Growing up, I was addicted to almost all of the '90s kids' shows. It was a good time for children's entertainment and I had a voracious appetite for television that needed to be quenched. Funnily enough, the one '90s kids' show I wasn't in love with is perhaps the best the era has to offer: The Adventures of Pete & Pete .
The story of two brothers named Pete was weird, quirky, and way ahead of its time. The town of Wellsville was overflowing with bizarre characters that performed feats of strength, picked up radio stations via plates in their head, and had existential crises while driving busloads of kids to school. Even the theme song was hip, an alternative rock jam from Polaris that screamed grungy cool. I simply was not in the same league as Pete & Pete, but that did not stop me from revisiting the show as an adult. Let me tell you, giving Pete & Pete a second chance was my best decision ever.
I have no doubt there were lots of kids who were pop culturally attuned enough to see Pete & Pete 's greatness in the '90s, but I could not fully appreciate the show's charms until I was older. The themes of social disobedience, embracing the magic of childhood, and being as weird as you want to be play so much better now. Pete & Pete is a brilliant show, one that forces you to look at the world in a new and wondrous way. If you have not seen the show in a long time, then you need to plan a Pete & Pete rewatch immediately.
The moment you visit Wellsville, you will be swept away by the strange and fascinating world surrounding Big Pete and Little Pete. As the primary narrator, Big Pete is the calm center in a world of extreme freeze tag, Halloween haters, and magic bowling balls. Big Pete is just as likely to get caught up in a caper or adventure as his devil may care little brother, but his steadiness keeps Pete & Pete from tilting too far into the bizarre.
The comfort of knowing Big Pete is there as the show's voice of reason allows you to let yourself be completely absorbed by the incredible storytelling. I never noticed just how smart Pete & Pete was until I started rewatching the series. The show delights in challenging traditional authority and exploring the great mysteries of childhood. A ringing phone becomes a gateway to a story waiting to be unraveled and a simple question about the necessity of math upsets the entire social order of school.
Children are given a great amount of power in Pete & Pete, and the show never uses the power they wield as a means to create a teaching moment. The kids often win their battles against authority, making Little Pete a rebel hero. It is hard to imagine anything like Pete & Pete being aimed at kids today. It truly is a show purely interested in characters and storytelling with no ulterior motive to educate the viewer in anything other than the fine art of pop culture.
Have I mentioned just how much pop culture the show crams in? Iggy Pop was a regular guest star, one episode is a love letter to Stand By Me, and even the lead singer of R.E.M. could not resist stopping by. There is magic in Pete & Pete, and there was right from the start.
The show enjoys a cult following of devoted fans to this day, and it is easy to see why. Both highbrow and silly, Pete & Pete is in a league reserved for oddball shows that march to the beat of a drum only they can hear. Wellsville is a place you will never be too old to visit. Don't believe me? Try dropping in on Big Pete and Little Pete and bask in how much it feels like returning to a little, strange town you forgot how much you used to love.
Images: Nickelodeon; Giphy