When I started to notice the headlines that the final episode of the popular PBS children’s cartoon Arthur was soon to be airing, I couldn’t help but be slightly overcome with emotion.
This children’s cartoon has been on family televisions for 25 years; I’ve been a parent for 15 of those years. While it started airing in 1996 when I was a teen and wasn’t paying attention to the afternoon cartoon time slot after school, it quickly became a constant when I had kids.
Arthur became one of those cartoons that the kids enjoyed but so did we. Arthur, and the adventures and stories with his friends and family, was different. The storylines were varied and interesting, the jokes clever, and my kids, the eldest in particular, loved it.
We even had an Arthur computer game (via a CD-ROM disk that I found at a consignment store). I’m not even sure it ever truly worked properly. We also had a giant Arthur book with multiple stories in it. This became the go-to book that my mom would have to read to my son when she would visit; he loved hearing the stories over and over again.
I also turned to Arthur when my husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2010. The kids were only one and three years old. After his surgery, we weren’t sure if chemotherapy would be needed. When it was confirmed that he would indeed have to go through months of chemo, it was pure coincidence that Arthur helped me explain this to the three-year-old.
There is an episode when Mrs. MacGrady, the school cook, has cancer and loses her hair during treatment. I can still remember lying down in our guest room with my son while his sister napped. We had the TV on for an afternoon of cartoons when Arthur came on. I didn’t know it would be that episode, but I jumped at the chance to use it as the starting point to talk about what was to come; to explain that like the character in the show, Daddy was also sick and that the medicine would make him lose his hair. The conversation was age appropriate, relatable, and I was glad to have some support from the cartoon.
Arthur’s 25-year run has ended, although reruns and stories will continue long beyond now. In our own family, we have a connection to the show in a unique way, and a fondness for the show and characters overall. I suspect many others feel the same.
What will the next show be for parents to connect to in such a way?
- Co-viewing with your kids
- Managing television in the home
- Talking to youth about television
- Blog post: Family TV time