I am writing about a topic I have avoided discussing for a while now. It’s a little embarrassing to admit but I feel now is an important time to let this all out. Here goes, I am a gigantic fan of the PBS television program Arthur. I mean, at one point I would watch it 6 times a day, sometimes the same episode 3 times over. Arthur never became as popular as other programs on PBS like Sesame Street or the animated version of The Wire. At least Arthur received much higher praise commercial than that bald thing Caillou ever will.
(Does he have cancer or does he just hate the Jews? No child should be this bald)
The first thing you need to know about Arthur is that the show takes place in a town called Elwood City. It stars Arthur Reid, an anamorphic Aardvark who wears a yellow sweater. His father is named David, mother is Jane, troublemaking sister is D.W., and baby sister is Kate. He attends Lakewood Elementary school and is in Mr. Ratburn’s 3rd grade class. I always thought it was funny how both Arthur and South Park were about 3rd grade children. Those two shows couldn’t be more different. Although, in one Arthur episode entitled “The Contest” they did do a South Park satire. And no, Seinfeld fans, there was no masturbation competition although that could have been good.
Arthur has a group of friends he often has adventures with. His best friend is Buster Baxter, a rabbit who always wears a light blue sweater. Buster likes to eat a lot and his dad is a pilot who didn’t love his mother anymore so he bailed on them. Francine Frensky is a monkey friend of Arthur. She’s great at sports and clearly a lesbian. She’s also Jewish and her dad is a garbage man. Yeah, like I’ve ever heard of a Jewish garbage man. Then there’s Muffy Crosswire, a spoiled brat and daughter of a used cars salesman. For some reason they have a mansion even though the dad only sells used cars. A bulldog named Binky is the bully who after about the first season joins the gang. Although he has a tough exterior, Binky is a sweet boy and probably a little sexually confused inside. There’s also a bear named Alan “The Brain” Powers. He’s the smartest kid in class and he celebrates Kwanza which I guess means he’s black. His parents own an ice cream store. As you can see, the Arthur series is terrible at racially stereotyping.
(From left to right; Muffy, The Brain, D.W., Buster not wearing the clothes he always wears, Arthur, Francine, and Binky. Why is the black character the one wearing Dockers?)
There are a lot of dark elements on Arthur as well. There is never mention on what happened to his father’s dad or his mother’s mom. He does have two grandparents, Joe and Thora, and they are on opposite sides of the family. I always got a feeling that they fool around but keep it on the down-low. Why wouldn’t they? Both are old and nobody really loves them.
A few classic episodes of Arthur are about a snowball (nothing to do with the sexual act of the same name), an episode featuring Art Garfunkel as a signing moose (a personal favorite of mine), and possibly the funniest episode of any show I have ever seen, the episode titled “The Bleep.” In this episode Arthur tackles swearing. The best part, they say a lot of filthy words throughout the episode and bleep it out. It’s incredibly genius and funny to see a children’s show tackle this topic. My favorite part is how casual the 4-year-olds in the episode can say fuck without a problem.
(The beginning where they do a Sopranos parody is missing for some reason but this should entertain you enough to see cursing on a children’s show)
Sometimes when an Arthur episode wasn’t up to snuff you could always rely on the segment to break up the two 10 minute episodes. The segment in between these two episodes was called “And Now Let’s Talk to Some Kids.” It involves a camera crew usually going into a school and asking kids dumb questions about the Universe or fire safety. On my way to Dorney Park a few years ago along with my friend Rob we made a list of the Top 25 “And Now Let’s Talk to Some Kids” segments. I forget which ones we rated 1 and 2, but I have a feeling it was either the Fiya Fighta Scott one or the Perkins School for the Blind making cookies.
One thing on Fiya Fighta Scott. This was a dopey Boston firefighter who talked to the children about fire safety. The strange thing about this is a few years after the episode originally aired they would skip over his segment. It’s the only Arthur episode that airs now where there is no “And Now Let’s Talk to Some Kids” segment. What did Fiya Fighta Scott do to get himself banned from PBS? Rob and I have theorized he either molested a child (he was pretty touchy with the kids in the clip) or he died on 9/11 and the producers didn’t feel like making a tribute graphic for him. The mystery of Fiya Fighta Scott from Boston will never be solved. I’ve searched him on Google extensively and have never found a single thing. I’ll always be left wondering.
I hope this has encouraged you to give that aardvark Arthur a chance. I haven’t watched it in years and all of this was off memory. The show is not only for children, although some of the newer episodes were pretty lame and were more about the guest voices ala The Simpsons. The show is full of satire and can be enjoyed by all.
(When I heard this movie was coming out do you know how excited I was thinking the Aardvark was finally hitting the big screen? I hate Russell Brand)