Sunday, November 18, 2007

“As any band geek could tell you, without a great dot out there, it didn’t mean diddly-squid” – The Adventures of Pete & Pete

“The Day of the Dot” is one of those episodes that is wonderful in concept, but a bit lacking in execution. Luckily, one of Pete & Pete’s charms has been its sloppiness, what creators Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi call “ragged glory.” Sure, a theme might be a little hamfisted or the acting might not be amazing or a story might be wrapped up a little too suddenly or neatly – it’s all a part of the Pete & Pete way.

For some in my generation Big Pete and Ellen were the first great will-they-or-won’t-they. Throughout the sixty-second vignettes and holiday specials, Big Pete would address how Ellen was just a girl who was a friend, while the viewer was made fully aware of Ellen’s true feelings. So, when Big Pete and Ellen kiss, it’s a moment worthy of being the episode’s big climax.

But the road there is a bit rough. The episode is roughly based on one of the old vignettes, with Ellen’s appointment as the dot in the “I” of “squid” for the school marching band bringing strange responsibility. Ellen becomes obsessed with the notion of being a dot, leaving Pete to realize that he must win Ellen back to his goofy world. It leads to some great moments, like when the snotty band member James Markle, Jr. decides that he and Ellen must learn to synchronize movements to improve their performance. When Markle puts his left arm around Ellen in an attempt to make a move on her and Ellen awkwardly wraps her arm around the air to her left, it’s gold. But when Ellen and Big Pete have a big argument, it becomes apparent that Michael Maronna and Alison Fanelli aren’t quite up to the scene as actors. Some nifty jump cuts try to help the scene, but when it gets down to it, neither actor brings the drama necessary.

A nice B-story brings some levity. Damian Young is forever on my Awesome list for his portrayal of Stu Benedict, the lovelorn bus driver. His timing is perfect as he drives around town, giving the unfortunate souls (including Little Pete, who must wait until Episode Three to get some real screen time) stuck on his bus a tour of his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, pointing out the corner where she dropped her ice cream cone or the forest that produced the wood used to make her furniture. It’s rather basic humor, sure, but Young plays it at the right levels of pathos and hamminess that make the scenes work. In his little bit of screentime, Stu winds up representing what this show is at its best, where a concept is taken to its most far-fetched extreme, but roped in with that touch of sincerity, thus actually making it funny.

So, I’m glad that “The Day of the Dot” happened, in that it introduced a great tertiary character and brought a big payoff to the Big Pete/Ellen relationship, even if I wish it had all been done a bit more smoothly. But then again, when Ellen and Big Pete walk off into the sunset together at the end, does it matter?

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