I just watched the last-ever original TV episode of “Arthur” and I feel like the last 25 years of my life have been a lie.
TV-watching life, that is.
Oh OK, not really. And if you need a spoiler alert so that you don’t learn what happens at the end of the line for the greatest children’s show, ever, consider yourself warned. Also, the more than 250 episodes will continue to stream on PBS Kids, so the show isn’t disappearing forever.
But dang, I was really hoping Arthur was going to marry Francine. I just always assumed that’s what would happen. Alas, critics must write about the work in front of them, not the work they wish was.
This probably doesn’t make a lot of sense if you don’t watch “Arthur,” the PBS Kids show about Arthur, an aardvark, his family and his fourth-grade friends. And the finale didn’t rule out the possibility that they would get together at some point.
But not yet.
‘All Grown Up’ offers a peek at what Arthur and his friends are doing now
I was sorry to see the news that it was going to cease production this year, after 25 years of entertaining and educating children, including my own, and adults, including me.
But I was thrilled to learn that the final episode, “All Grown Up,” would offer a peek into the future, so that we might see what became of Arthur and his friends. I pictured something along the lines of the closing credits of “American Graffiti” and, later, “Animal House.”
It wasn’t that, at all. But it did give us a look at what the core characters are up to. And Arthur and Francine aren’t a couple. Or didn’t seem to be.
Before this sounds any stranger, a few words of explanation. First of all, I love “Arthur.” I think it’s the best children’s show ever. It’s certainly the children’s show that’s meant the most to me since I’ve been writing about TV. (Not the best show, period. That’s “The Simpsons.” And the TV shows that have meant the most to me as a critic are “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Freaks and Geeks.”)
It entertained my children, which was the initial draw. But I realized, while I zoned out on other shows like “Bear in the Big Blue House” — I actually paid attention to Arthur. (“Bear in the Big Blue House” is a fine show and has one of the saddest Christmas episodes I’ve ever seen. But it was no “Arthur.”)
Over the years “Arthur” consistently has offered diversity and inclusion — Mr. Ratburn, the kids’ teacher, married his partner, a man, and no one batted an eye — as well as episodes teaching children how to deal with grief and loss. It didn’t preach. It just did its thing, trusting viewers of any age to follow along.
I met Marc Brown, who created the show, once at a meeting of the Television Critics Association gathering. I told him I had probably seen “Arthur’s Perfect Christmas” at least 100 times. His response?
Marc Brown, the show’s creator, appears in the final episode
In “All Grown Up” Arthur, Francine, Muffy and Buster, the core characters, find themselves in the library on a Saturday and stumble on a game that gathers information about players and predicts their future. This seemed like a cop-out. But as this part of the segment ended we got a “20 years later” transition, and saw what those four, along with Binky, the former bully; D.W., Arthur’s bratty little sister; George, the shy kid more comfortable communicating with a puppet; and Bud, D.W.’s Southern-accented friend who showed up in later years, are doing now.
The game was pretty good at predicting, it turns out. Except when it was Arthur’s turn, the batteries died. As they left the library, a man — Brown — tells Arthur the book he mistakenly checked out about how to draw animals is actually pretty cool. Brown turns to a page that shows how to draw … an aardvark.
No more spoilers beyond that, except to say Arthur — now a hipster sporting a goatee — brings the entire 25 years full circle, back to the first episode, “Arthur’s Eyes.” It’s a poignant moment, a reminder of how the past informs the future, and the role “Arthur” played in the future of so many.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism