Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dad's Dessert Dilemma S03 Ep. 07 (Part 2)

Arthur deserves its own blog post. My older brother directed me to a blog where the writer analyzed older episodes of Arthur, and I thought it was stinking hilarious. But the writer stopped after four posts over a year ago, so I'm totally stealing the idea and her three main categories. They are as follows.

1. Arthur Fails at a Basic Life Skill.
2. One of Arthur's Friends Fails at a Basic Life Skill.
3. D.W. is a Huge Witch.

I thought they were pretty accurate, as were the character descriptions which I have mostly copied from her, but edited at my discretion. I do not claim to be this clever.

* Arthur Read: Arthur is an eight-year old aardvark with a big heart, even bigger glasses, and some serious anxiety issues. Seriously, the guy gets worked up about everything. Nearly every episode involves Arthur freaking out about some minor issue and working himself into a kind of demented frenzy over it. These issues invariably have a very simple solution, but as Arthur really isn't very bright, he usually fails to figure this out until the last two minutes of the episode. His voice breaks about twenty-seven times over the course of the series.

* Buster Baxter: Arthur's best friend, Buster is a kind-hearted, if hyperactive, rabbit child. He is dorky, awkward and seems to have some sort of severe ADHD. Buster's parents are both completely inept, and he compensates for their lack of attention by telling outlandish stories and stress eating. Every now and then, Buster is randomly written out of the show so that he can go visit his absentee father.

* Francine Frensky: Francine Frensky is Arthur's other best friend. She seems to be some sort of Jewish monkey-like creature and has a natural talent for sports, music, and being a huge witch.

* Muffy Crosswire: The Blair Waldorf of the Art
hur universe, Muffy, like Francine, appears to be some kind of monkey-thing. She is vain, cruel, self-centered and just generally unpleasant, but everyone puts up with her so that they can use her indoor swimming pool.

* Alan "The Brain" Powers: So, Arthur's an aardvark, Buster's a bunny...What the frak is The Brain? According to the PBS website he's an African-American bear cub, but as far as I'm concerned, the jury's still out on that one. Whatever the heck he is, The Brain is pompous, pretentious, and refuses to respond to any name other than "The Brain."

* Binky Barnes: Binky is a mildly sociopathic bulldog who randomly switches between being Arthur's close friend and Arthur's arch nemesis. Somewhat dim, Binky is quite possibly the tallest nine year old in history. He is also the reigning school bully, but he'd be a lot more terrifying if he didn't tuck his shirt into his pants.

* D.W. Read: D.W. is Arthur's little sister. She looks to be about four years old, but her real age is a major continuity problem for the writers. She is also a giant witch. And it's not just regular witchiness. D.W. legitimately seems to have a serious personality disorder. When not tormenting Arthur, being a snot to her friends or causing her baby sister bodily harm, D.W. can usually be found throwing a violent tantrum or talking to invisible people. (Becca here; I actually think D.W. is the funniest character on the show, but she does have issues.)

Without further ado, the first analysis.

Dad's Dessert Dilemma
In which Arthur takes pride in something that has little to do with him and Elwood City has a serious sugar addiction

Category: Arthur Fails at a Basic Life Skill
Basic Life Skill Failed: Having skills in general

The show begins with Mr. Read dashing the fourth wall by asking the audience if we're looking for Arthur. He proceeds to call for his firstborn (which is fruitless because he's out baking in his kitchen/garage or kitchenage and no one can hear him) and when Arthur doesn't respond, he assumes he's doing homework.

We, as the audience, dearly wish that that was the case. Instead, we are treated to a camera shot of Arthur shoving weird-looking cookies into his allegedly aardvark face as fast as his hands can move from plate to mouth, complete with revolting sound effects.

He ends up pouring the cookies in when his hands fail to keep up with his disgusting appetite. Mr. Read, I think it's safe to say that we are NOT looking for Arthur anymore and would rather stay out here in the kitchenage, curled up in fetal position.

But it turns out that hanging out with Mr. Read is only marginally better than hanging out with his son. He immediately launches into a lament as to how he's persecuted for his bold culinary innovations. In a flashback we see cinnamon toast souffle which deflates as it comes out of the toaster (not bad), chunky pudding balls (which look exactly the same as the cookies Arthur was snarfing not three seconds ago, so I don't know what he's all grossed out about), and Cranberry Prune Crumble (which actually sounds gross).

Arthur bursts in on this soliloquy (probably to steal more cookies or maybe eat straight brown sugar), but the minute his dad asks him to try something, he's gone. Mr. Read sits there, stunned, and we cut to the title card so we don't see a grown up animated aardvark cry into his manly apron.

Mr. Ratburn mentions that tomorrow is Galileo's birthday and that by way of celebration they'll be studying his theory of the solar system. Binky immediately raises his hand and proposes that they have a birthday party, and Buster, of course, demands that everyone bring cake and ice cream for him...for them to eat. "Cake" then becomes Mr. Ratburn's buzzword for the rest of the show. Once the idea is approved, (after gasping in shock) the kids begin volunteering their parents' food services.

Arthur rushes home and tells his mom that she has to meet his demands or he'll be a failure at life. Hardly fazed, Mrs. Read glances away from her dinosaur computer for long enough to tell him that she's busy, darnit, and that he should go ask his dad. Mr. Read pops out of nowhere, wearing his tear-stained apron (which I guess he wears everywhere?) and jumps at the opportunity to make his son like him. Arthur rejects the offering of affection by saying that he doesn't want anything "weird." Mr. Read laughs this off and goes back to his kitchenage for more crying. His mom assures Arthur that the dessert will be very unique and Arthur displays his closed-mindedness for all the world to see by saying "That's what I'm afraid of."

Being open to out-of-the-norm things is bad, kids. In fact, write that down. "Unique = bad." Got it? Good.

Mr. Read unveils the cake, which is WICKED SWEET. Seriously, Arthur? Seriously? He mopes off, sure that he'll get set on fire or ostracized or something for bringing a KICK-BUTT CAKE to a class party. (He has one of his fantasies where everyone hates him and his cake and even Buster won't eat it... Yeah, I've seen Buster lick a seven year old ham bone and eat a fifty year old sandwich. Not likely, dude.)

He hides it under a box when he gets to school and when Buster demands to see what his sugary homage is, mumbles something with his mouth full of cookie. Mr. Ratburn uses his superior cake finding skills, uncovers it, and everyone thinks it's an awesome and delicious cake. Arthur then realizes that he can use his dad in order to gain popularity, something he will never be able to accomplish on his own. Ever.

He volunteers his dad to make desserts for all sorts of mundane school functions. And Mr. Ratburn shows up at all of them, under the guise of "dropping off the spring reading list." It makes me kind of sad, actually. I want to sit him down and say, "Nigel, you don't have to hide your addiction. And you're invited to most of these functions, so it's okay to go eat some of that without having an excuse. It's what cake is FOR."

Arthur gets a big head (which is particularly irritating because he has nothing to do with his dad's desserts) and becomes drunk with popularity. As such, he gets threatened by Brain's mom bringing extra ice cream to school that would've gone to waste otherwise. He hurries home, intent on cracking the whip harder on his slacker dad, and his mom tells him to chill out.

It turns out that Arthur's madness is causing Mr. Read to fall behind on his work and Mr. Crosswire (who's at least three times more of a jerk than Muffy) is tres upset at him. While Arthur is trying to process this outside the kitchenage, D.W. comes along, realizes that Arthur's insanity will be their ruin, and begins inflicting bodily harm.

Mr. Read, smelling blood, comes out, somehow gets his kids to help him with Mr. Crosswire's order, and all is good in the city of Elwood.

Aaaaand Mr. Ratburn comes around to the kitchenage to "drop off the spring reading list," feigns surprise at the presence of cake, and follows Mr. Crosswire home to whatever swanky party he's throwing for himself (because no one else is good enough for the Crosswires).

Kids' Shows

I watched a lot of public television growing up because A) we didn't have cable and B) it made me hecka smart. So I grew up with such classics Barney, Sesame Street, Puzzle Place, and Arthur.

Who knew that when I grew up (read: when my body had partially caught up with old spirit) I would be getting paid to watch PBS? I currently have a job at BYU Broadcasting (which will one day get me an ins with the BBC and then I can meet Claire Foy and all my dreams will come true) as a canary in the mine. I sit there, eyes glued to the screen(s), and the minute something goes wrong, I tell someone else to fix it via email or by hollering at my supervisors. Sometimes I have the resources to fix it myself, but these are rare occasions.

Anyway, the shifts I have this semester are for KBYU during the day. Which means six solid hours of kids' shows. Guess what I've begun doing? Yep, that's right. Analyzing TV shows written for (by?) children.

It's not all that bad, actually. There are some pretty solid shows out there. Arthur, Word Girl, and Martha Speaks are generally pretty enjoyable. However, I end up thinking about things way too much.

Like Super Why!, a show that airs when I'm not working but I saw plenty the last nine months. As far as teaching kids letters and values at the same time, it's not too shabby. But I have one major complaint.

Okay, count the (comparatively) human main characters with me.

From left to right, Wonder Red, Super Why, and Princess Presto. Three. Three out of the four main characters are humans. Which character got the catchphrase of "Let's give ourselves a big thumbs up!"?

That's right, good ol' Alpha Pig, who's got little trotters. The writers had three choices when it came to divvying out that catchphrase, and they gave it to the pig. *sigh*

Next on my agenda is Clifford the Big Red Dog. Who didn't think that a huge dog would be the coolest thing ever when they were younger? Hey, maybe you think that now. I'm not hatin'. But as you get older you start thinking things like "Holy Hannah, how do they FEED that monstrosity? Don't the Howards own an antique shop or something like that? How can they afford that sort of budget strain? Do they feed him criminals from the mainland?" and "Okay, maybe Emily Elizabeth chose Clifford because he was the step-headed red child runt of his litter and she felt bad for him, but maybe her parents were on board with the whole dog thing because he was so small. And then--irony!--they ended up with the biggest dog in the whole world. Man, they must be hating life." and "Yep. Cleaning up after him would suck. I don't understand how Emily Elizabeth can still love him."

But the thing that gets me every time is this image in the theme song.

At first you think "Lolz, a dog with his head sticking out of a building!" And then as you watch it day after day after day after day you think, "Hold on. The tail thing I can fathom. His tail is probably small enough to stick out one of those generic windows. But there is no way his head could fit through one of those. According to the theme song, he grew at a freakish rate, so maybe he stuck his head out the window to smell some of the fetid stenches that accompany city life and BAM! Enormous Clifford head! But I'm erring on the side of more gradual growth. So...what? The Howards, upon realizing that they'd been scammed by that puppy vendor, made Clifford stick his head out the window until he reached his peak size? How did they even get him out of there to move to Birdwell Island?"

Don't even get me started on Curious George. Sometimes I have to turn the volume down on that show because it makes me so anxious.

"Be a good little monkey!" The man in the yellow hat says. "And make sure to have Einstein's theory of relativity debunked by the time I get home!" He might as well add.

George hoots something incomprehensible then proceeds to *SPOILER ALERT* get into all sorts of trouble. I'm not going to dwell on that, however, or this post is going to become more of a manifesto.

What really bothers me is how he only has to say "Ooh ooh ah!" and maybe make some vague gesture and everyone knows what he's saying.

"Oh, you think that the British monarchy is a tired old tradition that ought to give way to the ministry?" says the man in the yellow hat, stroking his chin.

George chatters excitedly at being understood so perfectly. He then turns to Bill, one of the dumbest smart characters on the show, and hoots something while standing on his hands.

"You want to build a raft made entirely from pineapples?" says Bill, who for some reason thinks that all people who live in the city are monkeys and calls George "City Kid."

George screeches "Ahhh!" and gets his stash of pineapples out from under his bed.

And George never suffers the consequences of his actions. Someone always comes along and bails him out, therefore enabling him to continue with his ridiculous antics. I'm still waiting for the episode where George is curious as to why he can't dry his fur while in the tub. Where is your man in the yellow hat now, electrocuted monkey?

But then I realize that I could be watching Teletubbies or Boo Bah, and I shut my brain off and enjoy the relative coherency.