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The further adventures of 'Pete & Pete' and Will and Chris

August 31, 2012|By Robert Lloyd | Los Angeles Times Television Critic
  • Daniel Tamberelli and Michael Maronna in "The Adventures of Pete & Pete"
Daniel Tamberelli and Michael Maronna in "The Adventures of Pete… (Nickelodeon )

As I wrote in a preview earlier this week, the cast of the 1990s Nickelodeon series "The Adventures of Pete & Pete" was reunited Tuesday before a packed and ardent crowd at L.A.'s Orpheum Theater for what turned out to to be a (somewhat rambling, less than tight, but otherwise delightful) three-hour celebration of the deepest children's show -- and one of television's best shows -- ever. On a stage dressed significantly with a suburban lawn, a picket fence, a Stingray bike and a bowling ball, the main cast and a couple of guest players joined creators Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi and supervising director Katherine Dieckmann for a panel discussion with extras.

These included Toby Huss (best known as Artie, the Strongest Man in the World) as Sandy Krebman, CEO of the show's fictional megacorp, KrebStar; a selection of clips from the show; a cameo from the soft-serve-headed Mr. Tastee; and the cherry on the sundae, the first-ever live appearance by Polaris, the show's fictional house band (built upon the actual band Miracle Legion), with Danny Tamberelli (Little Pete) and Syd Straw (math teacher Miss Fingerwood) joining at the end for "Summerbaby," one of the series' signal songs. Though it was made up of material written 16 years ago and more, their set, which got better and more powerfully moving as it went along, did not have the feel of a revival, having never happened before. (Leader Mark Mulcahy said afterward that more Polaris shows may be on the cards.)

The night at the Orpheum followed two other reunions, one in November at the Silent Movie Theater under the aegis of the Cinefamily, and back-to-back appearances in February at New York's Bowery Ballroom. I spoke to McRobb and Viscardi between the New York and Orpheum shows. What follows is some of the conversation that didn't make it into Tuesday's article.

Will McRobb: I felt like I was on a film society panel in L.A., but I felt like a rock star at the Bowery Ballroom. And we were paid like a band, so I had to go up the back steps to the manager's office and he gave me a big envelope with money and I had to pay everybody afterward.

Chris Viscardi: When the Cinefamily last summer said that they wanted to do this night for us, we were excited, but we thought, "How many people are really going to show up?" And it sold out. So we decided to do the Bowery Ballroom, through the Onion. The Bowery holds what 400, 450 -- we were like, "OK, We're from New York, there's a lot of people in New York who know about the show, so maybe we'll do OK." And it sold out literally in two minutes online. And then we added a second show and that, too, sold out in less than five minutes. Then you go to the Bowery Ballroom, and it's pouring rain that day, people are waiting outside for hours in the rain -- we definitely felt like rock stars. The audience was just so warm and wonderful and so appreciative.

You had the Blowholes, Little Pete's band from the episode "A Hard Day's Pete," play in New York.

WM: Chris and I spent about 100 hours trying to figure out whether people should be standing or sitting, because we felt it would be really boring for people to be standing while we blah blah blahed about the show. Then we thought, well, we do have this band playing -- maybe it will be OK. And it is the Bowery Ballroom. As it turned out [standing] was the best decision, because it really was more like a rock show than a listen-to-guys-talk show. And the energy brought by the band [including Tamberelli, Straw and power pop icon Marshall Crenshaw] just took it to a whole new level. What was most amazing about that show, where we had the full cast together for the first time, was that the most love that was felt on that stage -- obviously Alison [Fanelli, who played Big Pete's best friend Ellen] got a lot of love, because a lot of guys had crushes on her -- but Judy [Grafe] and Hardy [Rawls], mom and dad, they weren't exactly on the comedy cutting edge of the episodes, they got the biggest rounds of applause.

What was the male to female ratio in the audience?

WM: It seemed pretty split.

CV: I would say that of the people who came up to me after the L.A. show and the New York show, the ones who were the most affected and were trembling and just wanted to hug you were girls. I don't think we ever really wrote the show for them -- probably one of its flaws, looking back, is that we didn't do as good a job as we could have with Ellen, giving her more to do and taking advantage of Alison's comic chops. But I was amazed at how affected young women in the audience were.

Do you think Katherine Dieckmann had anything to do with that?

CV: I'm sure she did. She definitely went out of her way to put Ellen in the forefront at times. Her sensibility also had a real sweetness to it, a smart quality to it, and bohemian.

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