The Adventures of Pete & Pete: O’Christmas Pete

the_adventures_of_pete_26_pete_title_cardThis show really creeped me out as a kid. But I also LOVED it. I think it was my first encounter of something so interesting and freaky that I couldn’t look away from it. But honesty, it’s an awesome show and it is not creepy at all. In fact, the things that “creeped” me out as a kid are things I appreciate about this show more as an adult.

But I was probably a little on the younger side of the Pete & Pete demographic. I didn’t really get it. I didn’t get the band playing the theme song on the lawn, or the plate in their mom’s head, or the fact that an arm tat got a its own dedicated credit in the opening. But I did like the quirky characters and the plots were always engaging. I think I was actually okay with the fact that these two brothers have the same exact name. As an adult looking back on these shows, I can say with certainty that The Adventures of Pete & Pete holds up pretty damn well.

In the Christmas of 1996, Little Pete successfully kept Christmas alive for many days post-December 26th. Eventually, reality starts setting in and his dad has to go back to work. But more importantly, the garbage man comes to pick up the tree. And they absolutely cannot upset the garbage man.

vlcsnap-00005The garbage man is a really scary looking dude, who loves to throw dried-up Christmas trees into the truck as a metaphorical destruction of Christmas. Yeah, this guy’s a real winner. In an attempt to teach his kid about the “real world,” his dad invites the garbage man to come back to the house and take the tree out in the middle of the night. But Little Pete is ready. He’s rigged an alarm on the tree and has a nutcracker setup to shoot a tranquilizer dart at the garbage man.

When the garbage man starts “trash talking” (did the show intend this pun? I hope!) Little Pete during a physical struggle over the Christmas tree, Little Pete’s dad sees the error of his ways and throws his full support behind his son. That’s when the garbage man sets an ultimatum: The tree goes or the rest of the garbage stays.

Things get pretty smelly on the Petes’ street. But everyone is okay at first. They’re still playing Christmas Carols and mamboing with Santa around the cul-de-sac. But then again, maybe there are some creepy elements to all of this. After 12 days, the garbage man ups the ante. He hacks into their TV and tells them that he’s extended the garbage strike to the whole block until they give up their Christmas tree.

hqdefault3This pisses off all of the neighbors, who threaten Little Pete’s life if he doesn’t give up the Christmas tree. So Pete does the only reasonable thing anyone could do in this situation: He organizes a wrestling match between Santa Claus and any takers. Pete nominates Pit Stain (the school bully) from the crowd to be Santa’s first challenger. But Santa can melt even Pit Stain’s heart. He refuses to fight. As Pete says, “The Christmas Spirit lives!”

But the garbage man isn’t afraid to fight Santa. He even gets the crowd cheering for him (those lemmings…who want their trash picked up). He knocks Santa out cold as the onlookers turn into an angry, jeering, Shirley Jackson-esque mob. So the family agrees to part with the tree.

Little Pete is devastated. But there’s still time for one more Christmas miracle. Big Pete and their parents have rigged up the piles of garbage around the block with lights to look like lovely Christmas trees. It’s enough Christmas cheer to make even the garbage man feel a little Christmas spirit. He wins the tree, but the Christmas spirit wins the battle. (Yeah, that makes sense right?)

Very Special Holiday Lesson: Why aren’t the people on this block recycling more? It’s been like 2 weeks and everyone has 12 foot piles of trash on their lawn. If you’re reading this and you’re thinking of NOT recycling then FU man, you’re killing our planet. Happy Holidays.

Kenan & Kel Inspired Orange Soda Donuts: A 6 Step Recipe

{I guess technically this was more Kel inspired since I’m not sure Kenan was as into the whole orange soda thing.}

I’m not really a person who makes things in the kitchen, but I found a mini donut maker on Amazon and eyed it for a very long time before purchasing it. Then I left it in its box for a couple of months until I finally decided to use it tonight. So if I can make this ridiculously easy recipe, then anyone can. Also, if you don’t have a donut maker, then you can also use a donut pan in your oven. These are cake donuts, baked not fried. And they’re very tasty! I used a cake mix donut recipe from “It’s Always Autumn” and added a little Kenan & Kel twist.

The ingredients are simple:

-1 box orange cake mix
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1 egg
-1 cup orange soda
-Cream Cheese Frosting
-Cooking spray for your pan/donut maker

Step 1. Combine cake mix, vegetable oil, egg, and orange soda in a large mixing bowl.

Step 2. Whisk the ingredients together. I realized after starting this process that I do not own a whisk. So I used an egg beater. It worked.
Step 3. Shovel some batter into a plastic baggy, cut one of the corners, and pipe that batter into the pan. img_1081

Step 4. Use a plastic spatula or wooden spoon to remove the donuts from the pan and place them on a plate too cool.
Step 5. Lather, rinse, repeat. Seriously, this makes like 24 donuts and with only 7 fitting in the pan at a time, I felt like the “Time to Make the Donuts” guy was my kindred spirit.
Step 6. Apply a thin layer of cream cheese frosting to your donuts.

Although I did not use her recipe, the concept behind this post was inspired by Jessica Segarra’s “The Kenan and Kel: Orange Soda Mini Donut” in Mini Donuts: 100 Bite-Sized Donut Recipes to Sweeten Your “Hole” Day, available on Amazon.

Things I Can’t Explain

It’s been decades since we’ve heard from Clarissa and when I started this book I was pretty nervous. There’s a lot of legacy to live up to here. Did she turn out okay? Will I feel okay reading about her outside of the TV series? Things I Can’t Explain, is written by series creator Mitchell Kriegman and will be released November 10th. You can pre-order it now on Amazon.

But full disclosure, I did not care for this book. Frankly, parts of it felt like a real chore to get through. I found myself a bit bored by the plot. And I found it hard to get past the fact that the math glaringly does not add up. I’m sure this was done for creative reasons, but Clarissa is such a cultural icon of the early/mid 90’s to me, as I’m sure she is for many other girls of that era. So to hear that she graduated from college in 2009 (and figuring that means she must have spent over a decade in high school for that to even remotely make sense) just doesn’t sit right with me.

Plus, financial crisis recent-grad millennial is not Clarissa as we grew up with her. Clarissa Explains It All first aired in 1991 and Clarissa was in the 9th grade. She’s on the cusp of the Gen-X/Millennial generation. She’s the teenager that all of the younger millennials (the one’s who actually did finish college in 2009 without any math tricks) looked up to and aspired to be. If she’s suddenly supposed to be the same age as a younger millennial, then it somehow spoils everything.

I’d be much more interested in reading about her in her early to mid thirties. She could still have a life-crisis. I’m down to hear about that. But something about this book rings false. Clarissa doesn’t belong with her contemporaries in this book. Suddenly, she’s a “millennial” and she throws around words like “SnapChat” but it doesn’t even sound like she knows how what she’s saying. She describes a friend, who is presumably Clarissa’s age, who changes her Facebook profile picture every “43 minutes.” That’s not something a late-twenties millennial would do. That sounds more like something a seventeen or eighteen year old millennial might do. And those kids don’t even have Facebook because Facebook is what “old people” use.

I feel like the character’s voice is missing, and maybe that’s a by-product of how amazingly Melissa Joan Hart depicted her on the television show. But I don’t think that’s entirely the problem. Rob Thomas wrote a couple of books using Veronica Mars as a character and the character was still very much Veronica Mars. This just does not feel like Clarissa. She feels like she’s in the wrong time and place and I feel like just about anyone could be telling me this story. Frankly I just do not care about this character, and that’s mostly because I don’t feel like there’s much of a character to care about.

I guess there are a few other elements of insincerity to me as well, but I’m not sure they’ll bug others as much. As a former New Yorker, I find it really odd that Clarissa, while trying to convince her parents that a near-stranger is her boyfriend, would mistakenly pick Riverdale as his neighborhood of residence. I’ll point out that this guy runs a coffee stand in the lobby of a corporate building in lower Manhattan, so he’s pretty much as far socioeconomically and geographically as possible from Riverdale. She also has all of these stupid rules about little New York interactions that require you to not know anyone’s names. So she’s been getting coffee from this one guy for years and has intentionally not learned his name. Aside from making her sound like a jerk, this is also another weird attempt at a “local’s characterization” of New York City–like people have these little interactions and then intentionally do not learn each others names? It’s odd and patently false, in my experience.

I hate to say it, but I couldn’t recommend this book to you. The best thing about Clarissa in the Clarissa Explains it All  years was that she managed to be a totally genuine kid while also being a trendsetter. Actually, the whole fact that she was a trendsetter stemmed naturally from the fact that she was genuine and creative. Now, it feels like she’s a square peg forced into the round hole of the 21st century, and the transition is not happening smoothly. And no, it’s not because she is having a “quarter-life crisis.” The few shining moments in this book are those in which we get a fun graphic or cool list that remind us of Clarissa’s glory days. Those are fun, but not worth the price of trudging through everything else.

I say this as someone who runs a nostalgia blog: this character is certainly better left in your memories.

The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo

90’s children rejoice! Nickelodeon has finally indulged us and plans to rerun the stories of our youth on a new segment called “The Splat.” Beginning October 5th the programming block (including VSB favorites Salute Your Shorts and Clarissa Explains it All) will air between 10 pm and 6 am to perfectly align with your quarter-life-crisis induced insomnia. For the well-adjusted of you who have to go to sleep in order to make it to your jobs on time, you’ll probably need to DVR this.

I searched for an eternity just now and couldn’t find the article I read earlier this week that basically explained why millennials love the TV shows of our youth so much. It was a lot more profound than this, but it boils down to the fact that we lack the financial resources to meet all of the “adult” milestones we feel like we should (i.e. house-owning, loan paying-off-ing, marrying and acquiring offspring, etc). Basically, we’re comparing ourselves to how we imagined adults to be when we were youngsters and we’re failing because we don’t live in that world anymore (see: mountains of student loan debt et al). We’re also overly educated, underemployed balls of anxiety who’ve put tremendous amounts of pressure on ourselves under rules that don’t exist anymore only to also be told by society that we’re whiny, extendedly-adolescent people.

And you know what, that makes us feel bad. It literally feels like being kicked when you’re down. I’m sorry for the douche bags who make our generation look bad, but most of us are quietly spinning our wheels and trying to figure out how to adjust. So we watch TV shows (which costs way less than a vacation) that remind us of a simpler time. Also, I know I joke about a lot of the stupid crap messages these shows were sending, but their hearts were in the right place. And some of them (Boy Meets World, Clarissa Explains it All, The Secret World of Alex Mack) had really great writing that I can still legitimately enjoy today.

So that was all a very long introduction to say that I feel like The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo was wrongfully overlooked on this lineup. Shelby Woo lived with her grandfather (Pat Morita from Happy Days and The Karate Kid) in Cocoa Beach and she solved mysteries. But we’re not talking dinky The Adventure of Mary-Kate and Ashley mysteries. We’re talking like genuine thrillers. Okay, well like thrillers for kids, but I found this show to be like a 7.5 on a 1 to Are You Afraid of the Dark? scale.

For example, the episode I’m watching right now (The Haunted House Mystery) starts with a bunch of cuckoo clocks going off and an old lady screaming alone in the middle of the night. That’s genuine horror, right there. But I could always trust that Shelby would solve the mystery and put things right. She finds out about this scary case when the old lady (she’s no longer screaming at this point) checks into her grandfather’s B&B and says she likes her house but she can’t deal with the haunting. Shelby is fearless so she spends the night in the haunted house and solves the mystery. I’m not going to spoil it for you (like I do every other episode of everything) because there’s no very special lesson. It’s just a cool show. And I’m hoping “The Splat” decides to air it on Halloween.

Salute Your Shorts vs. Hey Dude

Ever noticed how some shows have basically the same plotline? And what’s even more bizarre than a PSA type episode with a boyfriend dying from injuries sustained while driving under the influence (Clueless and Growing Pains), is an episode about really intense capture the flag with odd rules. I guess it makes sense in a way because these shows both involve a group of people isolated from mainstream society. So maybe that’s some strange Lord of the Flies coping mechanism?

Let’s see who did it better, shall we?

Hey Dude: War
As it turns out, the only requirement for being head of staff at the Bar None Ranch is winning a game of Capture the Flag–except if capture the flag was more like Manhunt and involved finding the flag in an undisclosed location. The two teams stay up until dawn and look for the other teams flag and the first one to run it up the flag pole in the morning wins.

Everyone is divided into the red team and the blue team, but basically all you need to know is that Ted and Brad are competing for senior staff status. Everyone else is cool just letting the duke it out and supporting them as teammates for whatever reason. I would have been all like:

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 11.11.53 PMAnd when Ted starts to take everything too seriously (a.k.a uses fake military tactics), Danny and Melody tell him that they don’t actually care and that they just want to play the game.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 12.35.17 AMWhen Melody decides she’s better off just going to bed, the Blue Team kidnaps her and tries to get her to tell the Red Team’s secrets. They plan on using music-torture, Noriega-style, to get her to talk. But she really doesn’t care about the game at this point, so she tells them right off the bat that they booby-trapped it over the fireplace in the main lodge.

Meanwhile, the blue team has hidden their flag in the lining of Ted’s coat, which is pretty brilliant, if you ask me. Finally, both teams obtain the other’s flag and race to the flag pole. But when they arrive, Ted and Brad collide into one another and are knocked out cold. In the meantime, Mr. Ernst (owner of the Bar None) runs the American flag up the flagpole. The kids decide to share Senior Staff Leadership and walk off arm-in-arm.

Salute Your Shorts: Capture the Flag
Let me start of by saying that I want to play Camp Anawanna’s version of Capture the Flag. This is intense. But we’ll get to that. First off, everyone at the camp has to tryout for a position on Ug’s team. He’s challenged another counselor, and the loser will have to dress up like Madonna and sing “Material Girl” in the cafeteria. So there’s a lot riding on this. Donkey Lips (I can’t believe they let that name exist in children’s television) wants to be an attacker, so it’s a really underdog story.

Now, Camp Anawanna doesn’t play your typical capture the flag. They’ve got bunkers. They’re decked out in war paint. And best of all, they use water balloons as ammunition. Ug communicates with team captain, Budnick, via walkie talkie and a VHS Camcorder attached to Sponge’s helmet. It’s kind of like Vietnam but in a fun way.

Donkely Lips doesn’t get to be an attacker though, and he’s left behind has Budnick leads the charge across the hill. (By the way, your favorite Anawanna kids are the red team and they’re playing against the blue team). But it’s a trap! They’re heavily attacked by water balloons.

The retreat behind a log, while the blue team slowly stalks them on the offensive and things get very:
Meanwhile, Donkely Lips and Z.Z. have dug a trench and captured nine members of the blue team. (But isn’t that like the entire size of the red team?) Pinsky talks them into saving the rest of the red team, while he stays behind to watch the prisoners.

But it’s only when Donkey Lips can overcome the tire obstacle course (his kryptonite) that barricade the other team’s flag that the red team can return victorious to camp.

So, I want to try this new thing. I’m calling it “Friday Face-Off” where I compare two similar episodes and you pick your favorite. Then on the following Friday, I’ll reveal the winner and the next face off.

Melody from Hey Dude is Matilda from Zoolander

And I don’t mean she’s the same actress. Well, I know she’s the same actress.

But I’m pretty sure that Melody from Hey Dude grew up and changed her name to Matilda before becoming an investigative reporter in Zoolander. You see, I discovered all of this in a very telling scene from the “Miss Tucson” episode of Hey Dude.  This is the first time in which Melody/Matilda reveals that she was an overweight child who idolized the pretty beauty queen type.

Clearly, she trusts her dude ranch friend, Brad, enough to share this tragic past. But it’s not until she meets the love of her life, Derek Zoolander, that she reveals her history of Bulimia.

Poor Melody/Matilda! She deserves better. Hopefully, we will find out that everything worked out great for her when Zoolander 2 finally comes out. 

Clarissa Doesn’t Explain It All

It’s spreading like the plague that will inevitably cause the Zombie Apocalypse. Clarissa Explains It All will be rebooted as a novel, in which Clarissa does not have all of the answers.

I can’t handle Clarissa having a quarter-life crisis. It sounds like she’s having a quarter-life crisis from the book description. :/

The fun of Clarissa Explains It All is that you really do think you have everything figured out when you’re fourteen. And maybe at fourteen, in your small pocket of the world, for like two-seconds, you do have it all figured out. I mean who is going to barge into your room and tell you that your assessment of school newspaper politics isn’t the most important thing in the world? You’re cool neighbor Sam? Yeah, right. He’s too chill to start an argument.

Clarissa, can you please explain the cultural zeitgeist that is happening right now?? What will I tell my children when we watch reruns together? My parents got to say things like “This is M*A*S*H. You don’t even understand how good this is.” And I would laugh along like I did understand, but I didn’t. I was pretending until I was old enough to actually get it.

But I will have to tell my children, “This is a continuation of a series that began thirty years earlier and you need to see twelve seasons prior to this one before understanding what’s going on here.” Or worse. I will Little Rascals-them about everything. Of course, I am referring to how my parents shamed my love of The Little Rascals movie because it wasn’t the “real” Little Rascals/Our Gang/I totally get what they were saying now and I’m going to be just as obnoxious to my children.

I’m probably going to pre-order this Clarissa book though. Let’s be real.