The Adventures of Pete & Pete:(Paramount Home Entertainment, 5.17.2005)
Meet the Wrigley brothers, also known as Pete and Pete. Meet dad, a big, bald, lawn/bowling ball loving goofball of a man. Meet Mom, who has a metal plate in her head that picks up radio stations, ball games, and police CB signals. Of course, there's also the strongest man in the world, Artie, the town's spandexed superhero (and also one of the greatest characters to ever appear on network television). These are the central characters of one the best-written kid's shows ever to air.
The narrative expertly juggles two story lines, one for big Pete's adolescent problems (girls and shop class) and the other for little Pete and his struggles to stay up late, tend to his forearm tattoo of an exotic woman named Petunia, and basically raise a little ten year old hell. Each episode usually has a plot for each sibling, and they usually intersect quite cleverly.
This show is beyond absurd, yet it is entirely endearing, as well as emotionally realistic. Sure, the situations are ludicrously bizarre, but the characters and their reactions are 100% genuine and even enlightening. The show is also extremely well cast, with average-looking people living in an average-looking town wearing average-looking clothes. It's such a breath of fresh air to see normal people leading normal lives on TV for a change (sorry O.C.-ers).
On top of being both surreal and sensible, the show is also frequently laugh-out-loud funny and completely appealing. It's also riddled with an endless stock of quirky characters, situations, cinematography, music (I have no clue what the lyrics to the opening song are, but I still love it). There's also an enormous amount of guest spots by the likes of Steve Buscemi, Vincent Pastore, Hunter S. Thompson (what the fuck!?!), Michael Stipe, Heather Matarazzo, and the fat kid from Heavyweights. I was completely amazed at how many interesting people participated in such a low-budget kid's show. Big props to Nickelodeon.
In addition to season one's eight classic episodes, we also get four bonus episodes that aired before the show's first season was green-lit. Also included are two sixty second shorts that were created as a between show series prior to the official first season. The special and shorts are all classic. It's amazing how high-concept these sixty second spots actually are...and with such low production values.
Also included are three audio commentaries that are an absolute treasure to behold for any fan of the show. There are so many great facts and amusing anecdotes, it's outrageous. Finally, there's the Polaris music station. This band did the opening song, as well as the majority of music that plays throughout the show. Good thing they stuck with an indie band, therefore avoiding ludicrous music clearing prices for home video. The music station consists of a bunch of audio tracks by the band. It would've been neat if we could see some sort of Pete & Pete montage to the music, but no worries.
One huge drawback to this set is the intolerably crappy video transfer. This seriously looks worse than a VHS bootleg. In one unfortunate case there is an episode (the second) that has a horizontal analogue tape tracking error that lasts nearly half the episode. That is simply not acceptable. Other major problems include interlacing errors and a complete lack of overall detail and color representation. Whenever there's a lot of movement (ie. a character, the camera), the entire image becomes distorted. Audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 sounds pretty clear, but subtitles would've been nice, at least for interpreting the lyrics to the opening song.
Overall, this is an outstanding season of an excellent kid's show. Whether young or old, anyone can enjoy the (mis)adventures of Pete and Pete. At first the show may seem a little less than incredible, but as you go through each episode, I can almost guarantee that it will cast its alluring spell on you. By the time it's over, you'll be begging for more Wrigley action. Luckily, season 2 arrives in stores on Tuesday. Look for a review here soon. -- Neil Karassik