All good things must come to an end, but you get so used to some good things that it never even occurs to you that it might not be there one day. Case in point, Arthur, PBS’ beloved cartoon series about a dorky young aardvark and his fuzzy pals, has aired the final episode of its historic 25-year run. It goes out as the longest-running animated children’s series in history and the second longest animated series period, behind The Simpsons.
The reason it lasted so long? Because it was so good. Like all the best children’s stories, Arthur treated its young audience with respect. Its characters dealt with real issues. They argued with each other, and those conflicts changed them. Sesame Street may have taught kids how to add numbers and say the alphabet, and that’s important. But Arthur taught emotional intelligence, like dealing with an annoying sibling or interacting with people who are different from you.
The show was based on Marc Brown’s Arthur Adventures series, which was first published in 1976 and featured a very different design for our hero, one which looks much more obviously like an aardvark than the bespectacled, oval-faced kid we know as Arthur today. But as the design evolved, it became more ripe for children’s TV, which is how at least two generations think of it today.
Reruns will be available in perpetuity on PBS KIDS, and it’s a good thing too. Future generations could use a little Arthur in their lives.