Monday, September 29, 2008

epic fail.

Well, I officially fail at being a blogger. I haven't been able to update in forever because the English class I signed up for is way more of a timesuck than I'd expected. And I'm applying for a fellowship and the application is due at the end of this week, so I've been a little panicky lately about getting everything submitted on time. But still, no excuse for not writing. I'm thinking about altering the blog setup somewhat when I'm finally able to relax and get my next entry up. I might have to do short summaries but add more "Random Thoughts" bullets at the end, because as it is now my summaries are way too long and take hours to finish. And if the recaps take me less time to write, it will be easier to find time to get them done in between my class and everything else. So, slightly new format coming soon ("soon" being sometime after this Friday when I can finally put this mess of a fellowship application behind me). I feel bad that this blog has taken on somewhat of a "life of a soon-to-be grad student" subplot lately. I hope to be back onto the fun topic of Nickelodeon nostalgia very soon, because it's a much more enjoyable topic to focus on.

Monday, September 8, 2008

"You look like a bona fide Sludgesicle man": The Adventures of Pete and Pete, Special #4 - What We Did on Our Summer Vacation

I remember that this aired as a special shortly before the show became a full-length series. It came after the shorts had been around for awhile but before season 1 was announced. I feel like Nickelodeon must have promoted the hell out of it, because certain clips, like Little Pete's friend screaming "TASTEEEEEEE!" in the middle of the street, really stick out in my mind.

Major Characters:
"Big" Pete Wrigley - The older Pete; more thoughtful and introverted than his brother
"Little" Pete Wrigley - The younger Pete; the more outspoken of the Petes
Don Wrigley - The Petes' dad
Joyce Wrigley - The Petes' mom; has an oft-mentioned metal plate in her head
Ellen Hinkle - Best friend of Big Pete; "a girl and a friend, but [most of the time] not a girlfriend"
Nona F. Mecklenburg - Little Pete's best friend beginning in season 2; a young Michelle Trachtenberg
Artie, The Strongest Man in the World - Little Pete's "personal superhero"

How do you know that summer is really and truly over?

Big Pete (whose voice hasn't fully changed in this early episode, aww) asks this question to open the episode. His dad goes by the calendar date, while Ellen knows summer is over when you start thinking about school supplies. Or, if you're me, when you go to to buy books for the graduate English course you're taking and you're poor because your fiance is living off a graduate stipend so you can only afford to buy books for the first two weeks of class for now, and the bookstore is conveniently missing the book for this Wednesday's class, so you have to overnight it on Amazon, which makes the shipping costs only $2.00 less than the book itself. Yeah. That's when summer is really and truly over. But I digress.

Here's some opening credits goodness for everyone. I love this theme.

Big Pete tells us about some surefire signs of summer, like Little Pete and his friend racing downhill on big blocks of ice, the lawn border dispute between Pete's dad and their neighbor, and, of course, the arrival of Mr. Tastee, the neighborhood ice cream man with a big plastic head that looks like a vanilla soft serve swirl. No one knows his true identity behind the mask. Some kids think he's a mental hospital escapee. A really young Heather Matarazzo tells that chubby kid from The Mighty Ducks that she thinks Mr. Tastee is "that guy who used to be married to Cher." Ms. Vanderveer, this creepy blind lady on their block, calls him Leonard, and walks around saying, "You never understood me, Leonard. You never really understood me." I love her.

Ellen is working for the summer at her uncle's Qwik Pik photo-developing booth. How old is she here? Maybe 14? She's too young to work. It's kind of like how Logan in the Baby-Sitters Club was working at the Rosebud Cafe as a busboy at 13. One day, Ellen stumbles across photos marked "Tastee." She knows it's against the rules to open them up and look at the pictures, but, as Little Pete says, "rules bite," so they take a look at them. The photos show Mr. Tastee traveling the world and posing by famous landmarks, only he never takes off his ice cream head. They think he looks lonely in the pictures and wonder why he doesn't have any friends (but if he didn't have friends, then who's taking the pictures, hmmmm?).

They decide to try to make friends with the ice cream man, but he gently tries to discourage their attempts. Ellen, in an attempt to make conversation, asks Mr. Tastee if he has a girlfriend. He replies that he has 39 of them, and then proceeds to point out all his ice cream bars on the front of the truck. Maybe he has some kind of weird ice cream fetish? I wonder what he does with the Lemon Licky Nubs and Strawberry Blowtorch after dark. One day, the kids invite him to go fishing, and when he politely declines, Ellen gets right to the point and asks him straight up if he has any friends. How about some information pleeeeeeease? He tells them that he's just their ice cream man, and they're just his customers, and that's the way it has to be. He offers them popsicles and says "goodbye kiddos" all foreshadowingly-like.

Mr. Tastee doesn't return the next day, or any day after that, and the neighborhood kids start going crazy with ice cream withdrawal. They start hallucinating that the see his truck. Crazy Ms. Vanderveer wanders around saying, "I didn't mean it, Leonard. Leonard, you were good to me!" and again, awesome. Rumors abound about what may have happened to him--his truck crashed, his head melted. Baby Heather Matarazzo thinks he remarried Cher. The kids are left with nothing else to do but sit on the curb and watch a neighbor's arm flub flop back and forth as she performs her yard work. That was disgusting when I saw it as a kid, and it's even more disgusting now. It is, as Little Pete said, a flesh avalanche. gross.

Artie, the Strongest Man in the World, is trying to get rid of the summer's killer bees by taking on the queen bee in a staring contest, when he notices the Tastee Mobile off on the horizon. Ellen uses some crazy mathematical formulas to pinpoint Mr. Tastee's location to northern Kentucky, and the search to bring him home has begun.

Ellen turns the Qwik Pik into a command center and opens every single photo packet that comes in to search for Mr. Tastee in the background like some sort of screwed-up Where's Waldo game. When she finds a clue, she pinpoints the location on a map and tries to predict his next move. How that will help them actually get in touch with Mr. Tastee, I have no idea. They have the police put up "missing" posters, Big Pete monitors the "official hotline" payphone, and Little Pete keeps lookout for the Tastee Mobile at the high dive of the local pool. But the lifeguard at the pool hates Little Pete, and their history goes back to last summer when he caught Little Pete eating a cheeseburger under water. He orders Pete off the high dive, so Little Pete gets even by jumping nonstop off the diving board all day, every day. This eventually gets to the lifeguard and makes him crack, so he begs Big Pete for help. Big Pete pretty awesomely "helps" by joining his brother on the diving board and jumping off. Little Pete pretty much gets free reign of the high dive after this, as Artie takes over as lifeguard after the original lifeguard's breakdown.

Big Pete decides to try to get info out of Ms. Vanderveer. She pulls up her dark sunglasses and says, "Leonard said my eyes were bluer than the bluest Blue Tornado bar. He did. He said that." She puts the glasses back on and kind of blindly reaches forward as Pete walks away. Big Pete then takes his search to Cloghaven beach. His dad likes to search for buried treasure there with his metal detector, because that is how he met the Petes' mother years ago, when his metal detector picked up the metal plate in her head. Big Pete questions Captain Scrummy, the local ice cream man at the beach. And hey kids, it's R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe! I thought that I heard you laughing. I thought that I heard you sing. Anyway... he tells Big Pete that he seems like a bona fide Sludgesicle man, but Big Pete just wants a Blue Tornado, which is unfortunately exclusive to Mr. Tastee. Captain Scrummy tells Pete that Mr. Tastee wears the big plastic head because he "knows the rules" about not making friends with the kids. He says that ice cream men are there on the first hot day of summer, and they provide the kids with lots of different flavors to choose from, so what more should they want? Pete seems to get where he's coming from and says that he doesn't know anymore.

Pete's dad's metal detector starts beeping like crazy over a patch of sand, and the entire family helps him dig. Within the hour, they dig out a 1978 Cutlass Supreme. That's right, a car. They drive home in it, while the Petes' dad sings in celebration the entire way home.

The kids slowly start to give up on their search for Mr. Tastee, resigned to the fact that he is never returning. When Ellen and the Petes are finally closing down the Qwik Pik command center, someone knocks at the window--and it's Mr. Tastee! He'd seen their "missing person" fliers, and he has returned to pick up his photos. Ellen says that they've missed him, and he tells them not to say that. He has to go away on the last day of summer every year, and it's hard enough to do that without having kids miss him. Ellen asks him to just stay a little longer, and Mr. Tastee asks if they want to help him wax the Tastee Mobile. But when the sun sets, Mr. Tastee has to say goodbye. He promises to be back on the first hot day next summer, and he asks if he can get a picture with the three kids before he leaves. They wave goodbye to Mr. Tastee as Big Pete ponders the fact that they became more than just Mr. Tastee's customers in that final day, and that when it comes to people missing you, it's actually not that bad at all.

Random Thoughts:
-I've been to that pool in the scene with the diving board! It's in New Jersey.
- I noticed that in at least one scene, the close-up shots of the "missing" fliers had the phone number blurred out. I don't remember it originally airing like this, and plus that wouldn't make any sense for the show to shoot it only to have to blur it out. And the phone number is definitely not blurred out in far-away shots. It looks like a regular 555 television number, so I don't get why Nickelodeon felt the need to blur it on the dvd. I have older recordings of the episodes on VCD that were taped from the tv, so I'll have to see if it's blurred out there too.
-Wikipedia tells me that Toby Huss (Artie) also played Mr. Tastee. I never knew that before.
-Wikipedia also tells me that when this originally aired, before it was re-edited to fit into season 1, all the music in the episode was different from the typical Polaris background music. Why isn't that original cut on the dvd? Stuff like that annoys me. My VCD has the original version of the Valentine's Day special, but I only have the re-edit of this one.