And I say HEY! What a wonderful time of day! Where you can learn to work and play, and read the first Sports On TV of 2013: the 20 greatest sports moments from PBS Kids’ ‘Arthur.’
‘Arthur’ is about the mostly-educational adventures of Arthur Read, an 8-year old aardvark who … well, learns to work and play and get along with the people in his hometown of Elwood City. Arthur started as a series of children’s books by author and illustrator Marc Brown, and eventually became a cartoon so popular it has over 1.1 million likes on Facebook and is the longest-running children’s animated series in the U.S., second behind only ‘The Simpsons’ as the longest-running animated series in the U.S. period. It’s also full of sports, and sometimes I like to write things on my comedy sports blog that my girlfriend will enjoy.
If you don’t already love ‘Arthur’ and have no interest in flipping through this list, listen to the opening theme, included below. If you can listen to the entire thing and not sing it for the rest of the day, I’ll let you off the hook.
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Episode: “Binky vs. Binky/Operation: D.W” (Season 10, Episode 8)
What Happens: Binky Barnes is a yellow bulldog in high-waisted jeans and a monster at sports, but he consistently chokes under pressure. When he discovers he’s great at biking uphill, he takes up cycling and loves it … that is, until a big race comes up, and he fears he’ll fail again. Inspired by cycling great “Vance Legstrong,” Binky summons the courage to compete anyway, overcomes his fears of competition and, uh, crashes into a bush. But he finished the race, so, you know, personal victories.
Key line: “Ignore everyone else and try to do your best.” “Easy for you to say. You’re the best cyclist in the world.” “How do you think I got to be the best cyclist in the world?”
Don’t answer that, Binky.
Say what you will about me dedicating 15 pages of my sports comedy blog’s day in reverence to a PBS Kids series, but ‘Arthur’ is mad sports. Almost every episode features the kids playing sports, because it’s PBS, and they can’t have Arthur and his friends laying around playing video games or setting off firecrackers in the backyard like regular kids. These are idealized, “role model” kids, and those kinds of kids play sports.
The episode is about cycling, but it starts with a montage of Binky failing at other sports … hitting home runs in practice but choking on the baseball field, passing instead of trusting himself to score a goal in soccer, sinking like a turd in a swim meet, and so on. One episode of ‘Arthur’ has more sports than the entire run of ‘Sports Night,’ so here we are.
Episode: “Room to Ride/The Frensky Family Fiasco” (season 12, episode 2)
What Happens: Binky loves to ride his bike, but he keeps running into potholes and hurting himself, so his Mom forbids him to ride in the street. That inspires the kids to spring into action in support of an upcoming election’s bike lanes vote, because ‘Arthur’ episodes are serious sociopolitical business. Anyway, they don’t make much progress, and rich friend Muffy declares that they need “star power” for a pro-bike lanes ad. By COMPLETE AND TOTAL COINCIDENCE Binky runs into Lance Armstrong in the park and asks him to star in the ad — and Lance turns him down, because he is a son of a bitch.
Key line: ” I scream, you scream, we all scream for bike lanes.” “Buster, that doesn’t even rhyme.” “You’re right. How about this? I scream, you scream, we all scream for submarines. That kinda rhymes.”
How hilarious is it that even FICTIONAL Lance Armstrong can’t take five minutes out of his “biking around in a small town’s park” schedule to help out some kids? His excuse is, “you don’t need my help, it looks like you’re doing a great job already!” This gives Binky confidence or whatever and the law passes on a close vote, but hey Lance, maybe that shit would’ve passed in a landslide if, I don’t know, A SUPER FAMOUS ATHLETE told these anthropomorphic ape and bunny people that bike lanes are cool. Just let them tape you giving a thumbs up. ANYTHING.
It’s pretty cool that Lance Armstrong found out he was appropriated in an episode of ‘Arthur’ and decided to ret-con it with a guest appearance, though. He gets the trademark ‘Arthur’ “this guy’s human but he lives in a world of man-animals, so we’ll make him look normal and throw on some bunny ears” treatment. The worst person to get that is Buster’s dad. Buster is a straight-up bunny rabbit in child clothes, but his dad is a human man with bunny ears. My theory is that Buster’s dad had sex with a rabbit and just slips those on whenever he’s court-ordered to be in town.
That’s not my theory with Lance. He’s totally on rabbit testosterone.
Episode: “Buster’s Breathless/The Fright Stuff” (season 4, episode 3)
What Happens: Arthur’s little sister D.W. (more on her later) gets into some poison ivy, and freaks out because she thinks people will treat her weird and run away. Buster Baxter (who is a rabbit, so I have to try really hard not to call him “Buster Bunny”) helps her feel better by telling her the story of when he got asthma, and how everybody acted stupid about it until he stood up in front of class and (using an elaborate, Magic School Bus-style imagination sequence) explained it. One of the horrible things they did was refuse to tag him in baseball, because they thought they’d “catch asthma.”
Yeah, most of these episodes aren’t about Arthur. He’s basically Nick in The Great Gatsby.
Key line: “Can’t breathe … tell the nurse … I think I have plasma!”
My girlfriend has asthma, so Buster is her favorite character. In fact, the only reason I’ve seen an episode of ‘Arthur’ is because of an asthma handout a volunteer gave us at a Round Rock Express baseball game. He’s probably the best guy on the show and gets his own spin-off, ‘Postcards From Buster,’ wherein he travels around the country meeting “real life” kids and kinda destroying the ecosystem of Arthur’s anthropomorphic animal-folk universe.
The worst character on the show is D.W., who also kinda gets a sports moment while attempting to cover her disease:
Episode: “Francine’s Split Decision/Muffy Goes Metropolitan” (season 7, episode 2)
What Happens: This episode of ‘Arthur’ asks an important question: Should you bowl, or be a good Jew?
Francine is Lakewood Elementary’s top athlete and the star of its bowling team, but the Big Bowling Tournament falls on the same day as her cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. She pulls a
Fred Flintstone Cory Matthews by trying to be in both places at once, but her meticulously-arranged plan falls apart, and eventually she wanders back into the party wearing bowling shoes. Good news, though — Muffy takes her spot and uses the tried-and-true sitcom “granny bowling is accidentally superior” trope to win it for Lakewood. See also: Tom Haverford, Peggy Bundy.
Key line: “Y’know, I thought it was your nose that grew when you told lies, but apparently it’s your bowling shoes!”
Nothing beats a good “gotta be in two places at once” episode, especially when it involves a bowling alley being completely out of every size of shoe and forcing a child to duct-tape size 10s to her legs to compete in an elementary school bowling tournament.
The big issue presented in this episode is that Francine’s family is Jewish. In case you can’t figure it out by the photo, she’s also a monkey. The monkeys on ‘Arthur’ are Jewish. This presents so many theological questions I can’t even begin to understand it. Were monkeys God’s chosen people in the ‘Arthur’ universe? Is this ‘Arthur’s’ statement on evolution? As ‘Postcards From Buster’ reveals, Arthur’s town exists as a part of our normal human society, so … is it like, a quarantined town of animal people? If so, how did they develop religion, especially multiple, specific religions where some Godless animal families are Christian and some are Jewish? What kind of God allows the animal-f**king necessary to create these characters?
I know, I know. “A wizard did it.”
Episode: “D.W. the Picky Eater/Buster and the Daredevils” (season 2, episode 3)
What Happens: Arthur and Buster get overly-impressed by some cool older kids pulling off skateboard and rollerblade tricks in the park and ask them for advice. Arthur figures out pretty quickly that the kids are just f**king with him, but Buster falls for their promise to teach him Extreme Sports secrets in exchange for an escalating series of dares. Buster goes along with
marrying Amy Poehler insulting Binky’s mother (she “eats gym shorts”) and kissing Francine during a baseball game, but comes to his senses when they try to make him eat a bug. That’s probably the worst thing they’ll make bullies tell you to eat on a PBS show.
Key line: “You’re saying it would be stupid to do something just because somebody dared you to do it?” “That’s right.” “Well, thanks for telling me. I guess I won’t eat it, then!”
The extreme sports tricks the want to try to learn are pretty funny and exactly what you’d expect a kids show creative team to come up with — jumping a bench while a skateboard rolls under it, holding onto a lamp post and rollerblading in circles, high-fiving while you ass each other, etc. — but I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t forget the sports for a sec and introduce you to the episode’s BEST EVER THING: “Peabrain and Nuthead.”
The older kids insult Buster and Arthur for reading Bionic Bunny comics at the comic shop and tell them to get into Peabrain and Nuthead, the most random ever ‘Beavis and Butthead’ parody. Buster and Arthur pretend to laugh at the comic even though they don’t get it, and lord, if there’s one pop culture feud I want revived it’s ‘Arthur’ vs. ‘Beavis and Butthead.’ It’s like when Hank Hill got into a paintball war with Green Day, but in real life.
Episode: “Muffy’s Soccer Shocker/Brother, Can You Spare A Clarinet?” (season 6, episode 4)
What Happens: The school needs a new soccer coach, so Muffy’s dad volunteers, believing his expertise in the field of car sales (and car similes) make him the perfect man (monkey) for the job. Muffy thinks it’ll be business as usual, but is shocked (soccer shocked, in fact) when he works her extra hard and makes her the team’s goalie. She tries to fake an illness to get out of The Big Game, but eventually comes clean and ends up getting a position on the sidelines as back-up goalie/cheerleader. BUT WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, the goalie gets hurt near the end of the game, and Muffy has to step in anyway.
Key line: “Outta the way for goodness sakes, this old team ain’t got no brakes!”
Theological note: Muffy and her family appear to be a Christian family, so as far as I can tell, only dark-skinned monkeys in ‘Arthur’s’ universe are Jewish. Is that racist, or the opposite of racist? I can’t tell.
Anyway, Muffy’s dad has Zapp Brannigan’s hair and motivates them with car terms (“piston,” “muffler,” and the best, “shock absorber,” for when he just kicks balls at their head). They hate it at first, but when they’re actually playing it starts to pay off. At one point Arthur asks how much they’re down by, only to find out they’re up 3-2. Then he pretty much gives up the shot that gets the goalie injured. Way to go, Arthur.
Best part of the episode: the game ends in a tie, and everyone celebrates Muffy as a hero for costing them the win, but not the game. Soccer, everybody!
Episode: “Arthur vs. the Piano/The Big Blow-Up” (season 2, episode 8)
What Happens: Francine and Brain are the best players on their school’s soccer team … so good, in fact, that in a different episode they get drafted to the all-star team. That also makes them Lakewood Elementary’s Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, so an argument during soccer practice blows the hell up and threatens to ruin not only the next game, but the squad’s chances at the playoffs.
Key line: “You spell soccer with two Ks and a Q?”
‘Arthur’ is a kids show that started in the 90s, so it has a lot of soccer. A lot of soccer. I probably could’ve made a top 20 list out of the soccer moments alone, so I have to limit it and only include my favorites.
And sure, this episode’s soccer content is great in that it accurately represents how soccer players are always a second away from screaming and trying to stab you with their shoes, but it makes the cut based almost entirely on the opening bumper, wherein Arthur hosts a treehouse argument about whether or not a hockey player could golf while driving an IndyCar.
Now that’s a sport I want to watch.
Episode: “The Good Sport/Crushed” (season 6, episode 9)
What Happens: You know that school Arthur and his friends go to, where they have a rat for a teacher and all the kids are manimals? Yeah, Olympic silver medalist figure skater Michelle Kwan went to that school, and they’ve got an Athlete Of The Year award named after her. Also, she’s a bear, apparently. At least they didn’t make her a panda.
Key line: “Figure skating is pretty and all, but hockey is serious. Hockey is a sport!”
‘Arthur’ isn’t afraid to get complex with its themes, and this is a good one: a standard story about Francine believing she deserves Athlete Of The Year and getting passive-aggressively jealous of the winner (a cat girl with a weird, human nose … don’t ask) is pretty straight-forward, but it’s built on the idea that Francine believes the specific sports she plays are better. Francine plays softball, hockey and basketball. Cat Nose skiis, plays badminton and manages the wheelchair basketball team. “My sports are valid, yours aren’t” arguments are too layered for most real-life adult sports fans to have, much less a bunch of kids watching PBS.
Francine is a TOTAL CREEP in this, so much so that she only realizes the err of her ways when Michelle Kwan climbs through her television set (in a dream sequence) and pulls her in, Captain N style, to show her how hard sports she doesn’t play are. Also, I’m assuming, how to be worse of a figure skater than Tara Lipinski.
Episode: “Arthur Babysits/Arthur’s Cousin Catastrophe” (season 1, episode 9)
What Happens: D.W. won’t stop complaining about babysitter Arthur bossing her around, so he regales her with stories of his own horrible babysitters, including a clumsy reindeer lady, a rat woman who put him to bed in the daytime so she could watch soap operas in peace, and “Mrs. Gutter,” who practiced her golf swing in the kitchen. Arthur had to wear a metal colander upside down on his head to keep from having his skull smashed by golf balls.
Key line: “You’re lucky. Did I ever tell you about the babysitters I had? Like Mrs. Gutter. She was always practicing her golf swing.”
The actual episode is about Arthur babysitting for a pair of hell-raising twins, and ends with him figuring out that the only way to discipline children is with fear. I’m not kidding, that’s seriously how an episode of ‘Arthur’ ends.
I wonder if Mrs. Gutter was any good at bowling?
Episode: “D.W. On Ice/Spoiled Rotten!” (season 11, episode 9)
What Happens: ‘Arthur’ segments are usually prefaced by little skits related to the episode, and before “D.W. On Ice,” Arthur shows up dressed as Tiger Woods (or “Ron Swanson invincibility clothes“) and sinks a hole-in-one. Buster shows up as Steve Williams and everything. It’s supposed to be an example of how great it’d be to be instantly good at stuff, but it also works as a set-up to a great joke about him sending nasty texts to Muffy and Francine attacking him with a golf club.
Key line: “Wouldn’t it be great if you only had to do something a few times to be really good at it?”
As you might’ve guessed from the episode title (either of them), the actual segment is about D.W. being invited to a winter ice skating party, lying to a couple of hockey kids about how she’s the best ice skater in school, then taking her failure frustrations out on poor James, her adorable bunny rabbit friend from pre-school. She can’t stop falling and blames it all on him, yelling about how he’s a terrible student to cover her ass.
D.W. ends up sitting on the sidelines at the party until she realizes that nobody at the party can really skate, and James offers to follow her around on the ice so she’ll never look bad. YOU ARE TOO NICE, JAMES, D.W. DOES NOT DESERVE YOUR COMPASSIONATE LITTLE BUNNY FRIENDSHIP.
Episode: “The Last Of Mary Moo Cow/Bitzi’s Beau” (season 5, episode 8)
What Happens: Because he’s the saddest and most realistic child character on TV, Buster has to deal with his Mom’s new boyfriend(s). He’s worried that she’ll be too busy with them to spend time with him, gets convinced that his teacher is sleeping with his Mom and imagines her new boyfriend as both a robot and an alien. Turns out he’s a pretty chill, dorky guy named Harry, and when Buster gives his Mom the stamp of approval, they all go out to the hockey game. There is a pretty shifty moment where he tries to give Buster’s Mom a Boston cream pie — and asks her if she likes it — but it’s not what you’re thinking. At least, not in front of Buster.
Key line: “Arthur, what if he’s … one of THEM?”
The hometown hockey team is the Elwood City Otters, in case you were wondering. They show up again in toy and trading card form, but this is their only formal appearance. I guess they’re supposed to be the Canadiens? They’re playing the Bruins, at least, who I hope are just a bunch of hockey-playing bears.
Harry (the new boyfriend) gets them seats right up against the glass (and he wears a suit to the game when everybody else is wearing sweaters) so … he’s a keeper, Buster’s Mom.
Episode: “Fernfern and the Secret of Moose Mountain/Thanks A Lot, Binky” (season 8, episode 2)
What Happens: Follow this plot closely, because it’s the most applicable-to-my-life ‘Arthur’ episode ever. Binky catches those daredevil jerks who made Buster do dares in the process or organizing a rollerblade ramp jump, and tattles on them to keep them from getting hurt. He has to stay after school to explain what he saw, and misses a great 27-minute wrestling match on television. Nobody thanks him for doing the right thing AND he misses his favorite show, so when his parents misinterpret an offer to do the dishes, Binky flips out and declares that it’s NO MORE MR. NICE GUY. That doesn’t last very long, because his favorite wrestler VISITS HIM IN A DREAM that night and teaches him the value of kindness, It’s A Wonderful Life-style. Yep.
Key line: “Now Slam has Mayhem in a half nelson … now a three-quarters nelson … now a seven-eighths nelson! Now Slam is putting Mayhem in a diaper!”
Yeah, so ‘Arthur’ has a pro wrestling episode.
People like to point at the ‘South Park’ WTF episode as being the most accurate portrayal of wrestling on a non-wrestling TV show, but I think ‘Arthur’ has it beat. In it, Binky watches a USA-themed guy, UNCLE SLAM WILSON, take on an army-themed guy, GENERAL MAYHEM. Their previous match went 3 hours. No actual action is shown, but it ends with Slam humiliating Mayhem by putting him a diaper, and the match is just suddenly over. Slam sticks around to insult the Timber Twins (Chainsaw Chuck and Max Axe), who just happened to be sitting at ringside. That sets up a match for later in the episode (of ‘Arthur’), where Slam overcomes the odds and pins them both. If that doesn’t sound like every WWE show you’ve ever watched in the last 10 years, you’re lying. Also, “Max Axe” is a fantastic name for a wrestler.
The Timber Twins have a page on the hilariously-thorough Arthur wiki, which features some of the best pro wrestling analysis this side of The Best And Worst Of Raw:
It is questionable if they are legally able to use their tools while wrestling.
True, related story: Once in college I skipped a reading/meet-and-greet with Dead Man Walking author and all-around great person Sister Helen Prejean to watch an episode of WCW Monday Nitro. I don’t remember anything about it, except that I missed meeting Helen Prejean over it. I think Kidman wrestled. Anyway, I am totally Binky.
Episode: “When Carl Met George/D.W. Swims With The Fishes” (season 13, episode 6)
What Happens: D.W. and James enter a pre-school swim meet, and their older siblings (Arthur, and an aggressive, eyeless rabbit with a Velma from ‘Scooby-Doo’ haircut, respectively) are put in charge of training them. The kids get pressured harder and harder to win at all costs, so much so that they eventually say nuts to the race results and swim for fun. In a rare moment of unforced sportsmanship, D.W. even sacrifices her spot in the race to help out James, who’d gotten his flipper stuck in the lane divider. That’s how weird Arthur was being in this episode — he made D.W. nice.
Key line: “I feel like I just won an award for Jerk Of The Year.” “No, you didn’t win. We tied.”
This episode is called “D.W. Swims With The Fishes.” It’s not as good as “D.W. Sleeps With The Fishes,” which is my ‘Arthur’ fan-fic.
The “you’re putting too much pressure on us, it’s just a game” episode is a popular on for Sports On TV, and you may remember it from either the putt-putt and hockey episodes of ‘The Simpsons,’ or in the ‘Full House’ series finale where Michelle Tanner avoids competition by falling off a horse and getting amnesia. How many shows have to make episodes like this before sports parents stop treating their kids like racehorses?
Episode: “Arthur Loses His Marbles/Friday the 13th” (season 6, episode 10)
What Happens: Hey look, Arthur is in one of the Arthur sports moments! In “Arthur Loses His Marbles,” Arthur discovers that he likes marbles, buys some, then loses them. But never fear: his Grandma Thora reveals that she was once a championship-caliber marbles player and trains him to win a city marbles tournament that … uh, Arthur just made up. Like any good Greek tragedy, the tournament comes down to Arthur and his Grandma, and they take turns trying to save the other’s feelings by throwing the game.
Key line: “Marbles. They don’t even take batteries. It’s like what cavemen used to play with.”
‘Arthur’ loves its expository dream sequences, and this episode gets two: a Star Wars-themed dream where his Grandma is Yoda, and a Raiders Of The Lost Ark/Honey, I Shrunk The Kids mash-up where Arthur is tiny and has to run away from his giant Grandma’s rolling marble.
The episode is also notable for the INTENSE SHADE it throws at Pokémon. One of Muffy’s birthday presents (in addition to a bag of marbles) is a deck of “Dopeyman” cards, and Binky points out that she got a “Stinkachu.” Dopeyman? STINKACHU? Why was ‘Arthur’ always trying to start beef?
Episode: “For The Birds/Ungifted” (season 12, episode 4)
What Happens: A recurring theme of ‘Arthur’ is that Arthur himself has a pretty solid life with no major problems, and Buster’s life is a string of innocent agony. In ‘Ungifted,’ Arthur trades away a present Buster made for him and doesn’t understand why it’d make Buster upset. Turns out Arthur ALWAYS re-gifts his presents, including a football that Buster had signed “To my best pal Arthur.” ARGH.
Key line: “You gave my thresher to Binky?” “Um, yeah. But technically it was my thresher, right?” “But I gave it to you. It was a present.” “Do you know how many hours I spent making it?” “You said it only took you one hour.” “That’s not the point! How about all of those other presents I’ve given you over the years? Have you given those away, too?”
There isn’t a lot of football on ‘Arthur.’ His school appears to have a football team, and Francine shows up in a football jersey a few times, but they mostly stick to sports where you don’t purposefully concuss each other. The only football in this episode is Francine’s dad throwing her a pass with Buster’s special gift to Arthur, and the only violence is Arthur DRIVING A KNIFE INTO BUSTER’S HEART AND TWISTING IT AROUND.
Actually, there’s a little more football … the present Arthur initially trades away is a combine harvester model (“The Grain Reaper”), and during his attempts to get it back, it gets passed and spiked in victory by the Tibble Twins. Buster should probably just hang out in his room and play by himself.
Episode: “Arthur’s Underwear/Francine Frensky, Olympic Rider” (season 2, episode 5)
What Happens: Francine wants to learn how to ride a horse and dreams of becoming an Olympic equestrian. She gets down on herself when her older sister Catherine (who is basically Lindsay Weir from ‘Freaks and Geeks’) is better and gets preferential treatment from the Dirk Diggler-esque teen monkey instructor. She has a dream sequence of Catherine overshadowing her in her own Olympics fantasy and decides to give it up, but Catherine drags her back into it with horse-maintenance chores and promises of riding lessons.
Key line: “Francine Frensky is in the Olympics, and you’re not!”
As bad as D.W. is, I think Francine is secretly the meanest and worst person on the show. Whenever she’s faced with even a small amount of adversity she flips out, and instead of just being sad or whatever like Arthur might, she gets outwardly vindictive. In that Michelle Kwan episode she almost gives Jenna Morgan’s Where The Wild Things Are-looking ass a nervous breakdown, and here she’s on the verge of alienating her entire family because she isn’t immediately the best ever at horseback riding.
The episode ends with the girls Learning To Work And Play and Get Along With Each Other, then immediately devolves into them arguing what their hypothetical horse will be named. That turns into a pillow fight and their dad sorta wistfully closes their door, but if Francine is an athlete with weird confidence and rage issues, he should probably step in. Just saying.
Episode: “Arthur’s Eyes/Francine’s Bad Hair Day” (season 1, episode 1)
What Happens: Behold, the shocking origin of Arthur Read’s glasses! We get a glimpse into the harrowing, pre-glasses world of Arthur via a basketball game, which Arthur plays like Jamaal Magloire because he can’t see anything. One failed eye exam later and Arthur is the laughing stock of his friends, desperately trying to find ways to lose or destroy his glasses so he won’t have to wear them. Eventually he realizes that they help him in school and sports and finds peace in them, mostly because they helped him score a bucket on Francine.
Key line: “Hey, Buster, look! There’s Arthur the ‘Four-Eyes’.”
Related story: I found out I needed glasses when I was in college, when my professor wouldn’t stop writing on a white dry-erase board with a yellow marker and giving me brain failure. It didn’t make me any better at sports, though, and a real 8-year old blind aardvark could probably beat me in one-on-one.
The TV.com entry introduces something important:
The story “Arthur’s Eyes” is based off the 1979 book of the same name by Marc Brown. Even though it wasn’t the first book in the Arthur Adventure series, it was the first to feature Arthur’s trademark glasses. Many of the elements in the book are the same as this episode, except Arthur tries to destroy his glasses by putting them in the laundry (instead of having D.W. try to smash them), and Arthur notices that his teacher’s reading glasses look exactly like Arthur’s own glasses (like Wilbur Rabbit’s glasses in the TV show.) The book version also ends with the class having their school picture taken (and Francine wears her movie star glasses for them.) The book was also adapted into an episode of Reading Rainbow in 1983, read by Bill Cosby.
Why isn’t that online somewhere? Get that on the Internet, somebody. More of that, less of this.
Episode: “The Wheel Deal/The Buster Report” (season 14, episode 1)
What Happens: Brain — who is a 3rd grader bear, and not the dog from ‘Inspector Gadget’ — hurts his leg and gets put in a wheelchair, jeopardizing his school’s chances of beating rivals Mighty Mountain in a weird hybrid pop-a-shot/basketball game thing for charity. He’s convinced that his handicap has made him worthless until he runs into Lydia, a fox (an actual fox, I’m not calling her sexy) who is great at basketball, but has been in a wheelchair her entire life. Brain competes and does well, but he doesn’t have the confidence to close, to Lydia rolls in and takes over to drain high-speed free throws and win the game.
Key line: “I haven’t looked at my calendar in days. I’ve just been playing basketball.” “And that’s all you should’ve been doing.”
It’s also got a great dream sequence moment that pretty perfectly encapsulates what it must be like to be in the NBA: if you’re talented, your failures will be all anybody remembers, and really tall guys will step in and get wagons full of your money.
Episode: “Silent Treatment/Kung Fool” (season 13, episode 2)
What Happens: Introvert dog-girl Fern wants to get a Junior Explorers badge, so she volunteers to help an old person with their daily chores. Turns out that old person is legendary 1960s kung fu film star Tony Wu, star of Master Wu and the Rebel Monks, but he mostly just lies around watching golf. Fern gets convinced that the chores he’s giving her are martial arts lessons, and when Wu figures out why she’s being weird, he offers to teach her the most PBS-friendly martial art he can: Tai Chi.
Key line: “I’m learning from a master.” “A master of what? Headbands?”
The best part of the episode is Binky’s constant “LOL, dafuq” reaction to anything Fern does.
So yeah, I guess you can’t have Master Wu using Eagle Claw to shatter somebody’s rib cage and rip out their still-beating heart on ‘Arthur,’ so we get Tai Chi. The lesson that movie martial arts and real martial arts are two different things has always been an important one for children, because for as many times as it was explained to me, I still thought karate was jumping and kicking people as hard as possible until I was like 17. I do kinda wish Master Wu had taught Fern that Tai Chi stance that makes you crap your pants and not know why.
Episode: “The Curse of the Grebes/Arthur Changes Gears” (season 10, episode 6)
What Happens: In an episode that encapsulates every great baseball f**k-up and curse — the Chicago Cubs goat, Steve Bartman, Merkle’s Boner and Bill Buckner among them — the local Elwood City Grebes make it to the “World Championships” (something they haven’t won since 1918) against the 25-time champion Crown City Kings. Buster is confident that the Grebes’ time has come, but when they lose every game he attends, he starts to believe he’s cursed. He almost sits game 7 of the series, having convinced himself that the team doesn’t need his support, but a chance encounter with three suspiciously named Grebes stars in a grocery store gets him into the crowd, and he watches them take home the championship.
Key line: “Anyone can root for a winning team. It takes character to stick with the underdogs.”
The mash-up curse is pretty exceptionally devised: back in 1918, the Grebes won the World Championship with a walk-off home run. The ball soared out of the park and into the gutter of a building, where a street urchin chased it down. This was witnessed by the greedy team owner, who announced that he owned the land and the ball and that the kid would have to give it up. The kid gave him the ball, but announced that it came with a dreaded curse. Well done, ‘Arthur,’ that’s an epic curse.
The Grebes players Buster runs into (and the keys to the team’s sudden success, according to a game of catch conversation at the beginning of the episode) are “Playmon,” “Winlin” and “Bateria.” If you couldn’t just assume who those people are, they’re voiced by (and look exactly like) Johnny Damon, Mike Timlin and Edgar Renteria, all of the 2005 Boston Red Sox. “Bateria” is seriously the best they could come up with. They get special GUEST STARRING placards at the end of the episode, and their own US KIDS segment where they help some inner-city types paint a wall green.
more like a word from us dweebs, am i right