“O Christmas Pete” (season 3, episode 11; originally aired 12/14/1996)
All the best Christmas specials are kind of the same. Christmas cheer is threatened, but ultimately the show’s subjects realize that goodwill toward men and love in their hearts can last all year round, with or without the presence of a fat dude in a red suit. It’s a little gimmicky, but it’s tried and true because it works. The people behind “O Christmas Pete” knew that, so they stuck to the candy cane-laden straight and narrow, and well, it kind of worked.
In “O Christmas Pete,” Little Pete is determined to keep the Christmas spirit alive post-December 25. He makes a rather convincing case to his family hinging around the consistent presence of fruitcake and manages to persuade the rest of the neighborhood as well with caroling and a festive holiday pageant. Then the Garbage Man shows up.
Played by a semi-terrifying Joseph McKenna, the Garbage Man is every kid’s worst nightmare. Not only does he represent the most repulsive job around, but he also wants to destroy Christmas cheer one tree at a time. When the Wrigleys refuse to give theirs up, the Garbage Man declares war on their residence, refusing to take their garbage until the tree is history.
The residents of Cranston Street hate this, of course, until Little Pete persuades them with televisions jammed with yule log splendor, white Christmases indoors, and the neighborhood Santa mambo. Then Garbage Man throws the ban on the rest of the street, and all bets are off. Following a rousing bout between Santa “Killer Kringle” Claus, the annihilator of the north, pounder from the pole, and the Garbage Man, Pete’s finally convinced that Christmas is over and that it’s time to give up the tree.
Defeated, he walks the fir to the curb and surrenders it to the metallic jaws of death, but then—gasp!—Big Pete has turned the Wrigley’s pile of trash into a giant lit-up tree, and then it’s revealed the rest of the street is lit up too. The street’s spirit is restored, real tree or not, and even Garbage Man feels a little rumbling in his stomach of cheer and merriment. Christmas may be over, but there’s a little more peace on Earth and lots of goodwill to go around.
Christmas specials are kind of hard to watch in any month that’s not November or December. Snow and cookies sound kind of awesome, but that magic that pervades the holiday months really isn’t there. That being said, “O Christmas Pete” does a decent enough job at bringing back some of that certain something. (It probably doesn’t hurt that my own personal bowl full of jelly is full of candy from the Sweets And Snacks show right now too.) “O Christmas Pete” works as both an episode of The Adventures Of Pete And Pete and as a Christmas special, and while it’s not the most exceptional example of either of those things, it’s alright, and that’s good enough for me.
- Little Pete insult of the week: “The tree stays, Fungus Lick.”
- Big Pete gets Little Pete a flamethrower for Christmas, saying, “You can use it to clean our room.” Aw, brothers.
- “T’was the day after Christmas and all through the house, the spirit had ended. It had all been doused.”
- When Don tells Pete that the tree is old and shedding, Pete tells him that he “could say the same about you.” Touché.
- The song about the Garbage Man (“he grew up tough, he grew up mean, he became a Christmas killing machine”) is eerily reminiscent of the Canyonero song from The Simpsons, if anyone else remembers that.