The Adventures of Pete & Pete was one of many favorite shows I had as a child. While waiting for “Nick at Nite” to be on, I would watch everything Nickelodeon had to offer. I love Clarissa Explains It All, Hey Dude, Round House, Salute Your Shorts, seriously, anything that was on Nickelodeon in the ’90s and SNICK in particular, I was on board with.
There are a ton of things that were way over my head when I was watching Pete & Pete, but I maybe that’s what was so genius about it. The best “children’s” programming doesn’t talk down to kids and assumes we can recognize awesome things without being beaten over the head with it (I took several Children’s TV classes in college and am just really passionate about it, okay?).
I learned many thing by just watching this show, including but not limited to: the idea that there are photo developing places that are huts in parking lots (what!), who Johnny Unitas was and the idea of parents (or any adult, really) using reverse psychology on me. I learned that you would go crazy if you stayed up all night (and especially for 11 days straight) and that kids are supposed to have crazy nicknames (like Pit Stain, Papercut and Endless Mike). And it was also where I developed by adoration for Michelle Trachtenberg, which quickly developed into a full blown obsession once Harriet the Spy came out (one of my fvorite books).
Here are five ways The Adventures of Pete & Pete ruined my life:
1. Made Me Want a Colorful Cast of Characters Around Me At All Times
One of the best things about Pete & Pete is the sheer volume of amazing side characters. We have Little Pete’s inexplicable tattoo, Petunia (he also has a giant ship tattoo on his back that they never really address), Artie the Strongest man in the world, Mom’s Plate, Mr. Tastee, the lovesick Bus Driver Stu Benedict, the crazy shop teacher and many more.
It just makes me want to live in that world and know people who go by strange names and know pre-teens with awesome tattoos.
Basically, all my friends are disappointments to me.
2. This is What Taught Me “She’s a Girl and She’s My Friend, But She’s Not My Girlfriend” Thing
Obviously, this is something that everyone learns at some point in their lives – to say to adults, “he’s a boy and he’s my friend but he’s not my boyfriend.” I just happened to learn it from Pete & Pete.
When I was younger I almost exclusively played with boys. I had one female best friend in kindergarten whose first name, Mallory, is my middle name but mostly we spent recess playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the boys. So I was already very accustomed to the idea of having boy friends who weren’t your boyfriend.
But Pete and Ellen’s relationship really drove this home for me. Until I got older and thought, “hmm why AREN’T they boyfriends?”
But that’s for another time.
3. I Truly Believed Ellen and I Were One In the Same
I mean, just look at the main picture and compare it to this:
Okay, but seriously, the comparisons are endless. Pete & Pete debuted in the fall of 1993 when I was in 4th grade. In the spring of 1993 when I was in third grade we had a presentation from the older kids on band and orchestra instruments. So we could choose instruments to play starting in 4th grade. This 5th grader came in with a French horn and I was like, “duh, I’m playing whatever that thing is.” So, despite the fact that my new school didn’t usually start 4th graders on the French horn, I (well, my mom, I assume) convinced them that I really felt strongly about this and didn’t want to play anything else.
So obviously then there’s this character on Pete & Pete with a name that starts with an E – just like mine! – who played the French horn and had brown hair. Soulmates.
We never did anything crazy like their routines in marching band in high school but I still always referenced “I am the dot” whether out loud or to myself, whenever we had to play in the Thanksgiving parade.
4. Made Me Feel Totally Justified in Thinking of Daylight Savings Time as Time Travel
I lived in a house where once the clock struck 12:01am “tomorrow” was officially “today” and if you said, “I have to be up early tomorrow” my dad’s reply would be, “I thought you had to be up early today!”
I also lived in a house where when you drove into another state and passed the state line my dad would yell as if being turned inside out by the passage into another state.
So what I’m saying is, I always thought of Daylight Savings Time as time travel and I always loved saying, “I’ll see you next year!” if it was close to New Year’s.
And Pete & Pete was right there with me on that front. Between Clarissa Darling and the Wrigley brothers I had all the assurance I needed that I was totally normal and everyone else was insane. And I think that’s the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned.
5. I Wanted to Investigate Everything
As I mentioned in my X-Files post, I used to keep a journal of “weird sightings.” This was due to all of my paranormal TV obsessions (including, also, Eerie, Indiana, which I LOVED) and in part to Pete & Pete.
They just seemed to have the best time. I love a good summer vacation episode (the Tiny Toon Adventures one is one of my personal favorites) and the Pete & Pete one where they try to track down Mr. Tastee across the country is another one.
I just want some fun adventures with my friends that I keep a log of (much like my aforementioned Harriet the Spy addiction) and see where our ice cream truck guy goes at the end of the summer. Is that too much to ask?
I also became obsessed with the inspector tags in clothes and to this day, I can’t reach into a pocket and find one without thinking of Pete & Pete.
Oh, Inspector 34.