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).


William Foss said...

What's the name of the blog that comments on Arthur? I'm in the same boat as far as growing up not having cable and watching a lot of PBS, so I'd like to read it.

Becca said...

It's called "And I Say Hey!" but I feel obligated to warn you that she uses adult language in her posts.

William Foss said...

By the way, I really enjoyed your breakdown of that episode. If you felt like doing more, I'd enjoy reading them.
My siblings and I really grew up on PBS and became aware of things through it. Even at the time, we joked around about some of the over the top stuff, specifically on Arthur. Just a couple of months ago when were were all home, there was a post-dinner exchange that included, "Oh, are you having cake?"
As well as the occasional text of, "TV isn't funny when you're a sad, sad bunny." (Don't know if you've seen that episode, but Art Garfunkel singing about Buster was so delightfully weird that it has stuck with my siblings and me through the years.
I'm glad that the "next blog" thing led me here, really enjoyed the posts.

Becca said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it! My siblings love that line too. And yes, the episode where Moose Art Garfunkel runs around town singing about everything is one of my favorites!