Saturday, June 17, 2017

Why The Adventures of Pete & Pete Still Endures | #PeteAndPeteTakeover | NickSplat

As Nickelodeon's beloved '90s series The Adventures of Pete & Pete gets a retrospective launch on NickSplat, stars Michael C. Maronna and Danny Tamberelli and co-creator Chris Viscardi recently discussed the past, present and future of the series with IGN.

It’s been quite awhile since episodes of The Adventures of Pete and Pete have aired on a Nickelodeon station, but that’s about to change, as episodes of the ever-popular 1990s comedy -- about two identically-named brothers -- are joining the lineup on NickSplat, the retro programming block that airs every night beginning at 10:00pm ET/PT on the TeenNick channel.

Saturday, July 17th and Sunday, July 18th will all be Pete and Pete focused on NickSplat, with “The Strongest Reunion in the World” event. Besides airing classic episodes, there will also be newly-filmed segments with Michael C. Maronna (“Big Pete”) and Danny Tamberelli (“Little Pete”).

Maronna, Tamberelli and The Adventures of Pete and Pete co-creator Chris Viscardi were all on hand last weekend at a the ATX Television Festival in Austin for a NickSplat panel that also included cast and creators from Hey Dude and Salute Your Shorts. IGN sat down with the Pete and Pete trio to talk about the surreal show’s enduring cult popularity, if we can ever get the third season on DVD (Season 1 and Season 2 were released years ago), favorite episodes, and if Pete and Pete could ever get revived with new episodes.


Danny Tamberelli and Michael C. Maronna in The Adventures of Pete and Pete.

IGN: As time goes on, it must be really gratifying for you guys that Pete and Pete continues to have such a notable afterlife and fandom.

Chris Viscardi: It is really gratifying, I think probably for all of us. We made a show many, many years ago and while we were making it, I think we all knew it was something special because we were having so much fun making it. But you never really know the impact it has on people. It started to connect with me that the audience was so in love with it after the show went off the air and people started to go kind of crazy for it. It doesn’t feel like it ever subsided all these years later, which is really fascinating. It was really good storytelling. It was a really weird, unique, wonderful world that was really emotional. I think that stuff stands the test of time. It felt really unique while we were making it and it feels really unique now. I think that’s why when new audiences are finding it, they’re really like it. Because it’s really not like anything else that’s been out there, certainly for kids.

IGN: What do you think it is that has helped it have this longevity?

Danny Tamberelli: I think it’s the honesty of it. People who connect with it…Something in that show really hit them. People will come up to me and say that the show really helped shape them as a person and I am a product of that as well, so it’s mutual. I totally understand what they mean because it does. When you have a show that does something like that, I can’t see it not lingering, particularly for those people.

Michael C. Maronna: It’s not like any of us could see the future, but we knew it was going to be a good show. It has four elements. There’s some crazy, there’s a beautiful… What is it?

Viscardi: Funny, sad, strange and beautiful!

Maronna: Funny, sad, strange, and beautiful! And we managed to check all those boxes a lot. With the nostalgia culture we have today, I think Nickelodeon employed a very good strategy, much like the tobacco companies, “hook ‘em young.”

Viscardi: Well done!

Maronna: We connected with our audience emotionally very young, when they were very impressionable and now these kids have grown up, gotten married, and have kids. They still want to introduce that show that makes them remember being a kid to their kids, which I think is the most important loop of this. It means we’ll have a longer lifetime than just.. copyright.

Viscardi: There’s a universe of kids out there that are still not spoken to that much in television and certainly back then they weren’t. More of the outsider, you could call them the misfit kid, the quieter kid. Not the cool kid in school. I don’t think we were intending to make this kind of show for those kids but we were making it with a sensibility and a sense of humor and the stories we wanted to tell that were clearly connecting with that group. It’s gratifying to have connected with that audience back in the day and that they’re still as passionate now about it. Everything these guys are saying… The emotional honesty of the show and the silly sense of humor both stand up.

IGN: Were you surprised by how strange Nick was letting you go at the time?

Viscardi: We were pushing the envelope intentionally in a few places. Not, like, in sexual grounds, but just things that were weird and strange and a little bit dark. They were very giving back in that day. I’m eternally grateful for that. Here’s a good example of that. We were making this show -- and I’m sure this is a part of the reason why it connected with high school and college kids too -- and we had Iggy Pop and Michael Stipe and all these artists on the show. No kid knew who they were!

IGN: [IGN's Eric Goldman] was a huge Luscious Jackson fan, and [he] was like “Oh my god, they’re on a TV show!”

Viscardi: There you go! [to Maronna and Tamberelli] Did you guys play in the band or sing along?

Maronna: Gabby and I just looked at each other a lot. But Scottie, who was a grip on Season 1, is married to Jill Cunnif of Luscious Jackson.

Viscardi: So in that episode, you remember, Luscious Jackson is the school band and then Iggy Pop is dancing to that band. I mean, how surreal is that?

Tamberelli: He sings a song too! He gives a little crooner!

Maronna: And at the same time, greased up Tamberelli is shooting through the halls.


Danny Tamberelli and Michael C. Maronna discuss The Adventures of Pete and Pete at the ATX Television Festival.

Tamberelli: The thing about that is the art department, prop department, whoever had to grease me down and let me know that this was the same stuff that they used in Alien. So I was super pumped about that. I said, “Yes!”

Viscardi: I think also one of the things that really connected with people is that we did treat every episode as though it were its own movie. It had real scale to it and was very cinematic in a lot of ways, which is really different for a kids show, especially a half hour comedy. It really tapped into childhood adventures in a really epic way that really made it stand out. It just felt much bigger than any other kid’s show that was out there.

IGN: [It feels] Pete and Pete sometimes doesn’t get enough credit, because it preceded, by a few years, Scrubs and Malcolm in the Middle - shows that were seen as kicking off a certain single cam, offbeat style. But you guys were already doing that.

Maronna: There’s a reason that Scrubs has that aesthetic. It’s because our later director of photography, John Inwood, was also a director of photography for some time on Scrubs and then went on to direct episodes as well.

Viscardi: I could be wrong, fact check me on this, but I believe that Adam Bernstein [who directed three Pete and Pete episodes] directed the pilot on both of those series. [Editor’s Note: IGN checked! Bernstein directed the Scrubs pilot, though not Malcolm in the Middle pilot.]

Maronna: And he’s a whip pan, snap, zoom guy.

Tamberelli: [Laughs] Whip. Pan. Snap. Zoom.

IGN: Being so young at the time, were you guys aware of the cachet of some of these guest stars?

Maronna: No, we had to get crash courses.

Tamberelli: Some of them. I was very excited when Chris Elliot was on the show because I knew who he was

Maronna: I had to have Patty Hearst explained to me several times. Several times.

Viscardi: LL Cool J you guys knew. Kate Pierson from the B-52s.

Maronna: Bebe Neuwirth.

Tamberelli: LL Cool J… William Hickey, who was our grandfather, was something that meant a lot to me as someone who was a huge National Lampoon Christmas Vacation fan. When he came on set I was just – “Blessed!” the whole time. But I didn’t know who Iggy Pop was. I had to get a crash course.

Maronna: Some of them we had a chance to catch up after the fact.

Tamberelli: David Johansen. I knew him as Buster Poindexter only.

Maronna: But his work on the show as the park ranger was just incredible. That could have been one of our best.


Chris Viscardi discusses The Adventures of Pete and Pete at the ATX Television Festival

IGN: At the time when you were making outreach to these people, how aware were they of the show? How did this become the thing to do?

Viscardi: One of our creative partners on the show was Katherine Dieckmann. She directed all the short films, she directed the specials, and a number of episodes through all three seasons.

Maronna: She directed “Shiny Happy People” and the “Stand” video [both from R.E.M.]. Some really important videos.

Viscardi: She was a writer for the Village Voice at the time. She did a lot of rock interviews and knew people in that world. She did music videos. She was our straight connection to some of those folks like Michael Stipe and Richard Edson and Syd Straw. Then the good thing for us was once we finished a few episodes, we’d share them with the agents or managers of people we wanted to get on the show. They just saw how weird and indie rock the spirit of the show was. And the reality is once you get someone like Michael Stipe to be on it, you’re good from that point on.

Tamberelli: You just show the clip of Michael Stipe with the kids and it’s like, okay, Iggy Pop’s in!

Viscardi: If you’re a musician you’re just like “if Stipe did it, I might as well do it.” That made it very easy for us.

IGN: I’m sure you’ve been asked this question many times, but for each of you is there a defining or favorite moment from Pete and Pete?

Maronna: The William Hickey episode, “When Petes Collide” - the bowling ball episode. For me, that was very emotional because it represented a place where the brothers almost came to a split. Even though it manifested in these cool outward things like The McLaughlin Group video.

Tamberelli: I didn’t know who he was either!

Maronna: I think “When Petes Collide” had a lot of emotional resonance for me. I have a little brother and I can understand that type of stuff.

Tamberelli: It’s hard to say. Sometimes I think “Farewell my Little Viking” , the two-parter, was an emotional thing for me

Maronna: You have to pick one!

Tamberelli: Then the second one, part two! Because Toby [Huss] was a huge part of the show and it was something where it was the first time that I was supposed to be sad acting but I was also sort of bummed in reality too. “Toby’s not going to be on set anymore hanging out.” I thought that was interesting for me in a personal way. That was the first time for me as an actor that I wasn’t just doing the acting thing. There was some legitimate sadness. And now I’ve learned how to harness that!


Maronna: Some characters you can say “what happened to him?” “Oh he got on a train.” Artie was a big enough character that it took two episodes to say goodbye to him.

Viscardi: I agree on “Farewell my Little Viking part 2”, particularly the very end of it. For me it encapsulated a lot of what the show was about. We talked earlier about how the show strived to be funny, sad, strange and beautiful. It was all there in that moment. It was just so absurd because this “superhero” was leaving but it was also sad and beautiful and strange. But it also captured something that the show did really well, which is how do you say goodbye to childhood? And as you grow older, what does childhood mean and how aware are you that you’re moving on from childhood? In that moment, it kind of crystalized a lot of that stuff for us. It was really powerful. It still remains one of the sequences of the show that people talk about the most. The moment that Artie left… It was really beautiful, really sad. And then that totally absurd run off down the street! [Laughs]

Tamberelli: Yeah! And in that saying goodbye there’s also that little bit of hope. He just comes down and tells me to fear not, he’ll see me again.

IGN: Can you imagine if Pete and Pete was airing for the first time today, the memes the gifs the think pieces about Artie...

Maronna: Oh, The Onion would savage us.

Viscardi: Was there a moment on the show for you?

IGN: [IGN's Eric Goldman] probably repeat a lot of what you guys said.

Maronna: No, that’s not fair!

IGN: [Laughs] But also Luscious Jackson, because that was amazing! I have to ask, selfishly, what can we do to finally get Season 3 on DVD?

Tamberelli: You have to ask every single band and say “Come on guys, just give us a break.”

Viscardi: That’s part of the issue. We had so much fun using Indie rock bands and the record companies back in the day, a lot of them just broke apart and moved on and the rights moved all over the place. It’s been brutal to get the rights to a lot of the music we had on the show. That’s ultimately what the problem is. Not for all the episodes of Season 3, but for some of them. So we’re hoping that the ones that are cleared can start airing at least on the Splat. That’s our hope.

IGN: In this day and age especially, with so many revivals, do you think there’s hope for a new Pete and Pete story eventually?

Viscardi: Maybe! I think so.

Maronna: I think you can find new Pete and Pete stories. Now that you have the template from the old episodes, you can sort of see how your own life has some Pete and Pete elements to it. But I see what you’re getting at. It’s possible, new Pete and Pete stories.

The Adventures of Pete and Pete begins airing on NickSplat on Saturday, July 11th at 10:00pm with the two-night “The Strongest Reunion in the World” event.


The Adventures of Pete and Pete Reunion from Ana Davidson on Vimeo.

Directed by David Schulte

Produced by Nickelodeon in collaboration with Arts + Labor

Stylist: Ana Davidson

Hair / Makeup: Robin McShaffrey

More Nick: '90s Nickelodeon Stars Reveal Where Their Characters Are Now | ATX TV Festival 2017!
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