Sunday, February 10, 2008

“You have soft hands for a man, Don!” – The Adventures of Pete & Pete

The Adventures of Pete & Pete kicks off its second season with a bang, literally, when Little Pete pits a humidifier against a dehumidifier to explosive results. From there, it’s classic P&P, complete with Little Pete sticking it to the man, Dad getting caught up in a petty contest and Big Pete helping his brother out in-between his narrating duties.

Little Pete deciding to buck his being grounded by tunneling out through the basement is done really well. It’s fun to see the show take on such a tired cliché, but more importantly it’s a clever way to show Little Pete’s gritty determination. It leads to all sorts of great moments too. The description of Little Pete’s methodology is great (dynamite!), so is the dramatic breaking through the surface, Lady Liberty in hand. But I’d have to say my favorite part is when Big Pete has to find ways to hide all the dug-up dirt – I thought taking up pottery was a nice touch.

Meanwhile, the tension between Little Pete and Dad keeps the drama at the right level. We still feel for Little Pete when he’s grounded for a month, but Dad still remains sympathetic. And it all turns around after a rather inspired segment where Dad is at the 4th of July picnic and is surrounded by reminders of Little Pete. From there, we get a cute enough scene where they patch things together where Little Pete says all the wrong things, but with all the right intentions behind them.

Unfortunately, the competition between Dad and his neighbor over their lawns was a bit dull. We’ve basically seen this before. It’s not all that different from King of the Road and even the gags about using high-tech surveillance equipment were basically cribbed directly from the old half-hour special Apocalypse Pete (which had the bonus of Steve Buscemi playing Ellen’s father!).

This is also the introduction of Nona F. Mecklenberg. This episode is proof that Michelle Trachtenberg has never been a very good actress (something that I’m sure all you Buffy fans can agree with). Moreover, Nona simply is not established as that interesting of a character. There are some cute touches, like her covering up her new house with pictures of her old one and her plan to change her middle name from Frances to Frank or Forklift, but she’s otherwise fairly bland. Not too exciting for somebody who SPOILER ALERT will replace Artie in the title sequence.

But all in all, it’s a good episode. If we were to place it head-to-head against King of the Road, it’d be easy to see how much the cast and crew have improved after finishing a whole season. Their stories have become sharper and more ambitious. Things are still a little clunky, but it’s almost by design – we couldn’t have P&P losing its ragged glory.

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