If you have young kids at home – or had in the last 25 years – there’s a good chance you saw the PBS series Arthur at some point. This popular show about an eight-year-old aardvark is the longest-running animated children’s program in television history. Based on a book series, Arthur taught generations of children about kindness and inclusiveness. It introduced different cultures, family dynamics and social issues over the years, winning four Daytime Emmy’s and a Peabody award in the process.
And in 2022, Arthur is ending. Sort of.
In actuality, Arthur finished production two years ago. But season 25 will still offer fresh episodes including a finale with its characters finally all grown up.
Of course, Twitter has been, well, all a-twitter with reactions to the news. Former viewers have mourned the show’s loss. Others lamented that future generations will not grow up with the program and its special group of characters.
Even the show’s writers and producers have publicly complained that PBS has “made a mistake.” Writer Kathy Waugh definitively said in a podcast last summer that “Arthur should come back.”
But is he really going anywhere? Nothing disappears forever. And old episodes of Arthur are certainly available on DVD and downloads. According to Arthur’s creator, Marc Brown, “PBS is committed to play these shows for years to come.” So what’s the problem? Who really needs a new season each year?
After all, the show’s audience consists of pre-schoolers and early elementary school kids. Unless they’re being raised with some highly questionable parenting methods, they’re not likely to binge-watch 25 seasons. No, they watch for a few years and then move on to something else.
And every season, there’s a new batch of little eyes joining the fan club. So producers don’t really need a new season of episodes when they already have a fresh group of mini-viewers waiting in the wings.
Plus, the dude doesn’t age. This means producers could re-run all 600-plus stories for years to come without worrying that the characters or their lessons are going to become dated.
After all, Arthur’s audience is not exactly the most sophisticated. Or the brightest. They’re four to eight years old. They’re clean slates, learning for the first time. Not to mention, they’re taking life lessons from an aardvark. Who are they to judge what’s outdated or relevant?
Besides, children’s programming focuses on messages that resonate for life. That’s why so many adults still have fond memories of shows like Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, The Friendly Giant, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and yes, Arthur. Those emotional connections are ingrained and nobody considers the lessons they learned about kindness, confidence, and hope to be antiquated.
That’s also why Marc Brown has a new book coming out called “Believe in Yourself: What We Learned from Arthur”. Because these lessons aren’t trapped in a single TV episode. New season or not, these characters and stories can be shared forever if we choose. We decide if Arthur lives on. Not PBS.