“The Trouble With Teddy” (season 3, episode 2; originally aired 10/08/1995)
I know that last week I said season three of The Adventures Of Pete And Pete is, well, a little lacking, but I take back everything I said—at least in relation to this week’s episode. “The Trouble With Teddy” is sharp, cute, and laugh out loud funny within the first minute. Yes, it does feature an extraneous and never-to-be-seen crush object for Pete, but whatever. It also features a whole lot of David Martel as Big Pete’s friend Teddy, and that’s “excellente.”
Martel’s not the only reason this episode hits home, though. The show’s main storyline—that you can grow to really hate a friend by spending too much time with them—rings true. Anyone who’s lived with a friend or shared an office with a buddy knows that it can be kind of tenuous. You can love someone so much you want to marry them, but that still doesn’t mean you should spend eight stressful hours together a day. Just because someone’s your best friend doesn’t mean you’ll be able to agree about whose dirty dishes are in the sink, either.
Big Pete, being presumably in high school, doesn’t have to deal with all those issues, but he does have to deal with someone being in his space and face all the damn time. The Wrigleys have apparently learned to give each other room, but Teddy, being an only child and kind of a needy person, is like a new puppy, angry when you’re not petting him and always wanting to show you something new and cool—or at least new and cool to him.
For Pete, this means Teddy ruins his date with Diane, a girl he likes because of the way she twirls her hair. Theodore L. Forzman also thwarts Little Pete’s squirrel-hunting outing, Don’s attempt at auto repair, and mom’s general safety after he accidentally magnetizes the metal plate in her head. It’s not really his fault, though. Teddy means well. He just doesn’t know when to lay off.
At least, that’s how it appears until he takes off in the middle of the night, leaving just a note and triggering the Wrigley clan’s guilt complexes during their family night Mexican fiesta. After a well-timed KrebEx delivery of personalized sombreros from the Ted-ster, Big Pete goes searching for him, finding him at the pizza place where, after some vague allusions to Pete’s “problems,” Teddy admits that he left because he was afraid of Mexican night’s promised beans, that they give him gas, and that he figured he might as well leave before the whole visit could go awry.
Teddy’s apparent inability to read social queues is baffling, of course, but it’s endearing all the same. It suggests a backstory for the character that makes him infinitely more interesting. Combined with two facts at the beginning of the episode—that his favorite hobby is making sun tea and that his favorite sport is speedwalking, which Martel executes hilariously—Teddy becomes a whole character, not just some friendly stooge on the side about whom the audience doesn’t care.
It’s not something that’s really hit me until now, but this kind of B-character background is something that Pete And Pete does really well. Viewers might only know a few things about a bully—that he likes open-face sandwiches and wears a winter hat, let’s say—but those facts are so specific that we can feel like we know exactly who that kid is. If we knew, for instance, that Wayne “The Pain” Pardue or Clem liked soccer and math, then those characters would just be some dudes. Because we know Wayne always wears a Giants jersey or that Clem has inexplicable mutton chops and knows how to play the drums, that makes them almost whole—or if not whole, then at least dimensional enough that we, as viewers, would absolutely take a chance on getting to know them. It’s what makes Wellsville a place we want to come back to time and time again, and—at least in this episode—what makes Teddy Forzman such a lovable galoot.
- Every time Teddy says “Excellente” or executes the “soul shake” it makes me laugh out loud, even now.
- The Petes might dread Wrigley family nights, but they kind of look like a blast. Who could pass up American Dairy Night?
- Teddy “personalizes” Big Pete’s underpants by sewing his name in them, claiming it’s a “crucial move when you wear the same brand.” What, you didn’t know that?
- I like that when Pete goes on a date, he wears khakis and a polo shirt tucked in, like some normal person. Please, Pete. Let that freak flag fly. At least he showed up covered in mud.
- I really hope there isn’t “as much saturated fat in one slice of pepperoni as there is in a two-pound cheese log.”
- There’s no good Little Pete insult for the week, so instead let’s go with Don Wrigley’s sweet name for Joyce of the week: “Fruit cup.”