The Imperfect Perfection of The Adventures of Pete and Pete’s Inspector 34 Episode

It’s happened to everyone who goes on YouTube. You’re on the site, watching a video and then YouTube lists down some recommendations on the side. You see a video that’s interesting or attracts your attention so you decide to give it a look see. Then YouTube recommends another video. And another. And another. Without you knowing, you’ve been led into this rabbit hole and you find yourself watching something that’s totally unconnected to the first video you were watching so many hours ago. Sometimes, that can be a good thing or a bad thing.

This happened to me recently and, lucky for me, it was the former and not the latter. That’s because YouTube somehow knew to bring me to an episode from the Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete and Pete, an old favorite kids program of mine. What makes it even grander is that it led me to my favorite episode from the series, Inspector 34.

Okay, I guess I do have to start out by explaining to all the young’uns what The Adventures of Pete and Pete is because they’ve probably never seen this awesome piece of Nickelodeon history. The show mainly follows two brothers, Pete and Pete Wrigley (commonly differentiated by them being called either Big Pete and Little Pete) and their somewhat strange and surreal adventures they encounter in their town of Wellsville.

Some notable people in Pete and Pete’s life are their Dad, their Mom, Mom’s metal plate in her head that can receive (and transmit) radio broadcasts, Little Pete’s tattoo Petunia, Artie (The Strongest Man… In The World!), the arm cast wearing Nona (who only wears the cast because she likes the way it makes her arm itchy) and many more oddball characters. Oh, and Mom’s Plate and Petunia are seen in the show’s credits, so you immediately know how weird The Adventures of Pete and Pete is right at the start.

The cast of characters is weird and also the stories The Adventures of Pete and Pete tell can all be very strange… but in a very kid-friendly way that’s easy to follow, which is part of what made it a joy to watch. The “adventures” are more geared towards child-like sensibilities, like Little Pete trying to extend Christmas for a long as possible, Little Pete’s lucky penny running out of luck and finding a way to recharge it, Big Pete’s best friend Ellen confusing teachers as to why they have to learn algebraic word problems and Pete and Pete trying to find out what happened to the missing ice cream vendor. Yes, these episodes can be weird but all of them follow this weird kid logic that makes sense if you don’t think about it and just accept the strangeness of the world.

Now, Inspector 34 is, well, a strange episode and it’s a roller coaster of a story and, actually, it’s very hard to explain since it runs the gamut of genres. Little Pete notices that all his underwear since he was a kid has been inspected by Inspector 34. So, when he gets a message from Inspector 34 for help, he obliges. Inspector 34 asks Little Pete for assistance on how to enjoy life and, in return and because Little Pete admires the perfection of his work, Inspector 34 starts training him to look for the imperfections in the world.

And when I say Inspector 34’s perfection in his work, this applies to every aspect in his life. He manages to add new rules to the game of Kick the Can to make the game more efficient and, in one of my favorite scenes, cleanly eat a whole barbecue chicken without messing up his plate or his hands. He even stacks up the super clean bones neatly! I just love how amazed everyone is and that Pete and Pete’s Dad wants to take a picture of it because it’s so beautiful!

Things do start to spiral out of control because of how the entire townsfolk strive for perfection because they’ve experienced it. Because now that they had the taste of perfection, in the words of Big Pete, “everything else tasted like chunky milk.” Dad became obsessed with trying to stack chicken bones immaculately. Mom then tried to fix every thing that made a creaking sound. Pete and his best friend Ellen started fighting because of the advise Inspector 34 gave them. Even the kids became so efficient at playing Kick the Can that they would just calculate the odds of who would win instead of playing the game!

Eventually, Little Pete discovers how everyone’s attempts to be perfect is affecting them so he issues a challenge to Inspector 34 as he claims he’s not perfect. Inspector 34 passes all of the challenges, including putting an ice cube tray in a freezer without spilling a drop, parallel parking and squeezing every molecule of toothpaste out of the tube. The final challenge Little Pete issues was for Inspector 34 to eat a barbecue chicken. Once again, he does this without any mess. And when Inspector 34 refuses a “moisty nap” from Little Pete as he didn’t require one, the rest of the people realized that it was, well, just wrong to not get messy while eating barbecue chicken! You’re supposed to get the sauce all over your hands and mouth while eating barbecue! This is when Inspector 34 was told that eating perfectly was flawed and he shouldn’t be treating people like the way he inspected underwear because people aren’t perfect.

What made The Adventures of Pete and Pete incredibly watchable for me was because, well, it was a weird show and I was a weird kid. I was never popular in the cool way and I would look at the world though this warped lens of what was fun for me and not what others wanted me to like. I was always the strange nerd/geek who liked nerdy/geeky things, which is why the show appealed to me. The Adventures of Pete and Pete also looked at the world through this warped lens and it just sucked me in. I mean, you have Artie, The Strongest Man… In The World, battling an evil bowling ball… and lose!

But what makes Inspector 34 my favorite episode from the cavalcade of magical Adventures of Pete and Pete episodes? Well, it’s pretty much the ending and how it spoke to me. We’re all told to try to strive for perfection in our life since we are children. We’re told to get high scores at school in order to get into a good college so we can get a good job. We’re taught to be as efficient as possible in our work. But, when we do that, we kind of cut out the fun out of life. We forget that life isn’t perfect and we’ll never be perfect because we all have our flaws.

Maybe I read too much into the episode but that’s maybe because I saw Inspector 34 at just the right time in my life. It just resonated with me and that it was okay to be not the best at everything we do. We can try to but we shouldn’t think less of ourselves if we’re not perfect. I think this is a lesson that everyone should learn as early as possible as it’s a good lesson to learn.

I’m glad YouTube steered me to the Inspector 34 episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete. It allowed me to relive something I enjoyed and made me remember this lesson I learned all those years ago. Oh, and it’s a funny episode as well.

Have you seen The Adventures of Pete and Pete? What was your favorite episode? Let me know in the comments section below!

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