Television Series Review
Reviewed by Betsy Wallace of Common Sense Media
Arthur is an animated TV series that has aired continuously on PBS since 1996. The shows is the story of fourth grader Arthur, an aardvark, and his friends. It explores real issues that kids face without presenting an obvious moral or pandering to them. Over the years, Arthur has explored the challenges of body image, self-esteem, friendship, loss, the declining health of a loved one, adoption, dyslexia, and more. Arthur is geared for viewers between the ages of four and eight. The goals of the show are to “foster an interest in reading and writing and to encourage positive social skills.” The PBS Parents website also provides resources for parents wishing to continue the conversations started on Arthur. Arthur is accessible to deaf or head-of-hearing listeners through closed captioning and is also available through descriptive services for viewers who are blind or visually impaired.
Arthur is an age-appropriate shows that handles common grade school problems with creativity and humor. The likeable, interesting characters will appeal to children within the target audience and represent a wide variety of family types and life experiences. The storylines are engaging, the dialogue is modern and funny when appropriate, and character arcs are evident throughout the show’s run of seventeen seasons.
Arthur is based on a book series by Marc Brown, but produced by the Public Broadcasting Service. The show concludes each episode by encouraging children to visit their library to check out the Arthur books, rather than buy them, but some Arthur merchandise is available to purchase- including dolls, home media, and CDs of music from the show. Most Arthur merchandise is only available through the PBS website or other online vendors, so children are infrequently exposed to it existence. As such, the commercial interest in negligible.
Arthur is also free of sexual content, language, crime, drug use, and violence. There are elements of bullying, which are presented as harmful to both the bully and the bullied, and resolved by the story’s end, as well as on-going sibling rivalry between Arthur and his younger sister, D.W. Some episodes contain more serious content, such as characters diagnosed with cancer and Alzheimer’s, and parents may want to be prepared to continue to the discussion of the issue with the children after the episode has ended.
Critics from Common Sense Media agree that Arthur presents inventive solutions to common problems and explores friend and family relationships and much more in an insightful, age appropriate way. Reviewer Betsy Wallace writes, “But just as Arthur is a studious boy with a lot of playful energy, the show is both educational and lighthearted, weaving themes in gracefully so that they seem to result from — rather than instigate — the story.” Arthur is a delightful show geared toward a young audience that will be fun for the whole family.
Review by Nikki Glassley