For 25 years, its been a wonderful kind of day for Arthur the aardvark in his titular show and all his friends in Elwood city. As they learned to work and play, and get along with each other, we followed along as DW remained consistently annoying, Buster sent postcards from far away cities, and as Arthur clenched his fist in rage. But underneath the memes has been a children’s show that has consistently explored social issues and introduced kids to acceptance and a love of others.
While the animated series began airing in 1996 on PBS, the character of Arthur was first seen in the children’s book, “Arthur’s Nose” written and illustrated by Marc Brown in 1976. Over the years and subsequent books, Arthur’s character evolved into something a bit less traditionally aardvark looking and into the human-aardvark hybrid that he is today.
In 1994 Kathy Waugh began developing the children’s books into a television show which has since become the longest running animated programming for children in the history of American television. When it begins its final season in the Winter of 2022, it will have aired approximately 250 episodes. The last few seasons have had smaller episode orders ranging from as many as seven, to as few as three.
This is a remarkably run for a show on public television, and show creator Waugh has not held back her feelings on the subject. When Waugh appeared on a recent episode of the Finding DW podcast, she revealed production had wrapped up two years ago. The final episodes have been in the can, yet Waugh is adamant that there are still places to go with “Arthur” that its home network PBS hasn’t opted to pick up.
“Arthur is no longer in production. We had our wrap party two years ago. I think [PBS] made a mistake, and I think Arthur should come back and I’m know I’m not alone in thinking they made a mistake. I don’t know if it was a ratings issue or if it felt like it needed to be retired. To me, it felt evergreen, like it was never going to end but it did end, we finished the last episode, season 25 two years ago.”
Waugh when on to state that it could’ve been a ratings issue or just a sense that the show needed to end, but she thinks that it was a mistake for PBS to let the show go. Considering the ground that Arthur broke in many ways, she may not be wrong. Arthur has featured episodes about gay marriage, the autism spectrum, various mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and then it all without talking down to kids. Even its spin-off, “Postcards From Buster” carried this style and helped introduce kids to people in different walks of life.
And of course, there’s the meme about Arthur’s fist. Completely unrelated to the heartwarming elements and practical lessons of the show is a meme about Arthur’s clenched fist that would soon be thrown at his sister DW. As ridiculous of a meme as it is, it’s telling that you can look at the picture without any context and say, “Hey, that looks like Arthur’s fist.” Which may actually be the same fist he’s using right now to show how he feels about his show getting canceled.
Twenty-five year is a long time to be at the forefront of kid’s television. It’s an even more challenging environment today with streaming platforms and video services competing for the eyeballs of young children. For Arthur to have stuck around this long is a testament to the hard work and dedication of all those involved. Thank you to all of you involved for giving our childhood’s and even our kids, something to grow up with.
And at least we’ll never have to deal with “Caillou” again.
Unclench the fist Arthur, it’s time to wave good-bye.