I am a huge fan of Arthur. I have seen every episode in the first nineteen seasons, and in my old blog (which got deleted due to my address being deleted) I reviewed every season. Despite this I never saw this special until then due to bad times it aired. The special was around 15 years old when I saw it and to my surprise, I did not like it. It was too ambitious for what the writers were ready for at the time, and it was made when the show was on a rebuilding season. It is a typical episode stretched into an hour five times longer than it should be.
“Arthur’s Perfect Christmas” is the finale to season 5, which had many issues. In seasons 1-4 Ken Scarborough and Joe “Crazy Joe” Fallon were the head writers. They both left after season 4 leaving Kevin Hirsch (a veteran from all 4 seasons) as the new head writer, and he wrote “Arthur’s Perfect Christmas.” Season 5 had some notably good episodes, but the rest were heavily lacking in heart and concept. They still had good comedy thanks to Binky.
In the typical season 5 episode the plot is rather dull, but Binky does something funny that saves the episode, and this is no different. His plot is rather small, as he has a few brief snippets of him trying to make a good dessert to give in a soup line. First he made pecan pie with shells in them. He then made brownies without sugar and banana bread with peals. The reactions are good physical comedy for comic relief. It is not very connected to the main plot, but that is true to the entire special.
At the time every episode was 11 minutes, starting two years later the show made occasional 22 minute episodes. At 54 minutes this is way longer than usual. The typical Christmas special would have around a forty minute plot and around 14 minutes of subplots like Binky. This has three main plots only connected by Christmas time. 2 are Typical episodes and the other is heavily padded. The plot goes back and forth between the three, but I will focus on one at a time.
In one plot Muffy declares herself “the princess of Christmas” and invites everyone to a party. Her best friend, Francine, is Jewish and instead goes to a Hanukkah celebration. As anyone could probably guess this plot is about accepting that your friends will have some major differences and keeping friendships. It is okay.
Buster has the best plot. His mom is always worried about her son being miserable on Christmas since his dad will not be there. Buster is worried about her, as she is visibly miserable during the time, and he asks her to not make Christmas a big deal and instead they make a new holiday, “Baxter Day.”
The final plot is with the Read family, Arthur, D.W., their parents, Grandpa Dave (he almost never shows up), and Uncle Fred. Who is Uncle Fred? It is also the last time Arthur’s original actor, Michael Yarmush, voiced him, and this is a bad farewell appearance. His voice was way too deep this season due to him aging, and the show has an immediate problem. It is a musical and the lead does a bad job at singing. In previous episodes they occasionally did musicals and Yarmush always did well, but this is different. It begins with a song that Yarmush does not sing in character. Until I read the credits I assumed it was a different actor singing, but it is Yarmush. His singing voice is so different that the song is terribly distracting. Muffy and Buster had songs that were fine because they were in character and it sounded like they were actually sung by the characters. This sounds like Arthur is lip syncing to someone else. To make it worse Arthur is constantly complaining that it may not snow on Christmas, and he keeps saying it is not Christmas without snow. This really bugs me. I am in my twenties, and I have never seen snow within a week of Christmas. Quit telling the Southern audience that we are not celebrating Christmas since it is only forty degrees here. It becomes apparent right away that the Arthur plot line is the worst one.
Another reason this is the worst of the three plots is all the padding. The other two had everything advance the plot, but this could have easily been half as long. A D.W. plot line is also introduced about wanting Tine the talking Tabby, a toy. This leads to another problem, the A plot is full of subplots. A plot is Arthur giving mom a great gift, a glass bird, as he broke one just like it. Other plots are waiting for snow, D.W.’s toy that is sold out, mom trying to explain that you cannot get everything you want for Christmas, introducing Uncle Fred, Uncle Fred’s car breaking and crashing with them, and a few others that are really short. The special explores all these with lots of padding. Arthur has a long scene shopping at the mall with lots of padding. The bird almost breaks several times before it does in long scenes, and it finally breaks in a very short one. Arthur has lots of daydreams which focus more on his sibling rivalry with D.W. It is occasionally interrupted by Binky but his filler is short and funny, and the rest is not. To add to filler the plot ends with Arthur badly singing the same song from the beginning.
I love Arthur, and I regret that I have few good things to say about this. Most of the jokes work, but it perfectly shows what is wrong with season 5 and the additional problem of being too long. At the time the longest Arthur story was 11 minutes, and this is five times that amount. The story is unconnected and full of padding. When I reviewed all The Land Before Time movies I realized how good they were at connecting seemingly unrelated plots at the end both thematically and in the climax for a great scene. That is what this needs. The only scene that connects all three plots is a party scene early in the special. On a positive note it has a uniqueness among Christmas specials due to its to one thing. Most of them dominantly take place on Christmas Eve, but this takes place dominantly on Christmas day. That is not enough to save it, but it is at least not generic. Sadly, this is a very bad representation of Arthur.
Sometime in the future I will review an hour long Arthur special that is good.
This has a predictable plot, but there is something about it that keeps it interesting, probably knowing it should be an important part of Pal’s origins. It is has a very memorable one note character in Mrs. Wood and some really goo comedy. It also really brings Arthur to a low point and brings him back up making this one of the better current episodes.
D.W. the Copycat
The first D.W. episode written by Joe Fallon, and he excels at writing her. Like many of the god D.W. episodes this is hilarious. D.W. (and Binky in limited screen time) offer so many laughs. It also further shows how smart D.W. is. It also had a very good ending and talk with mom and dad that gave this more than just comedy. D.W. is a wonderful character and it really is on display.
Bionic Bunny is shown to be a robot, but it is mentioned he was born in season 10. He really has changed in the first ten seasons. This episode takes place after “D.W. Rides Again” based on her bike.
Locked in the Library
This is the first episode to show Francine’s good side. She does get called out for her hypocrisy (hating being called a name despite constantly calling other people names). It is able to portray both Arthur and Francine in a positive light despite giving each other legitimate reasons to be mad at each other. My main complaint is this is a predicable story, and I never loved it. It seems most Francine fans love it, and this is the episode for them.
First episode written by James Greenburg. This also shows Buster’s goo side that becomes dominant. It is also he first time Mrs. McGrady and Mr. Morris talk. I presume that is to help make the viewers think one of them might be the criminal. It has some plot holes like the quarters should have fallen out (at least some) or made noise clanging together but I never noticed until recently due to seeing it a young age and nostalgia blindness. This is memorable and very important for Buster’s characterization, and I enjoyed it.
Arthur Goes to Camp
The only episode written by Rowby Goren. It feels more like a Peanuts episode than Arthur, and it really shows with its limited cast with no Fern or George in the background. I really like the setting, but the basic lot and to a lesser extent the main inter hero conflict leaves much to be desired. It is the new least good episode.
Buster Makes the Grade
The first episode written by Peter K. Hirsch. Obviously an unimportant writer. Buster is failing third grade and it is really fun seeing him not care and then start caring by imagining the worst case scenario. It also helps they show it still takes time after motivation, but the motivation is what his friends had to focus on. This is the current best episode not written by Joe Fallon.
Arthur’s New Puppy
I miss it when Pal did not talk. Pal is not drawn the same way here, but the different look helps to give him clear expressions. It is fun seeing Pal be smart even though the plot was predictable. It is still a cute episode with some good face expressions from Pal.
Arthur Bounces Back
The first speaking appearance of Grandma Read. It probably has a more exciting premise than any episode yet, as it involves lying to parents and dealing with a lack of money. Unfortunately it gets wrapped up too fast even if it is a memorable episode.
In the original books the Tibble twins were the only humans. To make them fit in more they were changed to bears. Since Grandma Tibble is way darker than them many have interpreted that they are mixed race and two of the few hybrids on this show.
This deals with the very real problem of younger children and it also helps that D.W., a brat, is so scared of them. That is why they work as they foil D.W. where Emily foils her in the opposite direction. The actual episode is really good, and I really felt Arthur’s pain babysitting them and get a sense of satisfaction when Arthur calms them down. The Tibbles are love them or hate them characters and that is how most fans feel about this one.
Arthur’s Cousin Catastrophe
This is a popular episode and Mo is still probably the most popular one episode character in the show’s history. I think people remember her because this episode really captured hosting a family reunion (adding in the ridiculous games). Talking with strangers, all the work to get the house ready, and wondering if you remember someone correct. This episode is ended quickly but it feels right here, as it shows one thing can change everything so much. It is also the first episode without Buster.
It begins well with D.W. thinking Arthur was born with glasses. D.W. found a picture of Arthur before he got glasses, and she assumes the picture is of a hidden third child since Arthur was born with glasses. The beginning of this episode is a good showing of their love-hate sibling relationship, but it goes downhill from here. This is before most title cards were made and the “swimming Arthur” card just means it is about the Arthur character. It is a very common title card in the first few seasons. Since Arthur cannot see he fails his math test, but there teacher, Mr. Rubio needs to take math lessons, since he says anyone with four or more mistakes should see him, yet there are only four problems. Most of the voices are very different now. Binky especially had a much deeper voice. The humor this episode like Arthur half blind going to the girls’ bathroom when every girl except Fern and Prunella are in the bathroom at once is more wacky than the later episodes’ more realistic humor, but that is not bad. The ending is fine, even if Francine’s humor is annoying, while Binky and D.W. still give most of the laughs. The animation is recycled form itself many times like Fern constantly just standing there in basketball.
What is she planning on doing? I guess the animators really loved drawing her. Also Sue Ellen is in an episode that takes place in second grade despite not showing up until third grade.
This show is very similar to Peanuts especially in the earlier episodes where most characters showed the potential meanness of childhood. The notable differences are more time to the adults, Arthur being more of a winner than Charlie Brown, and Buster being nothing like Linus.
Only Binky, Francine, Buster, and Arthur are given actually character. Arthur is somewhat of a loser due to his lack of vision, but it goes away. He seems to really care about how others think of him, but he decides that is not important (a regular moral). Buster is mostly a loyal friend, but he can slip up like when he mocks Arthur when he thinks Arthur is not around. Francine is a teaser and a very mean one. Binky in this episode is just not smart. D.W. is very curious and too quick to act.
As a whole this is a good episode, but it is far from one of the best and probably one of the worst episodes of the first season.
I would like to point out for the first season the Executive Producers are Micheline Charest and Carol Greenwald. Producers are Ronald A. Weinberg and Cassandra Schafhausen. Greg Bailey is the director. Ken Scarborough is the Story editor and head writer. Akom is doing the animation. For the first 13 seasons each cast list had one big one for the season. Michael Yarmush is Arthur. Michael Caloz is D.W. Bruce Dinsmore is Binky/dad. Sonja Ball is mom. Danny Brochu is Buster. Jodie Resther is Francine. Melissa Altro is Muffy. Luke Reid is Brain. Arthur Holden is Mr. Ratburn. Tammy Kozlov is Prunella. PAtricia Rodriguez is Sue Ellen (uncredited as Francine’s sister, Catherine). The late Walter Massey is Mr. Haney. Joanna Noyes is Grandma Thora and Grandpa Dave. A.J. Henderson is Mr. Crosswire. Bronwen Mantel is Mrs. McGrady. Joe Fallon wrote the first episode.
Francine’s Bad Hair Day
Francine’s Bad Hair Day takes place in third grade after “Arthur and the Real Mr. Ratburn.” Altro’s voice for Muffy sounds much younger than it will in a very short time. Muffy clearly knows all of Francine’s week spots. Francine does show she cares more about sports than looks since her dream is more sports based. In later episodes Muffy would have paid for Francine’s makeover. Since Francine teases everyone else so much I like seeing the reverse. Brain’s first lines are gravity jokes. In the first game Fern is catcher, but in the second game Jenna is catcher. Maybe with Francine gone Fern is taking her place at shortstop or something. Unlike most of the less good episodes of season 1 this does not have the fault of being resolved too quickly, but it as a dull plot.
For animation it has plenty of the side characters just being still, but it also regularly points out its own animation errors like mentioning invisible rips.
Arthur’s Teacher Trouble/Arthur and the Real Mr. Ratburn
This episode has changed titles over the years. The original title was referenced in two other titles, which is why I prefer the first title.
The students get Mr. Ratburn, the show’s fourth best character, as their teacher. This is referenced even in the most recent seasons. They get a teacher they are horrified of and they overhear him say he needs heads. Arthur, Buster, and Francine try to stop him, as they watch him do what seem to be many part time jobs. Eventually Arthur and Buster discover he was talking about puppet heads and he tells them about organizing their time, as he is a teacher everywhere. The boys leave all happy until Mr. Ratburn reminds them of their geography reports due on the second day of school.
Mr. Ratburn is characterized as a very hard working, smart, and good teacher, but also incredibly hard. He really is the most thoughtful adult on the show and this is where the show really begins to stand out.
The first time that Mr. Haney is used as a clown where he forgets the clown and falls over on his horse. The animation is much improved. Characters that are not talking are still really still, but they have clear expressions and they are blinking more. They are also moving more often. The list of animation errors like the last two episodes is huge, but these are less notable errors. The recycled animation in “Arthur’s Eyes” were very obvious. In “Francine’s Bad Hair Day” they kept pointing to things that did not exist like the tear in Francine’s dress” but here they are less notable and better hidden by a superior story. Even better the fear is making the characters act more robotic temporary, which the animators take advantage of to make both an ominous and humorous mood.
Arthur’s Spelling Trubble
It has the rain title card, which usually means a minor disaster. Arthur is nervous about a spelling bee and imagines himself as Benjamin Franklin flying his kite. The first time I ever even heard of Benjamin Franklin. Also I think it is the first time Arthur’s last name, Read, is revealed. The flash forward is over and it is revealed Arthur has trouble spelling and he is fine with that. He still studies some for the class spelling bee to try to get the prize, but he only learns Aardvark since he just listens to the now loved song. Fortunately that is his word. Normally that is against writing 101. Coincidences should never help the protagonists, but it is immediately revealed the prize is to compete in the all school spelling bee that it is more of a curse. There is also something about everyone else’s arrogance contrasting Arthur’s humility that make him more likable than usual. He tries to drop out, but in an important scene Mr. Ratburn tells him he can become a great speller. It is a touching scene to see such encouragement and it really motivates Arthur. His whole family helps him get ready and he wins the spelling bee. To show how much the writers love this they mention it for many seasons and even posted it as Arthur’s favorite event on facebook. This is the new reigning best episode. It also cements Joe Fallon as the favorite writer.
D.W. All Wet
In this episode D.W. is afraid of octopuses and she eventually overcomes it when Arthur is pretending to be in danger. She is portrayed as shockingly brave around some things like sharks and fearful around others like octopuses. She is also shown to be courageous at the end. This has a compelling plot, but some parts that do little to actually advance the plot like Buster’s water cap, which at least plays a role and Buster and Arthur’s plot does not feel rushed, a real strength the show will use. D.W. is funny and heroic, which is a major reason why she is my second favorite character.
Buster’s Dino Dilemma
There is plenty of early installment weirdness. Buster will go on to be a goof ball who is book dumb and obsessed with food. Here he is portrayed as very smart and he even the least concerned about food of the entire class. Apparently the food was really good, since no one noticed Buster finding a fossil and jumping in the water. This further characterizes Buster as a trouble maker and Arthur as his conscience. This is where the Arthur character when he is not the lead is first shown. He is trying to be everyone else’s conscience and keep them moral, while not losing his own way. He also becomes probably the most moral child in the show. Mr. Ratburn gets further shown to be a good, stern teacher. Brain finally gets some real screen time. Oddly Alex gets a line, which is still incredibly rare. In fact he gets two lines in season one, two in an episode of season seven, and one in season eighteen.
It gets resolved too quickly (a common problem that will go away soon), but I did feel Buster’s pain as a dinosaur lover and the nightmare was really good.
D.W.’s Imaginary Friend
The first episode written by head writer, Ken Scarborough. This introduces Nadine, D.W.’s imaginary friend. Arthur wants to go to a theme park because, it has a famous new ride. D.W. wants to go because it offers “barf bags.” It is D.W. who convinces dad to take them, but Arthur tries to make her drop the imaginary friend. Here D.W. is shown to be freakishly brave and smart, I like her even more already. She regularly outdoes Arthur in their sibling rivalry, and I love watching it. Buster’s love of food is finally introduced, which apparently chases everyone else off since only Arthur and Fern sit anywhere near him. Like most of the early episodes it is resolved too quickly, but it does have some funny parts with D.W.
Arthur’s Lost Library Book
This episode is much better than I remember. I planned on only briefly mentioning it, but it is actually very important for characterization and story complexity that will become prevalent later.
Everyone in Arthur loves the library, and it is shown in the beginning. I also love the library. It has great movies and books. It is also great for college studying.
Back to the episode. A parody of “Goosebumps” called “Scare Your Pants Off” has anew book. It was years until I heard of the real series. I thought Arthur made it up. That will be a common part of reviewing Arthur. The New book is The Mysterious Hand. Everyone runs for it. Even George who has Dyslexia runs for it. Arthur borrowed a horde of other books (I am still wondering why he wanted a French-English dictionary). Sure enough the titular book falls off and a non-mysterious hand(Binky’s hand) grabs it. Arthur looks for it and D.W. does hand shadow puppets. Foreshadowing that she is the narrator. Arthur calls in Private Eye Buster Baxter… I think this was made after “Arthur Accused.” He then decides Buster is a suspect and goes to the one person who would never want to read any book. Arthur’s plan is to go to each suspect and do a process of elimination. At least he is not leaving anyone out. Binky just wants a badge.
Arthur is not impressed with Binky. Arthur narrows it down to Francine, Sue Ellen, and Buster (reveals their last names). Arthur is forced to narrow them all out later. Binky suspects George (foreshadowing him as the main bully victim. For the first time Buster suggests an idea like aliens or mole people is then shown to be right. The Arthur universe is full of strange creatures. Arthur decides he indeed lost it, and it gives him nightmares. He realizes he will have to pay for it and goes to do it. Paige Turner (I wonder how often she got teased in third grade) then reveals Binky just returned it. Arthur is happy Binky found even after Binky admits he had it all this time. Arthur never told him the title and Binky assumed it was stolen since Arthur would never lose a library book. He told no one he was reading since people laugh at him. Arthur denies that he would…
“You just did.” Binky warns him to not tell anyone he reads.
Binky is the third best character and he is portrayed how he will the rest of the series. Someone who acts like a bully with many very strange interests. He is book dumb despite liking to read. He tries to keep it a secret despite everyone knowing it. He is actually very similar to Arthur, as he constantly worries about being called a baby.
I cannot tell if this one is better than “Arthur’s Spelling Trubble” or not. It is no accident that of 8 episodes Fallon has written four and has all the top three spots.
Season one so far is not spectacular, as it is a hit or miss.
Yes, they had pre-school audiences in mind, but they knew getting an older audience would be an added bonus. My older sister constantly insulted me for liking them more than her favorite movies, but these have an appeal beyond nostalgia.
When watching one old episode of “The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” I could not stop. The plots are not that good, but the characters could make almost anything work. They clash with each other so well. Ever time someone like Rabbit, Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, or Tigger talk there is entertainment. It is still consistently good for a short watch that fills the small time space perfectly.
This was a great idea in the opposite direction. In “Martha Speaks” the main value is from the plots. A talking dog (that humans can understand) is not original, but it has plots such as the local conmen trying to become rich off her, a fake alien pickle invasion, and catching jewel thieves. The characters were less memorable as the basic characteristics were common, but they were more stubborn than most characters with their ideals. They even made a parody about Green Eggs and Ham about avoiding peer pressure. Most shows show the person not doing the ordinary thing to be bad, but this showed them in the right.
And the greatest children’s show ever. This has a basic sitcom like structure, but its ability to do so much story without feeling rushed in only fifteen minutes sets it apart. Even in its dark ages of seasons 14-17 I never felt an episode was rushed. Without feeling forced there are able to show how a character feels and then make a plot out of it, and it almost always seems to take just the right amount of time. Since the basic pre has a low floor the plots are very important, which is what the dark age lacked. The other seasons ad even quite a few in the dark age have stories that stay just as good for around the first ten watches. I can watch many episodes and get the same pleasure as when I first turned the TV on to Arthur. This is one of the only shows I watch regularly when it comes on.