.
- Skyward Scream: After Endless Mike has taken out the last of the wrestlers in Big Pete's weight class (who Little Pete was guarding):
Little Pete: CURSE YOU, ENDLESS MIKE!!
- Stock Footage: They only seem to have two X-rays of the plate in Mom's head...
- Surreal Humour: One of the series' better traits was its use of humor in ways that nobody would expect. Heavy use of the Funny Background Event, the Noodle Incident, and just all out weirdness that nobody ever bats an eye towards.
- Taking A Third Option: When it comes to Papercut playing Rock-Paper-Scissors, you have two options: choose paper and lose, or be too afraid to choose rock, because he's going to beat you up anyway. Little Pete and all his friends finally stand up to his bullying by creating new hand signs to represent forces of nature that can't be beaten, such as volcanoes and meteors.
- Tranquillizer Dart: Subverted in the Christmas Episode; Little Pete shoots the Garbage Man with a tranq (actually hitting a major vein!), and it takes a couple minutes of real-time to start taking effect.
- Two Guys and a Girl: As lampshaded in the page quote, above.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: A bulk of the show's episodes are formatted this way, with Big Pete's plot concerning stories relatable to teenagers (dating, sports, jobs) while Little Pete's stories focused on more adolescent adventures and Aesops, with little, if any, intersection between the two. The episodes that had both Petes together were usually family-related.
- Unintentional Period Piece: Even with no real current events or issues of the time being mentioned, the blatantly 90s fashions and soundtracks make the time period very obvious.
- Unrequited Love Switcheroo: The shorts, specials and "Day of the Dot" present Ellen as pining after Big Pete, with him having to remind her that she's "a girl, and a friend, but not my girlfriend". Season two episodes, like "Yellow Fever" and "Time Tunnel", turn this around— Big Pete is starting to wonder if he has feelings for Ellen, but she no longer reciprocates.
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: Little Pete spends the entire "New Year's Pete" special daydreaming about and saving up for a jetpack sold in the back of a comic book. The jetpack turns out to be a leafblower.
- Where The Hell Is Wellsville?: Wellsville, USA. It's apparently 4 hours away from Canada if you run (or use a riding lawnmower,) located in a forested but flat section of the country that is close to the beach.note
- Wondrous Ladies Room: In the episode "All-Nighter", little Pete and two of his friends (Wayne and Monica) end up locked in the school overnight by accident. Naturally, hijinks ensue as all three take the opportunity to do all the things they would otherwise never be allowed to do on school grounds. Monica decides to go and check out the BOYS room, since she has never been inside one in her life, apparently. Upon entering she is utterly astounded by the presence of urinals and completely baffled as to their purpose. The two boys (who happened to be in the exact same bathroom for some reason) decide to have some fun by telling her the urinal is "a foot washer".
- World of Weirdness: See Cloud Cuckooland above, or even Mundane Fantastic. It's a world completely full of Serious Business, too.
- World's Strongest Man: "Artie - the strongest mannnnnnnn *Dramatic Pause* in the woooorrrrld!"
- His on-camera feats include hitting a golf ball 300,003 feet, pushing a house to the left an inch (he wanted to knock it over, but he had strained a muscle earlier while lifting a brassiere emporium), rolling a bowling ball from whatever state Wellsville is in into Canada, skipping a stone on Neptune, leaving the Wrigley's gutters clean and spotless by blowing through the drainage pipe (and said gunk going flying all over the neighborhood,) and leaping across the city in a single jump.