‘Arthur’ is ending after 25 years
By Isabella Grullón Paz
These wonderful kind of days in a neighborhood where aardvarks, rabbits and other animals go to school, learn about life and play, are ending.
“Arthur,” the beloved and educational children’s show, is coming to a close after 25 years, PBS confirmed last Wednesday. The show’s final season will air in the winter of 2022.
The show, based on a series of children’s books titled “Arthur’s Adventures” by Marc Brown, wrapped up production almost two years ago, according to one of the show’s writers, Kathy Waugh. In an episode that aired this month of “Finding D.W.,” a podcast about the series, she said the team had disbanded.
“‘Arthur’ is no longer in production,” she told Jason Szwimer, the podcast’s host. “We had our wrap party two years ago.”
An executive producer on the show, Carol Greenwald, confirmed on Wednesday that the series would be ending. She said in a statement that episodes of the show would continue to be available on PBS Kids, but that no new ones would air after next year.
“‘Arthur’ is the longest-running kids animated series in history and is known for teaching kindness, empathy and inclusion through many groundbreaking moments to generations of viewers,” Greenwald said.
The statement did not offer a reason for the show’s cancellation. Greenwald said that the producer GBH and PBS Kids were “continuing to work together on additional Arthur content, sharing the lessons of Arthur and his friends in new ways.”
On the podcast, Waugh said she did not know whether the cancellation was driven by a ratings issue or PBS just felt that the show needed to be retired. She added that she felt PBS had made a mistake. “To me it just felt evergreen, like it was never going to end. But it did end,” she said.
During its more than two-decade run, “Arthur” won an enduring audience and a number of awards, including multiple Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Children’s Animated Program, as well as a Peabody Award.
The show first aired on PBS in 1996, and for a time ranked as the most popular television show for children ages 2 to 11. In the series as in the books, Arthur (an aardvark in third grade), his friends (a variety of other anthropomorphized animals) and their school faculty and families have adventures, learning lessons about everything including friendship, schoolwork, public libraries and loss.
Ziggy Marley, the son of Bob Marley, performed the theme song — itself about empathy and believing in yourself and others.
Available to a wide audience on public television, “Arthur” was the rare children’s series that garnered fans among both children and their parents. The main character, Arthur, had an “Everyman” quality to him that made him so relatable, Waugh said on the podcast.
“The best kids television — and ‘Arthur’ is absolutely at the apex of that particular genre — expands a child’s life, reflects a child’s life and makes children of all shapes and sizes feel seen,” Waugh said.
She added that “Arthur,” unlike many children’s shows that it outlived, confronted not only the experiences of the playground and classroom, but also difficult realities like bullying, the fear of death and cancer.
The tone of the show reflected that, she said. Being incessantly cheerful or chirpy, she said, would have been “a disservice to children.”
Waugh said that the show validated children’s “bad feelings, their mad feelings, their hurt,” and sought to help children grow and shape their worlds.
News of the show’s cancellation set off mourning on social media, reflecting the show’s popularity across generations. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., tweeted, “Thank you Arthur for helping all of us learn to work and play and get along with each other.”
And scattered among the posts lamenting the cancellation were memes inspired by its always-relatable images: One showed Arthur clenching his fist in frustration, another showed his sister, D.W., holding and looking through a chain-link fence, sunglasses on but still expressing sadness.