It takes just a minute to watch an episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete, but in that time a separate universe unfolds — a sweetly nostalgic place where innocence intersects with absurdity. These 60-second vignettes (18 of which have aired daily on Nickelodeon since 1989) look at the world through the eyes of 13-year-old Pete, his younger brother, also named Pete, and their friend Ellen. On Sept. 8, P&P, the shortest show on TV, expands to a 30-minute back-to-school special called What We Did on Our Summer Vacation.
Pete, Pete, and Ellen are the sanest characters in the show’s ’60s-like suburban neighborhood, which feels like it’s out of The Brady Bunch by way of Twin Peaks. They don’t interact much with other kids, and the adults in their world are extremely whacked-out. The trio also lives with a lot of unexplained eccentricities, like little Pete’s mermaid tattoo, the metal plate in their mom’s head and an adult pal named Artie, a skinny nerd in tights billed as ”the strongest man in the world.”
Vacation is the trio’s second half-hour program (the first aired last February), and it’s about Mr. Tastee, an ice cream man who goes AWOL when the kids try to befriend him. R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe appears as an ice cream peddler and B-52 Kate Pierson plays a blind former love of Mr. Tastee. (Both performers are avid P&P fans.)
Cocreator and writer Will McRobb, 30, who has described Pete and Pete as ”The Wonder Years meets Calvin and Hobbes meets Stand By Me,” admits the heroes are ”probably the dream version of myself at that age.” They may be part of McRobb’s fantasy, but the reality of Pete and Pete is as savory as the last ice cream cone of summer.