The stars and creators of three beloved Nick shows look back fondly.
By Eric Goldman
A trio of beloved 1990s Nickelodeon series were front and center at the ATX Television Festival in Austin today, as cast members and creators from Hey Dude, The Adventures of Pete and Pete and Salute Your Shorts gathered to discuss the shows, which are now all re-airing on Nickelodeon’s “NickSplat” nighttime programming block.
The panel consisted of Michael C. Maronna (Big Pete Wrigley, The Adventures of Pete & Pete), Danny Tamberelli (Little Pete Wrigley, The Adventures of Pete & Pete), Chris Viscardi (Creator, The Adventures of Pete & Pete), Danny Cooksey (Bobby Budnick, Salute Your Shorts), Steve Slavkin (Creator, Salute Your Shorts), Kelly Brown (Bradley “Brad” Taylor, Hey Dude), David Lascher (Ted McGriff, Hey Dude) and Graham Yost (Writer, Hey Dude), all of whom said they still encounter plenty of fans of these series – whether it be on the street, or a doctor’s office or, in Cooksey’s place, the woman he’s now married to (“I totally scored!” he declared, of his wife’s affection for his character, Budnick).
(L-R) Leanne Aguilera, Graham Yost, David Lascher, Kelly Brown, Chris Viscardi, Danny Tamberelli, Michael C. Maronna, Steve Slavkin and Danny Cooksey at the ATX Television Festival.
All looked back with affection on their time on these Nick shows, where they worked within limited budgets and schedules (Hey Dude episodes were cranked out in three days each), while delivering entertainment kids loved. Yost – who has since gone on to guide series like Justified and Sneaky Pete – admitted it was hard for him to remember the circumstances of writing a particular episode though, given they made over 30 in a single year.
There were a lot of tales of pseudo-guerrilla filmmaking, with Slavkin recalling digging a giant hole in Griffith Park for an episode of Salute Your Shorts without asking permission, while the Pete and Pete gang recalled being asked to not return to one city after after another in New Jersey, where they filmed. “We just trashed the neighborhood” said Tamberelli, of the “Halloweenie” episode, with Viscardi adding, “It was fantastic for the show, but it was not good for the people who lived there.”
Asked why these shows struck such a chord with their young viewers, Yost brought up the “slightly transgressive vibe of Nickelodeon,” saying kids liked that the show’ didn’t feel as pandering as other children’s series and that in these series, “Kids got to have agency.” Yost added that even some of the titles alone, like Salute Your Shorts, felt edgy and more real, relative to other options.
Said Viscardi, of Pete and Pete, “It was very original and weird and specific.” He said he was amused by the fact that no kid ever asked why the two Petes had the same name, while adults always would. For kids, Viscardi said, “The illogic was logical to them.”
Slavkin noted how young many of the Nick creators were at the time (he was only 26), saying the channel was giving a lot of opportunities and that “We packed the scripts with bizarre things that really pleased us,” while Nick remained “very sort of hands off in a lot of ways.”
He also agreed that these shows felt much more real for the time, with characters who might come from broken homes, and were sometimes unhappy. If an actor had a speech impediment it was kept in, if someone got braces, so did their character. “We wanted kids to look like kids,” Slavkin said, saying he would constantly ask, “Don’t put make up on. Don’t comb their hair!”
Lascher said he thought the shows stood out because, “They weren’t cynical. They weren’t jaded,” while Cooskey, evoking Salute Your Shorts’ memorable theme song, declared, “No matter what generation you’re in, when the theme song has ‘fart’ in it, it’s going to get its point across.”
Viscardi still works at Nickelodeon and has helped spearhead some of the revivals occurring for animated series like Hey Arnold (which has a new TV movie airing this fall). Asked if Hey Dude, The Adventures of Pete and Pete or Salute Your Shorts could ever come back in some capacity, he simply stated, “It’s possible!”
Each panelist was asked where their characters would be now, with Cooksey saying, “I think Budnick is probably a camp counselor still at Camp Anawanna. In the off seasons, I think he lives in a conversion van and works as a sound mixer in a dive bar. He wouldn’t have gone far.”
Regarding the camp itself, Slavkin said he didn’t think much changed. “Camp is always camp, that’s the beauty of it. Camp traditions live on forever.”
Maronna joked that Big Pete is now a “TV narrator. He probably got a job as an announcer. His brother owes him money.”
Said Tamberelli of Little Pete, “He probably has some more tattoos. Maybe he got into tattooing himself. He goes to alternative festivals with piercings and all that kind of stuff. He doesn’t really like it, that’s just where the money is. His passion still is music, but it doesn’t pay the bills. He does frequent that dive bar where Budnick works. It’s always his favorite place to play.”
Viscardi in the meantime said he felt that Pete and Pete’s dad, Don, probably still insists on an annual road trip to the Hoover Dam for the family. “They’re still jam-packed in that car,” he explained, adding, “On the way, they see Artie.”
Brown said she felt Brown, “Actually always own the Bar None now,” while Lascher said Ted is “Working for Brad. He’s probably entertaining people in some way. They were all pretty wholesome teenagers. He probably has a family and is a good dad.”
Yost grinned at the question, saying, “I’m not doing to take the dark twist. ‘One of them is a ‘serial killer.’ That’s expected of me!”
That being said, Yost couldn’t resist getting a bit adult in his modern Hey Dude storyline, saying, “People still like to go to dude ranches. Brad did buy it from Mr. Ernst. She gave Buddy a job and then they ended up having a weird romantic entanglement, which ended with him suing her for sexual harassment. That’s where the new season will pick up.”
Jokingly asked by moderator Leanne Aguilera if Justified was “the version of Hey Dude you always wanted to tell,” Yost replied, “Very much so. Mr. Ernst was our version of Raylan Givens!”