You're lookin' happily deranged
Could you settle to shoot me?
Or have you picked your target yet?
Even though I was a college student at the time and shouldn't have had a single reason to tune in to the kiddie fare airing on Nickelodeon, it turns out there were actually several. The early 90's were ground zero for the "Alternative" revolution in American pop culture. Its influence was most obvious on the music of the time, but its effects also spilled over into movies, books, magazines and even television shows. Nickelodeon was actually one of the more free-spirited channels, in that they were willing to let show creators get away with a lot and take chances in order to develop an original voice.
This environment led to some of the best cartoons of the 90's including The Ren & Stimpy Show, Doug and Rocko's Modern Life. Still, it was a little show that actually began as a series of 60-second promos called The Adventures Of Pete & Pete ("Season One" review can be found here) that would capture the imagination of young and old alike. Set in the fictional town of Wellsville, U.S.A., but shot in the New Jersey suburbs, this unique show followed the titular brothers, their eccentric family and friends in what can only be described as an adolescent version of Twin Peaks.
Big Pete (Michael Maronna) is the older of the two and this second season of episodes finds him maturing, developing stronger feelings for his "best friend" Ellen, standing up to his nemesis, the wonderfully named Endless Mike, and getting more respect and responsibilities from his parents, The Wrigleys. Little Pete (Danny Tamberelli), believe it or not, is actually worse this season, as his older brother Pete who often looked out for him, finds other "things" taking up his time. Little Pete can fend for himself, and with his own personal superhero, Artie, the self-professed "strongest man in the world" by his side, there's no stopping him. However, the introduction of a new girl in town, Nona Mecklenberg (played by the young Michelle Trachtenberg) gives Little Pete a new "friend," and maybe eventually something more.
The episodes included on this two-disc set are:
Episode 201: "Grounded For Life": Little Pete gets grounded when he ruins his dad's prized lawn. No way he's going to be stuck inside, so he digs his way out of the house to freedom.
Episode 202: "Field Of Pete": Big Pete is finally on a winning baseball team. Their secret? Using Little Pete to distract the competition by yelling at them while they're at bat. But the yelling is starting to distract Big Pete, too.
Episode 203: "The Call": A town pay phone has been ringing for 27 years, and no one will answer it, believing it's cursed. Little Pete has had enough and now he's going to answer the call!
Episode 204: "The Big Quiet": Big Pete can't seem to hold a conversation with his father. Imagine his horror when he finds himself in a car with his dad, alone… on a two-hour ride!
Episode 205: "Time Tunnel": Turning the clocks back for Daylight Saving Time compels the Petes to do something off-the-wall. Big Pete asks Ellen out on a "real" date and Little Pete travels back in time.
Episode 206: "Inspector 34": Little Pete is about to meet his guardian angel, "Kreb of the Loom" underwear Inspector 34.
Episode 207: "Halloweenie": Big Pete has lost his Halloween spirit. Could be because the Halloween terror gang, the Pumpkin Eaters, is looking for him!
Episode 208: "X=Why?": Ellen proposes the age-old question – why do we need to learn algebra word problems – to math teacher Miss Fingerwood, causing the teacher to question her whole life!
Episode 209: "On Golden Pete": Dad and Little Pete are on a mission to capture Bob, an elusive striped bass. Big Pete is on a mission of his own to save the intended target.
Episode 210: "Farewell, My Little Viking Part 1": John McFlemp tries to convince everyone that Artie, the suburban superhero, is a menace to the neighborhood. The community elects Mr. Wrigley to run Artie out of town.
Episode 211: "Farewell, My Little Viking Part 2": With Artie gone, Little Pete is faced by a villain, Paper Cut, who threatens to shred him.
Episode 212: "Yellow Fever": School Bus Driver Stu is distraught over his breakup with Bus Driver Sally, and it's affecting his driving.
Episode 213: "Sick Day": Wanting a day off from school, Little Pete fakes food poisoning. Left home alone, Pete breaks the cardinal rule of faking sick and goes outside where he risks being seen!
Special 05: "Space, Geeks and Johnny Unitas": Big Pete and Ellen must complete a project for their evil science teacher Mr. Porchman to avoid Summer School, but get sidetracked by their mysterious new friend Joe Jones.
As always, there's a never-ending parade of C-list celebrities and musicians all eager to join in on the fun. Notable guest stars include Adam West, Patty Hearst, Chris Elliot, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Buscemi, David Johansen and LL Cool J. But possibly the best addition to this second season of episodes is Rock God Iggy Pop as Mr. Mecklenberg, Nona's father. As the brothers grow older, the writers are able to introduce even more strange and compelling storyline which resonate with an older audience. Now that doesn't mean that the show goes out of it's way to alienate youngsters, but let's face it the series always operated on multiple levels for all ages to enjoy.
Picture: The Adventures Of Pete & Pete: Season Two is presented in it's original Full Screen (1.33:1) aspect ratio. The transfer is on par with broadcast quality, without any major problems like the video glitch present on Season One's "Day Of The Dot" episode.
Audio: The audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and sounds fine. A huge portion of the show's appeal comes from its eclectic soundtrack, most of which is provided by the band Polaris. Original music from the series has been collected on the CD, "Music From The Adventures Of Pete And Pete."
Extras: The Extras on disc one are limited to a commentary track by show creators Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi and stars Michael Marrona and Danny Tamberelli for "Halloweenie." The rest of the Extras on disc two include two more commentary tracks. One including Will McRobb, Chris Viscardi, Toby Huss ("Artie"), Michael Marrona and Danny Tamberelli for "Farewell, My Little Viking Parts 1 & 2." The second commentary features Will McRobb, Chris Viscardi, show writer Joe Stillman and director Damon Santostefano for "Yellow Fever." The special "Space, Geeks and Johnny Unitas" is considered an "Extra," as well as five more of the original 60 second shorts: "Artie, the Strongest Man... in the World!," "The Punishment," "Route 34," "X-Ray Man" and "The Launch."
Conclusion: The Adventures Of Pete & Pete: Season Two continues to deliver hilarious episode after episode of one of my favorite shows of the 90's, and I'm sure I'm not alone in the sense of nostalgia that these DVD releases have brought back. I often make the comparison to David Lynch's brilliant show Twin Peaks and like that series, The Adventures Of Pete & Pete offers up a brand of surreal sentimentality that is all to missing from TV these days. Even if you didn't watch this show when it first aired, do yourself a favor and pick up the "Complete First Season" set, after which pick up The Adventures Of Pete & Pete: Season Two as it also comes Highly Recommended.