Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 23 - "Halloweenies"

     The early 90s were a magical time for Nickelodeon, this seems to be when they really hit their stride and most would probably call it the golden age for the network. They'd arrived as a serious contender in the cable arena, but hadn't yet gotten too big to be corrupted by execu-think and the sway of advertisers. There was plenty of money for live action shows and the birth of Nicktoons, but creators could still be experimental and march to their own drum and their shows didn't have to be confined to any specific safe "format". So many of the shows at this time had such a quirky, surreal personality, and yet still very unique'd not accuse Clarissa Explains it All of being too similar to Salute Your Shorts. These shows managed to capture very well the voice of kids and teens without the actual adults writing and directing mucking it up and not just presenting "what they think kids would say" or "what I think kids should say and hear". This was a stark contrast to the family sitcoms of the late 80s/early 90s with their "very special episodes" or even Saved By The Bell which was really, when it was not being transparently preachy, just kid escapist fantasy disguised as a regular ol' show about school. Which is fine and enjoyable, but it's not realistic.

    The Adventures of Pete and Pete, on the other hand, was magnitudes more realistic and true to the experiences more kids had growing up. This might sounds ridiculous to some people, it's a show well known for it's absurd characters and ideas, but it's true. It didn't matter that Little Pete had somehow acquired a full arm tattoo, or that there was a town superhero...the heart and voice at the core was always 100% sincere. Probably largely because the show was often tinged, or thick, with sadness, vital for any attempt at  authenticity. Punches can't be pulled, truths can't be swept under the rug. Life is often sad, especially growing up and realizing you'll never be a kid again and some experiences are gone forever.

      One such transitional period revolves around the rituals of Halloween. There comes a point where you just can't trick or treat anymore. You have to let go of that part of the holiday and graduate to the more "mature" traditions. In the episode "Halloweenies", Little Pete wants to hold on to trick-or-treating just long enough to break the record for most candy collected and high-school-aged Big Pete has not only grown out of trick-or-treating but has also become cynical about the holiday in general and hopes that, due to the annual threat of the delinquents known as the "pumpkin eaters", this is the last Halloween for Wellsville. But when Little Pete's trick-or-treat partner is banned from participating by her father, Big Pete decides to come out of retirement one last time to help his brother achieve immortality, even if it means he's running the risk of being branded a Halloweenie.

     It's a tremendous love letter to the holiday. We're sympathetic to Big Pete, we all remember what it was like to grow out of something and compensatingly feel like you were too cool for it. We knew kids like the pumpkin eaters who turned to the mischievous path once they were too old to go door-to-door. It's easy to be on Little Pete's side and have the wisdom of a kid, and an adult viewer, to think, "Stop worrying about what other people think, don't be jerks...just have fun!". Not only does it nail the atmosphere of the day wonderfully, it does so from multiple age-specific viewpoints.

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