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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hey! What happened to 'Arthur' on Wisconsin Public Television?

I don't have any kids, but if you were to survey the list of recorded shows on my home DVR, you wouldn't believe it. That's because I have at least 10 episodes of "Arthur" saved on my recorder, each lovingly set to "Until I Erase." It is the only show bestowed with that honor.

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, areinhard@greenbaypressgazette.com

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7 Comments:

Hi, my name is Malavika, and I've been addicted to the PBS "Arthur" show since approximately 2001

I actually never read the Arthur books growing up (I'm ashamed and sad to say!), but the show appealed to my 18-year-old self in the same way it probably would have appealed to my 8-year-old self. It's probably the smartest, educational TV out there. Guest stars include everyone from Click and Clack from "Car Talk" to Lance Armstrong to Art Garfunkel as a signing moose.

Later I found other closer fans of the show. including a college roommate, my parents and a family friend who has a PhD from MIT in Physics. WPNE has some serious 'splaining to do if they think kids are their only audience for the show!

--Malavika

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At February 9, 2010 at 12:40 PM  

Hi,

I am a big Arthur fan and I feel your pain.(said in the best imitation of the Clintonian voice)

But, till it comes back to your PBS, you can always watch your recorded ones ad nauseum. Or you could try and catch some episodes in You Tube--God Bless them!

Speaking about getting addicted to Arthur, you are in good company. They tackle many childhood-related issues in a highly sophisticated manner, all the while giving the viewers a peep into the world of children and the adults interacting with them. I too wish we had read the books!

By Blogger Meera, At February 9, 2010 at 12:59 PM  

Gosh! First Conan and now Arthur! Who's next ... Matlock?!

I'm sad to say that I've never even thought about watching this show. (Although I did have an unhealthy interest in "Super WHY!" a couple years ago.) Now I wish I did. ... But, actually, I can. This afternoon. Looks like the Twin Cities has a greater cultural appreciation for animated anthropomorphic-aardvark adventures.

Let me know if I should start recording the show for you on my DVR. (Mine's called a VCR, but it's probably pretty much the same thing.)

By Blogger Andy Behrendt, At February 12, 2010 at 10:39 AM  

Um, hello! Arthur is totally the best. Sadly though, when I bring the Arthur books to read to my preschool classes, the kids inform me that they've seen that episode. I am a proud owner of both the Arthur soundtrack ("Having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card!") and Arthur's Christmas.

-LTodd

By Blogger LTodd, At February 22, 2010 at 1:32 AM  

I love arthur! I have been a fan since kindergarden back in 97! I have watched each episode like 10+ times. Today I'm hella pissed they cut arthur out in from pbs kids Seattle, washington. It use to be a blast coming home from school to watch arthur. It was at first 4:30 then changed to 3, now they just show it once a week sunday at 10. The programs for kids these days are rather boring and pointless! All the good ones are getting cut. Zoom was incredibly good also... They better put back arthur to its regular time.

By Anonymous joanne, At September 11, 2010 at 3:24 AM  

I am 28 from London UK and I love Arthur. It a link to my childhood.

Some eps are powerful and sented a powerful message to kids like The great Mcgrady.

By Blogger Mark Hyder, At March 29, 2011 at 6:51 AM  

I am 15 and I love Arthur! I am watching the series on Netflix:)

By Anonymous Anonymous, At May 8, 2013 at 1:43 AM  

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