Saturday, December 08, 2007

“He’s such a silly old bear” – The Adventures of Pete & Pete

It’s a testament to Pete & Pete’s earnestness that it’s able to pull off comparing working a crappy job to humanity’s catastrophic effect on the environment. Big Pete bemoans his status as a rangeboy, clearing balls off his father’s driving range (I believe this is the first time we become aware of what Don Wrigley does for a living). He compares himself to the bears that inhabited the land before civilization sprung up on top of it, and next thing you know, he’s wearing a bear suit to work.

We have all had jobs we hated, so Big Pete’s plight is a sympathetic one. So, it’s a bit unnecessary when he lists off claims that previous rangeboys went insane or left town out of shame. It’s a bit ridiculous, even for Pete & Pete. There are easier and more effective ways to show that being a rangeboy is no fun. The episode hits on one of these methods by revealing that Big Pete’s nemesis Endless Mike frequents the driving range. I buy that Big Pete would fear Endless Mike finding out that he works a degrading job, especially one that involves Endless Mike himself sending projectiles flying at Pete. Big Pete believing that a former rangeboy got plastic surgery so nobody knew of his former job? Not so much.

By painting Big Pete’s hatred for the job so poorly, it almost degrades from the moments where he reflects on the bears. The episode opens with stock documentary footage of bears frolicking in the wilderness. When paired with Big Pete’s narration, the whole thing hits the elegiac tone it is going for. Showing bears looking cute may be something of a cheap pop, but it also makes sense that Big Pete would play to the audience’s emotions so much. And when it results in Big Pete wearing a bear costume, it’s a nice summation of not only his respect for the noble bear, but the fact that he is using it as an excuse to throw a pity party over his job. Also, as anybody who’s seen The Rules of the Game knows, bear costumes are inherently funny.

The episode is padded out with a B-story involving Little Pete training Artie on his long game that involves a turtle friend of Artie’s getting amnesia. While Toby Huss plays the hell out of his scenes with Clark the Turtle, the whole concept a bit too much for me. There’s also an inexplicable Frank Gifford cameo and Dad getting the idea of a promotion where people try to hit his firstborn child.

On the upside, Stu the Bus Driver returns! And once again, he nearly steals the whole thing away, determined to hit the perfect tee-off, if only he could muster the nerve to hit the ball in the first place. Stu gets to end the episode, and in an episode that often played more broadly than Pete & Pete normally does at its best, Stu boils the whole half-hour down to a single moment of transcendence. In a show that’s all about deadpan looks at the absurdity of growing up suburban, does it get any better than those tiny moments?

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