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Arthur and the Big Riddle

Season 5 Episode 1a

"An obvious parody of Jeopardy!, this episode dives into the world of game shows, and what better person to have on for that than the late, great Alex Trebek, to play Alex LEbek? It’s very interesting how in the open, they refer to Arthur as “Arthur the Loser,” whilst that episode was all about Arthur cheating. But now, it’s a badge of honor for him after coming up short in a nationally-televised game show.

It definitely is interesting how Arthur never really seemed on board with being on the show. Usually, when other people are more invested in something than you are, it’s never a good sign. Yes, it was sheer luck that he was selected to be on RiddleQuest, but he probably wanted to prepare for the show in his own way, and he was well within his right to do that. He didn’t need coaching from the Tibbles or Muffy or Buster or anything like that (game shows often have auditions, and that clearly wasn’t the case here.

With the show itself, the format seemed kind of boring and too straightforward. Jeopardy! has the Daily Double and Final Jeopardy, where you wager your points/money, but all RiddleQuest had was just the one final riddle (is it a coincidence that all these games end tied?). And if Arthur didn’t want to have to be on the show every week, I’m guessing it wasn’t that fun for him to be on. The big box of chocolate definitely felt like a more appealing prize, in his eyes.

(Also, regardless of how she doesn’t seem like a very charismatic character, the name “Charlotte Bickles” is just hilarious)

By: Guthrie Edson

Double Dare

Season 5 Episode 1b

First of all, the premise behind this entire episode–skipping class because you don't want to do homework so you can watch Dark Bunny–is pretty stupid. That said, so is the fact that third graders feel that they have so much homework that they feel like they need to skip school to get some relief. Back to the main thing at hand here: everyone "dared" everybody else here, and the Brain referred to the "rules," wherever those come from. D.W. appearing out of nowhere and being suspicious of Arthur is a funny subplot to this that ultimately goes nowhere (although to be fair, she kind of was onto something with them). The look on her face both when she walked in on Arthur and his friends mapping out their plan and when Arthur is calling Buster later on are both priceless.

But to the plan itself and the actual execution (or lack thereof) of said plan: other than the mere fact that they're skipping school, they aren't really aiming to avoid the school grounds–just Mr. Ratburn's class. Mr. Morris or someone walking around would've found them "bunking off," "playing hooky" (or hockey, if you ask the Tibbles), whatever you want to call them. It shouldn't have taken a nightmare about a clam eating Arthur, Buster and the Brain to back out, but they did the right thing, and that probably renders those "rules" about daring that the Brain mentioned moot. Trying to pull Francine in through the bathroom window wasn't the best idea, but at least it wasn't as obvious as Binky's ruse, which is hilarious but made a meal out of just trying to get Francine in the building. A passing period, which they presumably were in, would've been the easiest time to just sneak in the front door unnoticed, but this had the opposite effect. And at the end, Mr. Ratburn just enjoying the show that Arthur skipped out on his homework (and then got more as a punishment) to watch is cruel and unusual for me.

Moral of the story though is, skipping school is bad, and as Nas says, "It's a thin line between paper and hate, friends and snakes, growing old or an early grave."

By: Guthrie Edson

Kids are From Earth, Parents are from Pluto

Season 5 Episode 2a

This episode differs from my experience in that where I went to school, the students never accompanied the parents to Back to School Night. In elementary school, my parents would leave us with Miss Maria, our longtime babysitter, and go hear about all we were up to. So right off the bat, that eliminated all possibilities for being embarrassed. Unfortunately, the kids in Mr. Ratburn's class didn't have that same luxury. There's some great writing in this. "Mrs. Drone" is a perfect name for Francine's second grade teacher who speaks in a monotone, and as corny as it is, the "Look at that escargot" joke from Mr. Read still makes me laugh on occasion, even if it is kind of forced. I’m sure our parents were the same way at one point or another, especially since where I went to school, it was a very tightly-knit community and everybody knew everybody.

Regarding Sue Ellen, her predicament is quite similar to many people I knew from school whose parents were in the foreign service/State Department or even diplomats for other countries. There’s actually a term for that phenomenon: “third-culture kid,” where a kid grows up in a culture other than their own or their parents’ culture. It fits the bill for Sue Ellen perfectly, and it's understandable why she felt like people would perceive her as weird, especially having just moved there. But as we see, Sue Ellen's efforts to make her parents seem more normal makes them seem super boring. I'm sure that on Back to School Night, her parents talking about the places they lived would've been much more exciting than hearing Mr. Crosswire give Crosswire Motors some free advertising. I know I always enjoyed hearing about the different places that my classmates lived.

Sometimes, it's just better to let people be themselves, because "normal" often equals boring. And nobody understood that better than Sue Ellen and her parents.

By: Guthrie Edson

The Shore Thing

Season 5 Episode 3b

To quote Uncle Fred from Arthur's Perfect Christmas, "Sometimes, you don't get what you want in life: sometimes you get something better," and that's what this episode is all about as well. In this case, Aqualand is where everyone wants to go. I'd be willing to bet that Aqualand is a parody of Cedar Point, a famous amusement park on the Lake Erie shoreline in Ohio where I'm sure Marc Brown went as a kid, about 2 ½ hours down I-90 from his hometown of Erie, PA. Or it could've been a parody of Noah's Ark in Wisconsin, the largest waterpark in America, which I had the pleasure of going to on vacation when I was younger. Marine World, where Mr. Read has home movies of them going to as a kid, definitely looks like a more quaint and less tourist-trappy park that could be at the waterfront near a smaller beach along the Jersey Shore. Although Arthur and his friends are upset that there was no amusement park, what they find looks like one of the best-kept secrets of their area: a beach without the glamour and tourist traps: just nature and sea creatures.

There's not much more to say about this episode other than that this trip was a great idea from Mr. Read. He nixed what probably would've been an unglamorous trip at a crowded tourist trappy amusement park and encouraged the kids to just explore and enjoy nature, where they were the only ones there. Except, of course, for the sea creatures they found, like hermit crabs, sea stars, kelp, sea anemones, and a dolphin. And Mr. Ratburn, of course, who Sue Ellen mistook for a shark and who seemed like he was only there for educational purposes. This episode is proof that you don't need a Gift Galleon, Polar Coaster, Squid Scrambler, or a Deluxe Great White Sharkade to have a good time–just an open mind and a beach. Ocean Zone should be preserved at all costs, because the people living in that area deserve a place where they can enjoy the beach, without the tourist trappy stuff that the beach in Arthur’s Family Vacation had.

When nobody wants to go home at the end of the day, you know that it’s a good trip.

By: Guthrie Edson

The Last of Mary Moo Cow

Season 5 Episode 8a

Another episode, another Dark Bunny vs Mary Moo Cow battle, and we see here that there's nothing D.W. won't do so she can watch her favorite show. That includes doing (duck-billed, to boot) repairmen's jobs for them. Her reaction to the announcement on the show that Mary was going to make a couple appearances may have been over the top, but to me it was in line with how some people I know would react to a band they like coming to town (not that I wholeheartedly endorse it, but she clearly was excited). Somebody should've told her that this was just a meet and greet, NOT an audition for the show, but as we see, it was neither because Mary never showed up. I would be willing to bet that they would've had to wait in a long line to get a picture that would've looked super awkward, making the whole experience not super memorable.

Maybe this is just my older sibling bias coming into play here, but Mr. and Mrs. Read coddled D.W. too much when it came to Mary Moo Cow being on what turned out to be a brief hiatus. I understand that maybe it would be fair for her to keep her TV time, but if I walked in and saw her watching $tock Market Today when I could be watching my favorite show, I would rightly be pissed (and also not buy Mom's reason for it) There’s no way D.W. understands the ins and outs of the stock market and investing. My parents probably would’ve told me to go outside and play, or do something not on the screen if it was me in this predicament.

With that said, I do commend D.W. for starting the petition to bring Mary Moo Cow back–I'm sure it was encouraging for the makers of the show to read. While D.W. does cause kind of a scene at the studio, I don't blame her one bit–all she wanted was for her favorite show to come back, and she got an unexpected meet-up with Patty Jones, the voice of Mary. Yes, she barged into her dressing room, but who can blame her–she's just four! And of course, Arthur gets a taste of his own medicine at the end for all that celebrating he did after Mary Moo Cow got taken off the air.

By: Guthrie Edson

Bitzi's Beau

Season 5 Episode 8b

I really like how they begin talking about non-traditional family structures in this series, starting with just the fact that Buster’s parents are divorced, but also going a step further and having Mrs. Baxter get into another relationship. Interestingly enough, not much attention is paid to the fact that they both work for the newspaper. In real life, being in a relationship with a co-worker may or may not fly, depending on the place of work. But they make it work here.

Buster is 100% right to be skeptical of his mom and Harry Mills being together. Although not much time is devoted to this in the series, he’s already been through enough with his parents’ divorce. The subplot about Mr. Ratburn being Mrs. Baxter’s potential boyfriend is hilarious, especially the fantasies where he points out the minister (Elvis?) speaking in a run-on sentence during their “wedding,” and brings up pi, the number, over pie. On the NBC show Parenthood, there’s a subplot where Amber’s mother, who’s also divorced, shows interest towards Amber’s English teacher, Mr. Cyr. That probably was not inspired by Arthur, but you never know...

But ultimately, that was just speculation on Buster’s part, and it’s great to see that Buster got to like Harry, who is a lot like him in many ways. They both have sort of a clumsy gene, they both are big eaters, and they both like baseball, the latter of which is touched on more in a couple future episodes. As I said earlier, Buster has every right to be skeptical, but as it turns out, he and Harry become good friends. And, he learns some practical information about what to feed and not feed lizards.

By: Guthrie Edson

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