Arthur about to fall through his usual hoop. Seen flaming on Saturday nights at various circuit parties.
|Created by||PBS Viewers Like You|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||30 excluding pilot|
|Original run||September 2, 1996 – May 31, 1999|
|Related shows||Postcards from Busta|
Arthur is a '90s American pseudo-educational animated television series that ran on PBS. The show is centered around and named after Arthur Read, an 8-year old anthropomorphic aardvark who must deal with the many curveballs life throws at him. The show frequently juggles such real-life issues as sex, greed, friendship, alien conspiracies, and jihad.
Many people state that Arthur originated as a series of picture books. However, this is clearly not true, because Arthur is a television show. The show is known to portray nearly all kids as complete idiots and all adults as ubergeniuses. This is to help crush children's self-esteem and control their weak minds. It was very popular in its heyday, and is still often employed as a brainwashing technique.
Arthur has been on the air almost as long as Sesame Street and The Simpsons, which is to say way too long. Almost 10 million U.S. viewers tune in still to watch Arthur weekly on PBS, where it is one of their most highly-rated shows, although this really isn't saying much. Lack of funding for the creative talent needed to replace the show is mostly to blame for its still being on the air almost 20 years later.
- 1 Premise
- 2 Production
- 3 Episodes
- 4 Controversies
- 5 See also
Plot and themes
The show's main character is Arthur, an 8-year-old anthropomorphic aardvark. This is because every 8-year-old has to deal with anthropomorphism, and knows what an aardvark is. Arthur himself attempts to single-handedly tackle every issue that is prevalent in elementary school, including family issues, racism, homosexuality, bestiality, and infertility. The individual episodes chronicle the many outrageous misadventures he and his other anthropomorphic friends embark on. Family members and friends are often roped in as well whenever things get out of hand, which occurs frequently.
The television series follows several plots from the original book series and adds some. The main overarching theme is that everybody can get along and become friends if they try hard enough, despite considerable amounts of scientific and historical evidence to the contrary. However, the show has been highly praised for its saccharine episode plots and realistic situations, as can be seen in the Episodes section below.
- Arthur Read – An aardvark who is almost constantly mistaken for a bear. He is the oldest of three offspring, usually on the honor roll, constantly under pressure from family and teachers, and has to deal with the ongoing drama of life. He wears a yellow cotton sweater and a pair of blue jeans, even in the summer.
- Pal(estinian) – Arthur's anti-Semitic pet dog that happens to hate D.W., Israel, the United States of America, democracy, and Christianity. He was adopted by Arthur's mom in "My Name is Pal" (season one, episode 7) from a puppy mill in Egypt. Pal is a notorious serial killer despite his adorable appearance; his number of victims skyrocketed into the millions moments before his euthanasia in "D.W. the Picky Eater" (season three, episode 7).
- Francine Frensky – Arthur's only real female friend. She is a Jew, which is odd because her family is the poorest in Elwood City. She is currently excited about the class field trip to Massachusetts, where she and Muffy will finally "do what feels right."
- D.W. Read – Arthur's whiny younger sister. She pulls cry-and-plead routines for the sake of getting away with it, acting good at school but turning into a bitch the minute she gets home. Her favorite show is Mary Moo Cow, and she worships the titular main character as a god. Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of friction between the two siblings, leading to an episode where Arthur punched her (seriously).
- Buster Baxter – An asthmatic, effeminate white rabbit who is Arthur's best friend. Buster is an only child and his parents are divorced; due to the lack of a father figure, he is a waste of space who never studies, instead preferring to eat junk food in his room and obsess over aliens. Of all the kids at school, Buster is the most popular, second only to Arthur, who in turn is second only to everyone else.
- Binky Barnes – Binky, despite being a bulldog, is a big chickenshit who is supposed to be a bully. It turns out he loves butterflies, playing the skin flute, and trying to blend in with the Tough Customers, a clique of bullies. Binky is currently repeating the third grade, demonstrating that Buster is in fact not the bottom of the intellectual ladder in their elementary school.
- Muffy Crosswire – Muffy is a spoiled rich girl who forces her loving parents to buy her everything.
- Mr. Ratburn – The elementary school teacher for Arthur's class. Mr Ratburn is a serial pedophile, as Arthur discovers the hard way in Season 1, Episode 4 ("Arthur and the Real Mr. Ratburn"). Just how he managed to pass the school's background check when he was hired remains a mystery the NSA is very interested in. Mr. Ratburn is a very strict teacher; he uses this as a sadistic means of enhancing his students' standardized test scores, as they are all too aware of the molestation which awaits the lowest performers. His prior occupations included being a magician, carpenter, and a puppeteer, moving on from each one before the authorities could trace his child predation crimes back to him.
- Austin "The Brain" Powers – The intellectual of the group, The Brain is obsessed with cloning, the potentials of stem cell technology and the effects of climate change. Oddly enough, he was held back in kindergarten, due to being "emotionally unready. He celebrates Kwanzaa, not because of his Senegalese descent, but because Christmas and Hanukkah are "for simpletons". He is also a fan of the book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Alan sees Dr. Jekyll as his role model, and Mr. Hyde as the personification of his Tourette's Syndrome as a psychological coping mechanism.
- Sue Ellen Armstrong – The world traveller airline geek who is the daughter of Neil Armstrong and Natalia Arlovskaya. She is the only human on the show, but she has a cat face and cat ears. Sue Ellen once flew to Tibet to stalk her pen pal, demanding "MARRY ME TENZIN OR ELSE!" She has an interest in world culture, particularly the conflicts in the Middle East. Both this and her frequent traveling have made her quite close to Buster's father. Sue Ellen is a vegetarian, but only because she saw what happened to some of her former animal friends at the local slaughterhouse. This traumatic event convinced her to take up Tae Kwon Do, lest they come to get her next.
- Molly MacDonald – Some hot skater bunny, made for the fringe fetishists. She is most likely a lesbian to Arthur's dismay. She is also a member of the Tough Customers, and despite her sadistic ways, she finds occasional employment as a babysitter for the Tibble Twins. Eventually, she loses this position after a random background check, and Arthur is brought in to take over. This leads to tragic results in Season 3.
- Rattles Silicone – A member of the Tough Customers, Rattles is one of the true bullies in this group. Rattles speaks with a heavy New York accent with Italian pronunciation. He often seen hurting the feelings of the evil characters because they are losers. Rattles has never got into trouble because he can respect his elders and disrespect his peers (except his fellow Tough Customers).
- Toby Hoopshoot – Another one of the Tough Customers. He speaks with a form of California English by pronouncing certain vowels with a weird pronunciation. Toby loves skateboarding, loud rock music, beating up troublemakers, hanging out at Burger Barn, and doing things that Arthur does not like. Buster got beat up when he sung his version of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" with a faux British accent. Toby realized Buster was an sucker. He grabbed Buster by his shirt collar, held him against wall, and barked in his face.
- Kate Read – Arthur and D.W.'s baby sister. She is not yet evil, since she can't read, write or talk; at least evil people can read in addition to speak English, write English, and carry on a conversation in English. However, she can communicate directly with Pal (since everyone knows from comics and cartoons that babies and animals talk to each other all the time), who is trying to instill his mass-murderer ways in her before she grows too old to keep talking with him. She is ugly and stupid, and all she does is eat, shit and sleep. Despite this, she is perhaps the only person Pal would try to protect from an untimely death.
- Jane Read – Jane is married to David Read and has three kids: Arthur, D.W. and Kate. She is a work-at-home tax accountant, literally counting beans for a living and helping the IRS track down delinquent taxpayers. She was once voted one of the Top 20 Hottest Animated MILFs by an annual furry convention, second only to Molly MacDonald.
- Thora Read – Grandma Thora is Arthur, D.W., and Kate's paternal grandmother. She is a drug addict, which came with her occupation of being a columnist. She likes to watch porn movies with Arthur to gain her grandchildren's admiration.
- David L. Read – Jane's husband and Arthur's father, who spends his time making cakes for the Crosswires and cooking other questionable dishes for his family and catering business. He spends his weekends "watching NASCAR" with Muffy's dad. Also, he's a closeted gay because he wouldn't reveal to his wife, kids or pets that he's a total fag. He shares the same first name as Jane's father, Grandpa Dave, further fueling her Electra complex.
The show takes place in the real-world location Elwood City, which is thought to be modeled after the fictional city of Boston, Massachusetts. Arthur and his peers attend Lakewood Elementary, which is thought to be modeled after nothing in particular.
Arthur was originally based on a series of children's books which nobody remembers, except the aforementioned Rugrats writers. The author of those books, whose name was also long-forgotten, first approached PBS in 1994 with the proposal to create an animated series based on them. PBS at the time had an empty time slot with no ideas from its producers on how to best fill it, so they accepted. With some creative liberties and the finest South Korean animators its measly budget could buy, PBS transformed the dull and mild-mannered books into an action-packed show children and some creepy adults would crave more of from the very first episode.
Arthur enjoyed a three-season run on PBS, with each season consisting of 10 half-hour episodes. 18 seasons were originally planned, until parents started watching the show with their kids to see why it was so popular. The show was quietly canceled by PBS following the massive riot, but continues to be shown as reruns.
|Pilot||“Arthur's Eyes”||September 2, 1996|
|Arthur gets some geeky glasses and everyone calls him a nerd. This pilot was poorly received, so the show was revamped by the next episode to the masterpiece it is today.|
Season 1 (1996–97)
|1||1||“D.W. All Wet”||September 9, 1996|
|D.W.'s doll catches her watching porn and she "plays with it". Her imaginary friend Nadine joins in.|
|2||2||“Arthur's Underwear”||September 16, 1996|
|Everyone at Lakewood Elementary finds out Arthur wets the bed, and call him a nerd. Arthur's pants fall down, and his underwear is revealed to be soggy and yellow: he wets himself during the day, too. Binky leads the renewed teasing until it is revealed that he still sleeps with a nightlight, and he is scarred for life.|
|3||3||“Brain's Shocking Secret”||September 23, 1996|
|Arthur discovers that Brain is an alien emissary who is trying to force the people of Earth to stop acting like assholes, or his people will blow up the planet. Since this obviously can't happen, Brain gives the go-ahead for the destruction, but Arthur convinces him at the last second to reconsider. Brain's people ask where to aim their Death Star-esque laser, and he directs it at Pluto, explaining why it is no longer a planet.|
|4||4||“Arthur and the Real Mr. Ratburn”||October 7, 1996|
|Arthur's teacher, Mr. Ratburn, asks Arthur to stay after school to help him grade papers, promising extra credit and free candy.|
|5||5||“Arthur and the Mass Murder”||October 14, 1996|
|Buster goes crazy from testosterone over-production and kills several people in Elmwood City Elementary in a bloody rampage, ultimately trying to kill Arthur. Arthur chops Buster's nuts off, calming him down and saving the remaining 20% of the school.|
|6||6||“The Exorcism of D.W.”||October 21, 1996|
|D.W. is possessed by Bob Saget, Satan, and Miley Cyrus. She decides to have a threesome with all 3 possessions, having sex with herself in the process. Arthur secretly tapes the whole thing, and brings in the VHS tape for show-and-tell. Mr. Ratburn, Buster, and Francine in particular watch it with great interest. Notably, this is the first time Arthur gets an A+ grade from Mr. Ratburn without having to do any "extra credit".|
|7||7||“My Name is Pal”||October 28, 1996|
|Arthur's family adopts Pal, introducing him into the series as a new main character. Prior to adoption, Pal tells Kate his life story, including how he murdered the Simpson family and how he carried out the Manson killings. Impressed, Kate selects him to take home, where he can begin plotting his next massacre.|
|8||8||“Francine comes out of the Closet”||November 4, 1996|
|Francine finally admits she's a lesbian, and has graphic sex with Muffy for 25 minutes. The episode ends briefly with Arthur barging in on them and farting in surprise, giving 4-year-old viewers much-needed comedic relief.|
|9||9||“Arthur the Pyro”||November 11, 1996|
|Arthur burns down his school and successfully frames D.W., since it's the sort of act which fits her character. At the last minute, D.W. manages to shift the blame to her best friend Emily, who recently started smoking cigarettes near the school's dumpsters. Arthur and D.W. are spared, while Emily is sentenced to public execution by firing squad. After the episode's credits, D.W. is seen secretly planning her own arson, with the intended target intentionally left a mystery to viewers as a cliffhanger.|
|10||10||“D.W.'s Snow Mystery”||November 18, 1996|
|D.W.'s snowball goes missing, so she takes everyone in the house hostage, and threatens to kill a hostage every hour until her snowball is returned. This episode was intended as an early Christmas special.|
Season 2 (1997–98)
|11||1||“Bleep! A Montage of Swear Words”||September 9, 1997|
|When the Tibble twins teach D.W. a bad word, D.W. says it and her mom spanked her ass until it bled. The Tibble twins try to help by secretly teaching D.W. new words to say instead, prompting another spanking each time. When D.W.'s mom learns who taught her the latest bad word, she and their mom team up to brutally beat all of them.|
|12||2||“Dad's Secret”||September 16, 1997|
|Arthur finds out his dad is gay and in an affair with Muffy's dad. This causes Jane to go crazy to the point of killing her own children!|
|13||3||“The Half-Baked Sale”||September 23, 1997|
|Arthur makes some "special" brownies for the school bake sale. Buster eats some and has a weed-induced delusion that everyone else is a zombie, and kills several people. Arthur must chop Buster's nuts off again to stop the killings.|
|14||4||“Arthur and Buster do America”||October 7, 1997|
|When someone steals their TV, Arthur and Buster go on a road trip to find it. They cross all 50 continental states (teaching viewers about U.S. geography in the process), before discovering it was destroyed in a volcanic eruption in Hawaii. They replace watching TV with surfing Internet porn instead.|
|15||5||“Water On the Brain”||October 14, 1997|
|Brain takes a piss in Muffy's pool and blames Buster. Muffy waters her vagina using the mixture to see what would happen, and the next day she grew a penis. Arthur was jealous because it was bigger than his. He tries to kill her!|
|16||6||“D.W. and the Blanky”||October 21, 1997|
|D.W. loses her blanky and it goes across the country. She goes on a road trip and visits all 50 states, only to learn that an Eskimo lost it while ice fishing in Alaska. She returns home without her blanky and replaces it with watching Internet porn with Arthur and Buster.|
|17||7||“Arthur in the Hood”||October 28, 1997|
|Arthur winds up in the ghetto and gets a cap popped in his ass.|
|18||8||“Buster and the Daredevils”||November 4, 1997|
|Buster joins a satanic cult formed behind the school, named the Daredevils, in order to get popular. Coincidentally, it was the same gang which shot Arthur during the previous episode, straining their relationship until Arthur forgives them and joins as well.|
|19||9||“Double Dare and Weed”||November 11, 1997|
|Arthur, Buster, and the rest of the Daredevils gang try to sell some weed to some nut head teacher named Diego. They then stop when they find out that Diego is an informant from the FBI. They are then sent to Guantanamo Bay, where they get waterboarded, raped and shot. Arthur and Buster manage to escape, leaving their new friends behind.|
|20||10||“Mom and Dad have a Big Fight”||November 18, 1997|
|Arthur's mom and dad beat the shit out of each other during an argument concerning the earlier affair in Episode 2 of this season. They get arrested for domestic violence, while Arthur and D.W. go to a foster home. Arthur hires a good lawyer using leftover drug money from his time with the Daredevils, and manages to pull his family back together. His parents celebrate by getting drunk and beating the shit out of their kids.|
Season 3 (1998–99)
|21||1||“THIS! IS! ELWOOD!”||September 9, 1998|
|When D.W. tries to convert Elwood City to worship her dark god Mary Moo Cow, Arthur assembles three hundred child warriors from their elementary school to fight her and her army.|
|22||2||“Arthur vs. The Very Mean Crossing Guard”||September 16, 1998|
|Arthur and the Brain are harrassed by a racist crossing guard who calls them mean names, so they get Grandma Thora to run him over.|
|23||3||“Postcards from Buster”||September 23, 1998|
|Buster goes to jail after robbing a Burger King, and writes back postcards to tell everyone to get him out and what fuckers the cops are. Arthur, being the good friend that he is, arrives in a helicopter and busts him out with machine guns blazing.|
|24||4||“D.W. Goes to Washington”||October 7, 1998|
|D.W. is elected President of the United States for a day after winning an essay competition, and makes some major changes to the country.|
|25||5||“Arthur Babysits”||October 14, 1998|
|Arthur is asked to watch the Tibble Twins, but they get killed playing with dynamite, and Arthur is arrested for child negligence.|
|26||6||“Locked in the Library”||October 21, 1998|
|Arthur, Buster, Francine, Muffy, and the Brain are locked in the library while researching for their school report on the Donner Party, and are forced to resort to cannibalism.|
|27||7||“D.W., the Picky Eater”||October 28, 1998|
|Arthur and his friends trick D.W. into eating spinach...which kills her! Arthur pins the blame on Pal, and his parents reluctantly euthanize him (but not before Pal presses a button on a remote control, which triggers the second Holocaust he was planning since Season 1).|
|28||8||“Arthur's TV-Free Week”||November 4, 1998|
|D.W. causes the city to lose its cable, and everyone burns her at the stake. Meanwhile, Arthur contemplates suicide as the only thing of value in his life is now gone, but is saved when Comcast restores the city's cable, for $299/month per person.|
|29||9||“April 9th”||November 11, 1998|
|In the year 2058, everyone remembers the day that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Grandma Thora bombed Elwood City and left it in a post-apocalyptic state where many of the kids were taught basic "survival skills" by Kevin Smith, Daniel Craig, Megan Fox, and Pal.|
|30||10||“Return of the Snowball”||November 18, 1998|
|D.W.'s snowball magically returns, and actually spends most of the episode educating her, Arthur and viewers on numbers, shapes and the alphabet. However, it concludes the episode by teaching them how to stay healthy by sticking to their vaccination schedules; parents generally started watching the show now and felt it had gone too far, potentially causing their kids to become autistic.|
Arthur's Missing Pal (CGI movie)
In 2006, PBS released a CGI movie based on the show, when they felt that angry parents would have likely forgotten the show even existed. The animation was done by the same team of acclaimed animators who brought the 2012 CGI film Foodfight! into existence to critics' delight. The movie was originally planned to be done in anime style to better serve the action, but was switched to CGI due to PBS' budget constraints.
Arthur's Missing Pal takes place about a year after the events of the final episode in the original series. While the second Holocaust Pal triggered at the end of Season 3, Episode 7 ("D.W., The Picky Eater") progresses and leads to World War III, Arthur is saddened by the euthanasia of his former pet. However, Alan picks up an encrypted radio transmission from Pal, who apparently fled into a cave near Palestine's border shortly before the events of that episode. In the transmission, which is addressed to his former master Arthur, Pal reveals that he left because Arthur forgot to feed him, and he left a double behind to fill in for him in his absence. If Arthur can bring Pal a bowl of fresh kibble within 24 hours, then the latter promises to end the second Holocaust and return home.
Arthur recruits D.W. and Buster to accompany him on his quest to rescue Pal in Palestine. In addition, Alan stays behind to construct and run a base for their mission, with Muffy and Francine acting as his assistants. To secure transportation to Palestine, Buster sends a postcard to his father, who replies back with his current location with a helicopter, hiding inside an abandoned ice cream factory across Elwood City. Buster gives Mr. Ratburn a blowjob, and in return Mr. Ratburn drives them to the factory.
Once at the factory, however, complications begin to threaten the mission. The Daredevils recruit Binky to exact revenge on Arthur and Buster for them since they're still imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. The terms are simple: if Binky returns with Arthur and Buster's heads, the Daredevils will give him a share in their massive drug enterprise, something the Tough Customers could never provide him with. Inside the ice cream factory, Binky ambushes Arthur, Buster, D.W. and Mr. Ratburn with a volley of AK-47 fire. Buster's father saves them just in time, firing a rocket-propelled grenade straight into a massive ice cream mix vat. Arthur, Buster and D.W. escape with Buster's father on his helicopter, leaving Mr. Ratburn and Binky below. Binky is grabbed and groped by an evilly-laughing Mr. Ratburn as both as swallowed up by a tidal wave of melted ice cream.
Buster's father flies them across the Atlantic Ocean towards Palestine, with Alan providing directions via GPS. Unfortunately, Muffy and Francine can no longer contain their lust for each other, and they become engaged in a raucous session of steamy lesbian sex right next to him. They first drown out Alan's advice, them accidentally knock him over onto the floor, where he falls unconscious. Without his guidance, the helicopter flies slightly off-course into neighboring India. Buster's father attempts to fly into the Taj Mahal in a final jihadist act of terror, but Arthur, Buster and D.W. bail out with parachutes just before impact. Buster briefly grieves his father's death, and the three of them work their way towards the India-Palestine border.
The NSA and the CIA, who have been recently tracking Buster's father, turn to the Daredevils to ask them where they were headed before GPS contact was lost. Enraged at Binky's failure, the Daredevils not only inform them, but also offer to deploy a secret weapon they were developing to aid the Columbian drug cartels under their control. The CIA arranges for its deployment at the India-Palestine border, where Arthur, Buster and D.W. discover it is a giant cow on ice skates. Arthur gives Buster another one of his leftover "special brownies", transforming Buster into a raging monster to battle the giant cow. D.W.'s imaginary friend Nadine makes a cameo to offer support, but she is bisected by the cow's ice skate blades during the battle, to D.W.'s horror. D.W. successfully uses her percussion instrument to flatten the cow and the border patrol with a shockwave, and Arthur again chops off Buster's nuts to return him to normal.
Following this climactic battle, the gang finishes their trip into Palestine, where they find Pal in the cave and Arthur finally feeds him the requested kibble, with only 30 minutes left on the clock. Pal seemingly keeps his promise to cancel the second Holocaust, also ending World War III, and the four begin their long trek back home to Elwood City. Everyone on Earth finally tries to start getting along with each other, echoing the pervasive message of the original series and bringing closure to the original plot. However, a cliche follows the ending credits, with Pal paying the Daredevils a visit in prison and informing them he's "got them right where [the Daredevils] want them."
Arthur received wide critical acclaim and a highly-loyal fanbase during its time on TV. However, not everyone was happy with some of the subject material.
Riots and cancellation
The last Arthur episode concluded with a public service announcement on sticking to vaccination schedules for children, and this did not go down well. When parents viewed the season finale to Season 3, they were enraged that PBS would betray their trust in their television sets as a reliable babysitter for their young children. They organized a march in front of PBS's office, but they could hardly contain their collective rage and it escalated into a violent riot. After the deaths of four PBS employees and an estimated $2 million in property damage inside and around the office complex, PBS called for a cease-fire and met with the protesters' leaders for negotiation.
As a result of the talks, the rioters agreed to vacate the premises, and in return PBS would stop airing new episodes of Arthur. However, since PBS has continually lacked the funding to fill the time slot with some better educational show, they decided to keep showing reruns of the earlier episodes that parents apparently didn't object to. The reruns continue to this day while PBS continues searching for a better use of the air time.
Francine and Muffy's lesbian relationship
Starting after Season 1, Episode 8, Francine and Muffy frequently appear demonstrating their lesbian relationship with one another. Some scenes even show graphic sex between the two for prolonged periods onscreen. Many parents were uncomfortable that there were lesbians depicted within a children's cartoon, and would have preferred the sex scenes to be between either Francine or Muffy and a male character instead.
The Westboro Baptist Church protested the homosexual relationship between Francine and Muffy in front of the PBS office building not long after the offending episode aired, and have continued to do so on a fairly regular basis whenever another episode comes on showing the pair at it again. PBS has learned to ignore these protests. This may have been a contributing factor to the destructive severity of the Season 3 finale riots, as PBS initially mistook angry parents for WBC protesters; thus, they failed to respond in time to prevent escalation.
PETA's objections to Buster's castrations
PETA takes a dim view on spaying and neutering as population control tactics for animals, preferring instead to simply euthanize them whenever it can. The main Arthur series shows Arthur's friend Buster being castrated on two separate occasions as a plot device, and he is castrated a third time in the Arthur's Missing Pal CGI movie. The group called for a boycott of the Arthur series unless the show's creators could switch the offending scenes out for ones showing Buster receiving a sodium pentobarbital injection instead. However, the show's creators voiced they would not do this, since it would negatively impact the series' continuity and PBS simply does not have the budget to do it.