About Christmas TV History

Sunday, July 3, 2011

1990 Christmas: The Adventures of Pete and Pete

Another guest blogger, Dominic Caruso, writes our 1990s Christmas piece today.  He is my editor at 1701 Press.  This episode is available for viewing on my Youtube channel TistheSeasonTV within the 1990s playlist.  'Pete & Pete' fans may be interested to know that there is also a New Year's episode which is available on DVD (Season 1, disc 2) and at Netflix.

When I was an undergrad, The Adventures of Pete and Pete was my favorite children’s show for college students. It was a kids show, yes, but it was undoubtedly aimed at “alternative-nation” suburban college students such as myself. The theme song—which I loved—was by Mark Mulcahy, frontman for one of my favorite 90s bands, Miracle Legion. The guest stars—who I loved—included rockers like Marshall Crenshaw, Iggy Pop, and Syd Straw. And, the show’s sensibility—which I loved—was ironic, wistful for childhood, gently surreal, and filled with familiar suburban adventures. I’m pretty sure it’s the only show featuring a character with a forearm tattoo cool enough to warrant its own place in the opening credits.

The Christmas episode “O’Christmas Pete,” fashions most of these idiosyncrasies into a traditional tale of Christmas Spirit emerging from the stench of a garbage strike. Little Pete wants to avoid the letdown in the level of Christmas goodwill and spirit that he feels the day after Christmas. In order to keep the Christmas joy going he convinces his family (with a concise flip chart) to celebrate Christmas Day every day. Soon the Wrigley’s are exchanging gifts, passing around the fruitcake, and caroling. Again. Their enthusiasm spreads to the other residents on the block. It’s great. Everyone spends something like 12 days celebrating like it’s Christmas Day, until… enter The Garbageman.

The Garbageman is a meaner villain than the show’s regular antagonists (bullies with Dick Tracy names like Endless Mike, Open Face, and Pit Stain). He arrives with his own spaghetti westernesque theme song, performed by David Johansen:

    “He grew up tough,
    Grew up mean,
    He became a Christmas killin’ machine.”

Garbageman--The Crusher of Dreams
Garbageman actually is kind of scary. He’s played by a cadaverous looking Joseph McKenna, who wouldn’t look out of place in Escape From New York with his yellow teeth and the braided rat-tail at the back of his bare skull. Garbageman has one goal: to take the Wrigley’s Christmas tree and bring Christmas to an unceremonious end. However, Little Pete enacts numerous ideas to keep the Christmas tree, and consequently the celebration going, including organizing a block-party-sized Christmas Mambo line. To crush Pete’s resistance, the Garbageman initiates a garbage strike, first targeting the Wrigley’s, then the whole block. Everyone’s trash piles sky high and the stink befouls Little Pete’s front yard reenactments of the arrival of the 3 wise men. When the Garbageman literally beats the kringle out of Santa Claus in a Little Pete-orchestrated boxing match, Little Pete is forced to concede that Christmas has to end, and that the sneering Garbageman will crush the Wrigley’s tree in the back of his truck.

What will Big Pete do as the garbage piles higher and the stench grows worse?
However, Big Pete is a good older brother. He doesn’t want to see his younger brother defeated by such an unrepentantly nasty character. What Big Pete does at the episode’s end brings the Christmas spirit to even the hardhearted Garbageman. I won’t give it away, except to say that the fastest way to the Garbageman’s heart is through a festive pile of trash. Little Pete gets to experience the goodwill of the Christmas season a little longer, and the best 1990s kids show for college students ends on a sweet, stinky note.


  1. Wow - Interesting! I have never watched this show, but it sounds quirky and fun!

  2. I wanted to write on this if no one else chose it! But I guess I'd probably say that about all of them :) hahahaha.