Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Whatever Happened To: The Rest of the Cast of The Adventures of Pete and Pete

I had a lot of fun writing the last blog entry on what became of the cast from The Adventures of Pete and Pete, and it inspired me to check out the episodes again. The show had a rather impressive list of more famous actors who were getting their start or perhaps just having some fun on a well-written show. One that leaps right out is Steve Buscemi, who played Ellen's father, but you also had such talent as J.K. Simmons as a barber and Selma Blair as a girl Big Pete had a crush on.

It also turned out there was an entire second tier of people who played a significant role in the series. Here's what I could find on them.

Maris Hudson (Monica Perling)

Monica was a rather strange character, so of course she was a pretty good fit for Little Pete's group of friends. Her debut episode had her consoling Little Pete on pet loss, since she had an entire back yard full of short-lived animal companions, and she was also heavily reliant on her training as a "Kreb Scout" (one of the running gags in the show being that virtually everything was of the Kreb brand). She doesn't seem to be one of the better received of the characters, though, given her bossy attitude and the fact that the writers started to lean a little heavily on Little Pete's friends for material later on.

The show credit is the only one for Maris Hudson on her IMDB page, though a note there said she performed and was nominated for a supporting actress role in the musical Fiorello! in 2007. In that case, this is what she looks like today, according to this website. She's apparently been doing quite a bit of other theater work in the Chicago area.

Justin Restivo (Wayne "The Pain" Pardue)

Ah, one of the most adequately named Pete and Pete characters. Of all the kids in the show, Wayne might be the closest one to what you'd expect to find in a kid who grows up in our world rather than one dominated by the Kreb Corporation and superheroes; he's still a little annoying, though. Aside from having a crush on Monica, Wayne was basically around to spout off some random trivia and trip over his own feet. Thankfully, he was at least somewhat endearing.

Given this recent photo, Justin Restivo obviously slimmed down a little since his role on the show and got cooler glasses:

Oddly enough, Restivo has a credit as a bully on The Conan O'Brien Show at the same time he was appearing on The Adventures of Pete and Pete as a complete wuss. He played Lumpy in the 1997 atrocity that was the Leave it to Beaver movie and, judging by the gap in his IMDB page, that got him blacklisted from Hollywood for just about 10 years. Now 27, he's recently returned in uncredited roles, including a French waiter in The Devil Wears Prada and a Yale student in The Good Shepherd. Assuming this Twitter account is his, he's living in New York City and still close enough to the acting world that he attended the 2009 Tony Awards.

Rick Barbarette (Bill Korn)

Bill Korn was one of Big Pete's close friends, perhaps even his best friend, though he sort of got shunted aside as the show went on. His main character trait involved his having an affinity for jokes, such as trying to get Teddy to snort milk out through his ears and convincing an undercover cop that Bus Driver Stu Benedict was kidnapping everyone.

The role marked the only acting gig for Rick Barbarette listed on IMDB. A Pete and Pete fan site, now disappeared, apparently had an interview with him. This site credits him for sending in some pretty terrific candid shots from the set. By the looks of this Twitter page and its associated MySpace page, he might be the drummer of the Hollywood-based band All Star now. Either that or he's teaching math in Cedarhurst, New York. But the band photos look like him.

David Martel (Teddy Forzman)

Pictured is Teddy Forzman before he was really characterized too much, in a candid photo submitted by David Martel himself to that nice Pete and Pete fan site. The context: an episode focusing on the relative pointlessness of math word problems, and the lengths Teddy goes to in order to try to solve the questions (in this one, a problem related to a chicken's egg production). Though originally more of an accessory character, Teddy was given some more background in an episode where he stays with the Wrigley family for awhile. From then on out, he was a rather unflappable fellow with encyclopedic knowledge of numerous obscure topics, which he would follow up with the catchphrases, "What, you guys didn't know that?" and "Excelente!" Though arguably his best moment comes in impersonating Endless Mike to help Big Pete prepare for a wrestling match.

And now, he looks exactly the same at age...well, that doesn't seem to be available. Martel has a few scattered credits after Pete and Pete, namely the highfalutin role of "Person" in two episodes of Arrested Development and several one-off characters in Scrubs. According to his LinkedIn profile, he's now a consumer and channel marketing analyst with the Samsung HDTV Team in Los Angeles.

Christopher Conte ("Papercut")

The comments on the YouTube videos of the episodes usually had a few friendly debates over which one of Little Pete's enemies was the best. Though he only appeared in one two-part episode, most people remembered Papercut. One of the more menacing villains in the show, he grew up in a copy shop and was characterized by a bad haircut, a variety of nicks and small wounds, and the ability to make terrifying origami weapons. The episode revolved around Little Pete trying to confront him without Artie's help after bucking the trend of always throwing rock to Papercut's inevitable paper in a rock-scissor-papers match.

The actor who played Papercut disappeared after only two more roles around the same time: one in The Jerky Boys and another in The Indian in the Cupboard. I couldn't find much else on him, though there's a pretty talented prosthetist-turned-artist out there by the same name who specializes in biomechanical sculpture.

Eric Kushnick (Fran "Pit Stain" Jones)

Another of the recurring tormentors of Little Pete, Pit Stain got his unflattering nickname from the younger Wrigley due to his propensity to sweat profusely for no apparent reason. Pit Stain also had a bit of a softer side, though. In an episode in which Little Pete tries to keep Christmas going as long as possible, Pit Stain is awestruck by heaps of garbage decorated with lights (long story) and works undercover with Little Pete and his friends to pull a prank on a truly atrocious school assembly about hygiene. He also has a small bully gang consisting of a kid nicknamed Drawstring, because he always wears sweatshirts, and a girl named Hairnet because, well, guess what she wears.

I wonder if Eric Kushnick's contract had him take smell-oriented roles for the early part of his career, since a few years before Pete and Pete he played Sidney "Skunk" Duff on the short-lived series Hi Honey, I'm Home. He had a few bit roles in a variety of TV shows (including Spin City, Felicity, and Boston Public) before this modest list of on-screen roles petered out in 2001. Beyond that, he seems to be keeping a low profile. Unless he's the director of hardware engineering at Credence Systems Corp. or vice president of the research and development center of Advantest America, both in California, I have no idea where he is now.

Damian Young (Bus Driver Stu Benedict)

Stu seemed to have just a touch of bipolar disorder, given that he was usually a bright and sunny fellow but was always right on the edge of a complete freak-out. He occasionally used the slight degree of authority his job gave him to resolve some issues, but more often he moped about in a perpetual lovelorn state since his on-again-off-again relationship with a fellow bus driver was usually set to off. For all that, Stu was absolutely hilarious and had a good heart as well.

Damian Young got his start in theater and had a few minor roles under his belt by the time he played Stu Benedict. After Pete and Pete, he kept cropping up in a number of obscure roles (including "Crab Nebula Guy" in a TV movie about the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and "Green Army-Jacketed Man" in Unbreakable). He had a stronger role in the one-season HBO comedy The Comeback in 2005, resorted to playing a doctor in six episodes of the soap opera As the World Turns the next year, and then started landing recurring roles on more well-known shows such as Californication, Damages, and Law and Order. He's still acting, set to play Serge in Art Machine and Sanders in Seven Chinese Brothers, both movies which will be released in 2011.

Rick Gomez ("Endless Mike" Helstrom)

One of the more memorable characters in the series, "Endless Mike" Helstrom was a bully to both Petes. He has some great lines, mostly involving deadpan sarcasm, and takes his dislike for the older Pete to such extremes that he gives up a kidney and tooth just to be able to get into the same weight class as Big Pete and take him on in a wrestling match. Other times, though, Mike agreed to help Pete try to solve some problem or even tried somewhat successfully to have Big Pete join his merry band of troublemakers.

Richard Harper "Rick" Gomez, now 38, has kept up a pretty good run in the acting field. He seemed to have a gap in the late 90s, but in recent years he's been more active. His roles include quite a bit of voice work, including a brief appearance as the pilot in "The Final Flight of the Osiris" chapter of The Animatrix, Zack Faire in Final Fantasy VII and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, and various characters in The Angry Beavers, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Cow and Chicken. Perhaps most notably, he played Sgt. George Luz in the miniseries Band of Brothers and Klump in Sin City.

I should also mention his bit role in 11:14, if only because it's a lesser-known but still terrific movie involving a few interconnected stories beginning with a body dropped from an overpass. Most writers who can do that can pull it off, and the actors include some more well-known people as well (Hilary Swank and Patrick Swayze). Gomez plays a paramedic, along with then still relatively unknown Jason Segel.

Michelle Trachtenberg (Nona Mecklenberg)

Nona became a sort of warped version of Ellen for Little Pete, though there was never any romance between them aside from a spring fever episode where everyone was falling in love with everyone else. She first met the younger sibling after moving next door and discovering that he was trying to tunnel out after getting grounded. Among other quirks, she wears a cast because she likes the itchy feeling and in one episode has a lunchbox capable of holding a full dinner spread. Oh, and her father is played by Iggy Pop.

Perhaps the number one comment of the later Pete and Pete episodes on YouTube: some variation of the phrase "I can't believe Nona is hot now." Michelle Trachtenberg, now 25, went on to a couple of roles in children's movies including the title character in Harriet the Spy and Penny in Inspector Gadget. She got her break in 2000 when she showed up inexplicably as Dawn Summers, sister to the lead character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Trachtenberg has faded into the background just a bit, but has still had a few notable roles including Jenny in Eurotrip and Celeste in Six Feet Under. She also lends her voice to Robot Chicken, the brainchild of fellow Buffy veteran Seth Green, including a memorable appearance as the voice of a gummy bear stuck in a trap.

Trachtenberg currently voices Valkyrie on The Super Hero Squad Show and will next appear in the movie Take Me Home Tonight.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Top 5 Fictional Characters in The Simpsons

Yes, The Simpsons is a fictional show. But they have a few shows within the show, or other fictional characters, and some of them are pretty damn funny. So here's a Top 5 list for that.

5. Worker and Parasite

Nothing against the incredibly violent duo Itchy and Scratchy, another show within the show which doesn't appear on this list. If anything, it's a testament to the fact to the strength of Itchy and Scratchy that there's so little quality cartoon material in the Simpsons world that Krusty has to resort to material like this when he loses everyone's favorite cat and mouse duo to The Gabbo Show. It's hilariously random, and the only clues to the meaning of the video are the line of peasants and the increasingly aggravated growls of one of the duo. It's not even clear which one is Worker and which one is Parasite.

4. McBain

McBain is an action star in the style of Arnold Schwarzenegger, quite an obvious analogue given his brawn and thick accent. The early examples had him in movies chock full of cliches such as partners dying just before retirement and a renegade cop who uses unorthodox methods that always aggravate his chief, like so:

This is a great example of the classic Simpsons episodes supplying high-quality humor in under half a minute. McBain's complaint about not being able to avenge his partner's death with a "pea-shooter" is funny enough, the chief's rant about his hand cannon is also great, and it's all topped by the ridiculously over-the-top way of getting around the book. Strangely enough, there actually was a McBain movie starring Christopher Walken and Luiz Guzman, among others:

If Wikipedia is correct, The Simpsons had actually used the McBain name before this movie came out, but somehow the movie studio (20th Century Fox no less) was able to prevent them from further use of the name. I'm not sure how accurate that is, considering I had an old Simpsons comic that clearly involved a McBain storyline and I doubt 20th Century Fox would suppress a name on a successful series in favor of a mediocre action flick it skillfully parodied before it even existed. Whatever the case, McBain is generally seen more in the guise of his actor, the awesomely named Rainier Wolfcastle, whose characteristics include offering to hug his daughter with his muscles and weeping furtively in his Humvee after a couple of random party guests tell him how much the last McBain movie sucked.

3. McGarnagle

The McGarnagle character has only been used twice, and wasn't even seen in one of those, but I'm pretty sure every Simpsons fan will be able to recognize the name and perhaps even quote the scenes verbatim. McGarnagle kind of took over for McBain in the renegade cop category, perhaps after the writers realized that Austrian action stars are better suited for shoot-em-up films. So McGarnagle follows the same model in the early McBain clips (one terrific exchange: "You busted up that crack house pretty bad, McGarnagle. Did you really have to break so much furniture?" "You tell me, Chief. You had a pretty good view from behind your desk."). I also saw these long before I saw the Dirty Harry movies, so although I enjoyed them I couldn't help but think of this scene when I saw Clint Eastwood in action:

Apparently McGarnagle is the spelling that has been settled on, but the pronunciation of the R as "ah" has led to plenty of different spellings such as the McGonicle of this Spanish version. Even they must know there's an R in there, because the way the voice actor pronounces McGarnagle is just superb.

2. Mr. Sparkle

Mr. Sparkle has only one major appearance on the show, in an episode whose subplot involves Homer and Bart and Lisa discovering a box in the dump with a foreign language and a strange cartoonish (more so) version of Homer on it. They eventually discover that it's a box of Japanese dishwasher detergent whose logo, by coincidence, looks like Homer via a combination of a light bulb and fish.

I remember laughing for ages when I first saw the Mr. Sparkle commercial. A parody of the more over-the-top Japanese TV offerings, it's ridiculously high-energy and nonsensical. There's also the oddity of a detergent company being sponsored by electricity and fishing interests, as well as the nice related joke of Homer asking for (and immediately getting) a specific Japanese phone book from the library and then claiming that he wants to make a "local" call.

1. Amendment to Be

Another Itchy and Scratchy replacement. After the show is pulled due to the discovery that the characters were plagiarized, Krusty is left scrambling for a new animated offering...and dredges up something so bad that he begs the kids to stay on for the toy commercials he'll have. It's an obvious parody of Schoolhouse Rock and the overly conservative slant thrown in is quite amusing as well.

I guess it's less funny now that Ted Kennedy is dead. No, it's actually still pretty funny.