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What a Wonderful Kind of Day: The Arthur Series Ends

It’s been a wonderful kind of ride and a wonderful kind of day.

After 25 years on the air, Arthur, one of the longest-running kid’s TV shows has ended. Not with a bang, not with a whimper. It just kind of…stopped. While PBS Kids celebrated the event with a several-day-long marathon of just about every episode of Arthur ever — I thought the series wouldn’t be over for several more months.

Having it end on what seemed to be a random Monday in February at 4:30 in the afternoon just seemed…wrong. Like a show with this much history and influence deserved a much more momentous goodbye.

But perhaps it was for the best; Arthur has never been about flashiness, grand gestures, or anything like that. It’s just the story of a third-grader, his friends, family, and their day-to-day lives. Sometimes, they might meet a celebrity or have a same-sex couple depicted on screen, and they talk about more serious issues like cancer, death, allergies and at one point even had an episode that was an allegory for 9/11  …But it’s mostly the kind of show that you can watch without any kind of stress or anxiety.

Its influence on pop culture cannot be denied. 

History of Arthur (From Book to Show)

This show should need no introduction. It’s about the adventures of an anthropomorphic aardvark and his friends in Elwood City. The franchise originally started as a series of books for young kids by author Marc Brown.

The first book, Arthur’s Nose, was published in 1976. The first episode of the show, Arthur’s Eyes, aired in 1996. In total there were 253 half-hour long episodes; most of them contained 2 different stories for a total of 493 segments.

The show has gone through some changes: Arthur, the character, has had several different voice actors as they kept aging out of the role…as have other characters including the Brain, D.W, the Tibble Twins….A lot of the characters were voiced by kids so that makes sense.

There were other changes as well…In Season 16, which started in 2012, they started using Flash animation as opposed to traditional animation. New characters like Ladonna and her little brother Bud were added in later seasons.

The kids even graduated from the third grade to the fourth in the 19th season – though of course, the status quo still exists and Mr. Ratburn ends up becoming their teacher again. So really – no change at all. At some point, they even gave Pal the ability to talk – but only to Baby Kate – who remains an infant throughout the series.

The later seasons were also shortened with the last few only having around 7 or 8 episodes each rather than the previous 20 or 30-something episodes from the previous seasons. The Arthur I grew up with is still recognizable in many ways – the characters haven’t changed much – but the show has kept up with the times, to offer solutions for modern-day issues I could never have imagined as a kid.

Which is probably why the show had such staying power.

My Experience With Arthur

I’ll be honest, I don’t have a lot of distinct memories of this show; I know I watched it. I desperately wanted my classroom to be on “A Word From Us Kids.” It was also one of the few shows I watched that acknowledged Jewish characters – Francine Frensky and her family are Jewish – and it shows some of the struggles of growing up as a minority religion: misunderstandings about the holidays you do and don’t celebrate, fasting during Yom Kippur…It was great.

And this show had representation for all kinds of minority groups. And it often did it, from my knowledge, pretty well. Arthur is a show that like Sesame Street aimed to be accessible to all kids – not only did it air on PBS – which you don’t need a subscription for but it aimed to show a town full of all different kinds of people who lived together and learned about each other.

It’s a show that everyone could find somebody they relate to. Arthur became ingrained in so many people’s minds, that they still reference it in memes and mourn over its ending, even though they long outgrew the franchise.

I watched a lot of TV growing up and I read a lot of books – including the Arthur series and enjoyed comparing the two and the differing details. It was probably my first experience actually analyzing media and understanding the differences between different types of media and how they tell stories.

The Grand Finale

The finale titled “All Grown Up” has a very simple premise: several of the main cast come across a game in the library that claims to tell them their futures. Everyone is disappointed with their answers, except for Arthur who does receive a future career due to the game running out of batteries.

They leave – with Arthur deciding to take home the book, the library mistakenly reserved for him from a Marc Brown insert. And then we skip to 20 years in the future: Muffy, Francine, and Buster all have the jobs the game said they would: Buster – a writing professor, Muffy is running for mayor and Francine is the CEO of a successful sneaker company.

They’re all very happy with the way things turned out. And Arthur? Well, he became a graphic novelist, with his first book about to be published – an autobiography that starts with the story of how he got his glasses.

It’s pretty trite and pretty predictable but…I’m sure it’s going to blow a lot of little kids’ minds.  

What I did like was the Marc Brown character, who has appeared before – telling Arthur to take home the mistaken book – which turns out to be a book on how to draw animals – the very thing which inspires him to become a graphic novelist.

I appreciate how the show focused on their future careers – and not their future relationships. They’re all around 28/29 years old so it’s not surprising that they’re not married but it’s nice that there aren’t even hints of who is into who.

They’ve changed a lot since 4th grade.

I wasn’t fond of most of the aged-up designs – Arthur’s is…kind of laughable, Francine looks like she’s more in her 40s, and D.W., who appears as a traffic cop looks the same only taller. It’s kind of disturbing.

But the nicest part came when I found out that the grown-up Arthur is voiced by Arthur’s very first child voice actor, bringing the whole thing full circle.

Was it a grand emotional finale? No.

Did it wrap up all loose ends? No.

Was it was enjoyable and very much like the classic Arthur episodes, I remember watching as a kid? Yes.

I never thought I would review this show on this blog, but it only seemed appropriate to do so. I’m not going to rate it; mostly because I’m not sure whether to rate it as an individual episode like any other or as a finale…It just feels wrong.

So I’m just going to leave it as is.

And that’s the scoop!

1 thought on “What a Wonderful Kind of Day: The Arthur Series Ends”

  1. I was a big fan of Arthur growing up and I’m sad to see the show end. I was underwhelmed by the finale and while the show wasn’t about flashiness, I really hoped they would have made the finale a full 30-min or hour-long special which they have done in the past! And like, what became of Brain, lol?

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