Thursday, October 28, 2010

Whatever Happened To: The Cast from The Adventures of Pete and Pete

For a sizable portion of my age group, wrapping up the day meant sitting in front of the TV and enjoying some Nickelodeon. Now don't go criticizing me and my generation for being a bunch of lazy couch potatoes. Sure we played some Nintendo and watched some cookie cutter PG movies, but we also went sledding and played tag and such. But Nickelodeon had a run of shows that seem to resonate with us. The Nostalgia Critic took a look back and basically tore apart almost the entire set of them. The one show he left standing was The Adventures of Pete and Pete.

Man that's a good song, and it never fails to bring you back. It was like a physical blow of nostalgia when I saw the opening again for the first time in something like 15 years. But anyway, on to the show. It's endearingly bizarre, I guess you could put it. You kind of expect that when the credits include an 11-year-old's apparently permanent tattoo and the metal plate in Mom's head. Among the things I can remember off the top of my head, there was the family discovering an operational station wagon buried in the sand at the beach (causing Big Pete to recount the trip to Ellen with a nonchalant "Dad found a car"), a bully named Papercut who made origami weapons, and Little Pete and Artie trying to beat up the ocean.

Like most actors from the Nickelodeon days of yore, the cast has disappeared into obscurity. The Adventures of Pete and Pete may have had one of the few exceptions, with later addition Michelle Trachtenberg becoming somewhat well-known. So what happened to the rest of the people in the credits?

The Band (Polaris)

The band that performs the opening song also appeared in an episode where Little Pete sees them on the way to school, then forms his own band to keep their song alive after the group disappears and leaves no trace but a stray guitar pick. The song, which has been stuck in my head for 48 hours or more, really can't help but put you in a good mood. It even has a bit of a mystery to it, with fans apparently debating the lyrics for a long time until one of the band members revealed all but the third line (which is most likely "Would you settle to shoot me." Still a happy song, I say).

Polaris, a one-off project formed from the New Haven band Miracle Legion, was pretty closely attached to the show, to the point that their only album (released in 1999) was entitled "Music From The Adventures of Pete and Pete." According to the website of the band's record label, the two were inseparable enough that the cancellation of the show meant the cancellation of Polaris. "Polaris never wrote another song," the profile concludes. "Too bad." The front man, Mark Mulcahy, went solo and has released a few albums. He even got a tribute album in 2009. The other two members, Scott Boutier and Dave McCaffrey, are now with a band called Frank Black and the Catholics.

Mom (Judy Grafe)

I don't remember too much about the character of Mom, or Joyce Wrigley as it were, aside from the fact that she had a metal plate in her head which allows her to hear radio transmissions and such. That's about all the Wikipedia page has, too. I do remember one heartwarming scene where she helps Little Pete stay awake for one last game of flashlight tag during his effort to break the world record for hours without sleep.

This looks like the best-known role for Judy Grafe, who has only been in a handful of films and TV series. Her last role was in some show entitled Untold Stories of the ER in 2005. She's still available for hire, and has a rather interesting resume. In addition to her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and acting experience from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, her resume notes that she's a volunteer firefighter in New York, volunteers in the ER (perhaps the source of her last role) and is licensed to sell real estate.

Dad (Hardy Rawls)

The Petes' father, or Don Wrigley, was about as quirky as the other characters in the series. I seem to remember a few major battles of will between him and an assortment of others (Ellen's father, that "King of Road" guy, Little Pete...) that often went to ridiculous lengths. And he also apparently met his wife when his metal detector found her head plate, so there's that.

The actor, who has a seriously cool name, will turn 58 next month. Like his on-screen wife, he snagged a few minor TV roles but hasn't had anything on the screen since 2005. Well, credited anyway. He's apparently made appearances on a few other shows, and spent four years (ending in 2007) as the Maytag repairman in that company's commercials. It seems he's kept on acting in theater roles as well.

Ellen (Alison Fanelli)

Big Pete's best and closest friend, I seem to remember Ellen as being intellectual with a nice sheen of weirdness. One of the shorts that preceded the introduction of the show as a regular half-hour program had her teaching out-of-water aquarobics or something similar. The later romantic developments between Big Pete and Ellen would have seemed a bit cliche, were it not for the fact that every boy watching the show probably had a crush on Ellen. It would have seemed wrong if it didn't happen.

Turns out the actress is pretty smart as well. Alison Fanelli, now 31, has the Pete and Pete credit and nothing else on her IMDB page. Once the show ended, she made a beeline into medicine, graduating from Goucher College with a pre-med degree in 2001 and Dartmouth College with a master's in health care improvement sometime later. She now works as a physician's assistant at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Artie! The Strongest the World (Toby Huss)

It wouldn't take much searching to find a webpage about how Artie, Little Pete's possibly mentally challenged hero and erstwhile companion, could destroy Chuck Norris just by thinking about it. His superhero's outfit of red pants, striped shirt, and giant glasses will probably never make it into DC or Marvel, but there's no doubt that his powers exist. He moved a house an inch to the side, for crying out loud. Sure, that doesn't sound like much, but he was tired. Besides, you try it. He left the series most of the way through the second of three seasons after realizing that Little Pete could stand up for himself and didn't need a superhero's protection anymore. A good deal of the show's quirkiness went with him, though it was still a good watch.

If Toby Huss can really perform that hanging maneuver, that's pretty impressive. At any rate, he followed up his role as Artie with another long-running success, voicing Cotton Hill and Khan Souphanousinphone on the long-running show King of the Hill. Perhaps one of the oddest mental images you can conjure up? Artie voicing a bitter old Texan who had his shins shot off in World War II. Now 43, he continues to find work in a variety of (mostly comedy) movies and looks a lot less Artie-ish.

Plus Rescue Dawn is apparently a good movie, so an old Nickelodeon show just indirectly influenced my Netflix queue.

Little Pete (Danny Tamberelli)

Little Pete Wrigley tended to either a) do his best to fight authority figures and bullies to preserve everything that is weird and good or b) do something weird. No wonder he and Artie were such good friends. Plus he had tattoos. Perhaps my favorite Little Pete moment involves his attempt to escape a grounding by hightailing it for Canada on a riding mower, only to be caught by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I'd have to watch the show again, but I'm pretty sure Big Pete and Little Pete were usually in their own separate worlds. They weren't at each others throats like a lot of siblings, but they teamed up only when there was a missing ice cream man to be found or something like that.

Danny Tamberelli, like a few of his older co-stars, has made a bit of an effort to stay in the entertainment business. Most of his roles were clustered around his time on Pete and Pete, with notable movie credits including The Mighty Ducks and Igby Goes Down. He's also part of a sketch comedy group. His last official appearance, excluding an All That reunion show, was in 2002, but he has also done some commercials including a Wendy's ad that came out in 2006. I didn't recognize him when that appeared, though in a lot of photos he looks quite a bit like his younger self.

Tamberelli's character was a big music geek, even running his own radio station using Mom's metal plate to boost the signal. Apparently that's true of Tamberelli himself, too, since he graduated from Hampshire College after studying music. Now 28, he sings and plays guitar for the band Jounce, which has released a couple of albums, and plays bass for another band called Every Good Boy. He's also still popular enough that his personal Facebook page overloaded on friends.

Big Pete (Mike Maronna)

Big Pete Wrigley was about the closest thing to a voice of reason on the show, and mostly seemed to be trying to get through life without ruffling too many feathers. Which doesn't mean he was put off in any way by his strange surroundings, and in fact seemed nicely adapted to them. It just means that his oddities were more the type you could expect to see in real life, such as when he had the marching band he was part of play "Love Rollercoaster."

Oddly enough, Mike Maronna looks a lot like my sophomore roommate and also shares my birthday (he's six years older, celebrating his 33rd last year). His first role was in Home Alone as one of Macaulay Culkin's older and somehow redheaded brothers and he had a few more roles after Pete and Pete (Slackers and 40 Days and 40 Nights stand out, for recognizable titles if not for quality). His acting list ends ominously with the movie Men Without Jobs in 2004, though he did show up in a few music videos including a Nada Surf tune where he got to show off some bicycling skills.

Turns out Mike Maronna wasn't going to Macalester College with me undercover, but rather attending Purchase College and/or the State University of New York to study filmmaking. Even while acting in a smattering of music videos, commercials (in an apparently popular series of Ameritrade ads as bumbling broker Stuart), and TV shows or movies, he's been putting more time into working behind the scenes. He's had electrician credits from 1997 to the present on 20 films. Beyond that, he might have a MySpace page that's extremely heavy on the Pete and Pete and light on the friends, but something just seems off about that.


  1. This was really heartwarming. I'd love to see em do a short Pete N Pete reunion episode. It's 2012 the 90's kids would feel very touched I'm sure. :) Michael Tello.

  2. In 5 weeks I will be a doctor. I look forward to stalking Ellen and making her work under me. ya-Yaaaaaa!

  3. Great article. Only thing tho -- It's State University of New York Purchase. Or simply called SUNY Purchase. It's a terrible, terrible school. I went there for two years, basically for the sole reason that Big Pete went there, and discovered just how horrible of a place it was and when the well-known nickname of the place is SUNY Poorchoice.

  4. Nothing beats 90's Nick shows and 90's cartoons