Hey! What happened to 'Arthur' on Wisconsin Public Television?
That should give you some idea of the intractable hold this PBS Kids show has over me ... and yes, possibly the level of my immaturity. Yet every night when I get home, "Arthur" is the first show I want to watch. I don't care if I still have last week's "The Office" sitting there — Jim and Pam are nowhere near as cute as Arthur the aardvark and his adorably annoying little sister DW; and whatever bonehead stunt Michael pulls, it won't be nearly as funny as Buster the bunny's latest exploit. "Arthur" may be aimed at tykes, but it's must-see TV for this grown-up.
Which is why I'm basically having a child-like hissy fit over Wisconsin Public Television's decision to pull "Arthur" from its schedule until June. Previously on every day at 3:30 in the afternoon — part of an animation block that included "Super WHY!" and "Dragon Tales" ... both unwatched by me, in case you were wondering — "Arthur" is now nowhere to be found.
I emailed the station to complain — because I have nothing else in my life, obviously — and this was their explanation for the absence: "After looking at our schedule and seeing how our viewers watch, and looking at other programming information the decision was made to adjust our afternoon schedule. Arthur will return to the schedule in June."
Fair enough. I can't be too upset if they want to hold off airing a show geared toward perhaps more grade school-aged children until a time when those kids will actually be home to watch it. (Airing in "Arthur's" place now is a show called "Dinosaur Train," which features a preschool-aged T-rex who hops aboard a train and meets other dinosaurs. Apologies to our preschool-aged readers, but — la-a-a-ame!)
Moreover, I just can't get upset at PBS, period. That would be like kicking a puppy ... a viewer-supported, commercial-free puppy. It would be one thing if I actually donated to them once in a while — which, regrettably, I don't. But to complain that I'm no longer getting something awesome when I got it for free in the first place is kind of a jerky thing to do. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there's an "Arthur" episode that deals with that very life lesson.
That's the brilliant thing about "Arthur": It can weave subtle moral and education lessons so seamlessly into a witty, sharply written 12-minute story, that it's almost subliminal. Even the hilarious episode where Buster becomes addicted to a 376-DVD set of a "Lord of the Rings"-style movie also teaches kids (and, let's face it, some adults) to not ditch more important things, like friends and schoolwork.
And that's every episode. After 13 seasons, creator Marc Brown and crew seem to have an endless well of story ideas and teachable moments. I, of course, don't need a anthropomorphic aardvark to inform me how important it is to get my homework done on time. And although it's definitely got a laugh-per-minute ratio to rival anything on even network TV, I still laugh more during an average episode of, say, "Community."
No, the main reason I look forward to every episode of "Arthur," and I think what makes it such a favorite among adult viewers, is how perfectly it captures the experience of childhood. Think of it as "The Wonder Years" with small mammals, or "The Adventures of Pete & Pete," if the Petes had fur. The characters act like real kids, and they experience things the way I remember experiencing them at that age. When any show can bring back long-forgotten memories of what it was like to be 8 years old, it's a small miracle.
Any other closet "Arthur" fans out there? Are you looking forward to June even more now?
-- Adam Reinhard, firstname.lastname@example.org