On Monday, Children Of All Ages Say Goodbye To ‘Arthur’ After 25 Years

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The average aardvark lives for about 20 years. Arthur Read, the most famous of those mammals, has defied those odds and inspired several generations of young viewers in the process.

On Monday, “Arthur,” the longest-running animated series for children in TV history, concludes its 25-season run. While the characters will continue to pop up in podcasts, online video shorts, and games on PBS’ website, it’s basically the end of era.

For those of us without kids, “Arthur” is first and foremost a movie in which Dudley Moore gets caught between the moon and New York City. But parents know that the cartoon Arthur has had a lot more impact than any drunken millionaire on its core audience — ages 4-8 — without ever talking down to them.

The show’s popularity was evident when creator Marc Brown visited St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Savage, Minn., in 2009. The surprised second-graders treated their guest as if he was a rock star.

“‘Arthur’ is not only part of their weekday-morning ritual at home, it’s part of their curriculum,” said Beth Behnke, who was then the principal. “We love ‘Arthur’ here.”

Older viewers who grew up on “Arthur” can be just as fanatical.

“I’ll take my daughters to school and meet with teachers who grew up on ‘Arthur,‘” said Jodie Resther, who voices the character of orangutan Francine Frensky, during a virtual news conference last month with other cast members and producers. “When they find out I do the voice of Francine, the reaction is insane.”

One of the key reasons the show has endured so long is that over the course of nearly 200 episodes, the writers never seemed to run out of fresh ideas, getting inspiration wherever they could. Executive producer Carol Greenwald recalled the time she was on the phone with an international distributor when he suddenly had to go; his son had gotten on the wrong bus.

“We hung up and I was like, ‘OK, I have to wait until he finds his son, but then it is going in Arthur’s story,’” she said.

Greenwald and her team have taken on subjects few other children’s programs would touch. In the final four episodes, airing consecutively Monday afternoon, children will learn how a newspaper works, get tips on how to make small talk with grown-ups, and be introduced to the magic of silent films.

“We really knew that we were on the right path if we just continued to be authentic and kind of push limits,” Resther said. “We knew if we kept being the resource to help kids learn and grow, we would eventually be taken into wonderful directions.”

The series, which has earned four Daytime Emmys and a Peabody Award, also introduced characters with physical disabilities, military families, and special-education needs. A 2019 episode celebrated a same-sex marriage.

“That is something I am probably the most proud of,” said Daniel Brochu, who voices the character of Buster Baxter, Arthur’s bunny buddy. “It was true to the spirit of the whole show. It was always about acceptance and open-mindedness.”

The final four episodes begin airing at 4 p.m. Monday on PBS. Classic episodes from the first 24 seasons will air throughout the weekend on PBS Kids.

The final episode jumps to the future where viewers will learn what happens to the characters when they become adults. Let’s hope their kids have a show just as special as “Arthur” to watch.

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