It's a rule as old as the format itself: you grow up, but the characters on the kids' show that raised you stay the same age. "Arthur," the long-running PBS animated series, aims to break that rule for its final goodbye. Variety reports that the series will end this February with a 25th-anniversary marathon capped off by a finale that will show Arthur and friends as grown-ups.
Four new episodes will conclude the series, debuting February 21 during a 250-episode "Arthur" marathon that will also be live-streamed on the PBS Kids YouTube channel. PBS says that the "Arthur" brand will continue with video shorts, digital games, and a podcast, but this will mark the end of the animated series. As an "Arthur" kid through and through, the idea of fast-forwarding to later points in the core characters' lives sounds about as gutting to me as the "Six Feet Under" finale, but it's also a lovely way to pay tribute to characters who have had big dreams and wild imaginations since the series began.
Arthur Is Foundational Kids' TV
While PBS' version of "Arthur" debuted in 1996, the friendly aardvark (spelled "A-A-R-D-V-A-R-K," as anyone who ever heard him rap about it knows) was conceived of much earlier, in a series of kids' books that began in 1976. Marc Brown, who created the books and executive produces the show, is also releasing a retrospective book ahead of the finale, titled, "Believe in Yourself: What We Learned From Arthur."
According to Variety, Brown also gave a statement about the show's impressive 25-year run:
"It's amazing that what began as a simple bedtime story for my son eventually evolved into over a hundred books and a collaboration with GBH and PBS Kids that would last 25 years. Now more than ever the last line of my first book 'Arthur's Nose' rings true — 'There is a lot more to Arthur than his nose.'"
The titular aardvark has been a third-grader at Elwood City's Lakewood Elementary school for well over two decades now, attending alongside his best friend, Buster the bunny, and animal classmates like Francine, Muffy, and Binky. His bratty preschool-aged sister D.W. is a series standout as well. The voice cast has changed several times over the course of the series, with Roman Lutterotti most recently embodying the title character.
As its reggae-influenced theme song says at the beginning of each episode, "Arthur" has a simple message, and it comes from the heart. The show is about kids learning and growing and has addressed topics like illness, learning disabilities, and even gay marriage (congrats, Mr. Ratburn!) with open-hearted sweetness. It also has a special love for reading; one of the show's most enduring episodes features a song all about how "having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card."
We'll certainly miss Arthur, and will tune in for the final episodes that show where our characters ended up as adults. I for one will think of my old aardvark friend every time I brandish my library card with reverence and pride as if it's a VIP pass to the whole world.
"Arthur" will end on PBS and PBS Kids on February 21, 2022.
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