Arthur is a kids TV show that has been around since the late 90's, and is still on to this day. It's one of the weirdest, reality based shows that sets examples for kids. I grew up with it, and still watch it on weekday mornings when I don't have school. This story though, will explain what has soured me from buying other old episodes on tape. I had written this description of the episode a few years back and left it on my computer, and after much thought, I’ve decided to release it.
The Story (May 10th 2009)
I wish this tape had survived long enough for me to get some screen shots from it, but alas, the film tore badly and during repairs I lost all but 5 minutes of the episode. The tape was bought second hand about a month ago, from my normal second hand media store, The Corner Store. For those who don’t live in central Alberta, it’s an old music store that became a second hand book/movie store some time ago. I have bought almost 100 VHS tapes from him, all of which worked fine, except for this one. I bought the tape because I’m trying to find the old episodes of Arthur again, to bring back good memories of my childhood. I loved that show, and still watch it to this day. As all should know, they still make it…and the new ones are nothing to brag about. The animation looks cheap and rather rushed, the stories are often dull and the focus on mental illness in children (like the one about the kid with Asperger’s) feels out of place. Characters have changed; the bullies are now good guys, Francine is even more of a bitch and DW no longer has moments that make her seem like more than a spoiled brat. The show has been ruined. To escape this mess, I went out to buy some old episodes on tape. Home recordings were of particular interest, so I could see some of the old commercials that had aired at the time. I bought about $5 worth of the old tapes, each at 50 cents. They all seemed fine. Each was properly labeled with episode times, recording dates and time stamps. The one that caught my eye was the title “The Death of Grandma Thora”, recorded on March 5th, 1998 with a lone time stamp: ‘15:24 lost the channel’. It was an episode I did not know, from an airdate that seemed almost too old to be trusted. I noticed the title had been written on a patch of white out. I decided against scraping it off. Perhaps it was a recording of something in the people’s lives? I decided to watch it first.
The beginning was the opening of Arthur, the theme sounding a bit tinny, probably due to bad recording equipment. The tape had issues that troubled me, mainly the tracking. I just couldn’t get it to stop being jumpy and it awkward to watch! I eventually gave up, leaving it where there was a line of fuzz across the top and sat down. There was no opening title for the episode. It showed the Elwood City hospital, something I wasn’t very familiar with. Sad violin music was playing in the background. The only one car in the parking lot was the Reads. It cut to Arthur and DW in the waiting room. Arthur was reading a Scare-Your-Pants-Off book, while DW pestered him about the story. The volume was bad, making it hard for me to listen to. I’ll do my best to recreate what they were saying, though it’s hard to remember.
DW: “Why won’t you play with me, Arthur? I’m bored! Why are we even here?”
Arthur: “Shut up, DW! I’m trying to read!”
The parents came down the hall, the mom looked depressed and the dad looked paranoid. DW ran to them, asking why Arthur was ignoring her. The dad told her to sit down.
<span lang="EN" style="color: white; font-family: "Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-ansi-language: EN; mso-themecolor: background1;">Arthurs Mom: “Now kids, I’m afraid that we won’t be seeing Grandma Thora again. She died after a long battle with lung and breast cancer. She’s…gone to a better place…”'''
DW then broke down into tears. As always the voice acting was pretty good. Arthur dropped his book in shock and stared. He sat there, unmoving, the tape rippling with static, as the DW's crying looped over and over, it became more realistic and depressing sounding. Then it fades to the Read's house. The dad was talking on the phone, looking sad but acting professional. DW was staring at the TV but it was all a black screen. Baby Kate was just sitting there doing nothing. The mom was making a wedding cake and she had a neutral facial expression. The doorbell rang and Arthur opened the door. It was Buster.
Buster: "Hey, I heard what happened. You wanna go down to the Sugar Bowl and talk?”
The shot of the Sugar Bowl appeared but there was no music, only wind blowing. I noticed it was fall in the episode as dead leaves littering the ground. Arthur and Buster were sitting there, not talking, not moving. It reminded me of the still frames that sometimes appeared in the old TMNT show. Buster spoke, but his mouth was not moving with the words at all.
Buster: “We should go do something fun to cheer ourselves up.”
Arthur just stared at him, eyes blank. It jumped suddenly to the funeral. All the people were in black. There was no music, only crying. However the crying didn't sound like cartoon crying, it sounded like hyper realistic crying as if the voice actors were actually crying. The casket was pure white, draped in flowers. It showed Arthur, his face wet with tears, before the imagination sound cue came in. The casket opened and it wasn’t Grandma Thora but instead his Grandpa. His face was heavily wrinkled (like in the episode where DW got lost in the mall and was thinking about what life would be like without her mother). His teeth were showing and the color was off, being more of a yellow than the normal white. His eyes suddenly opened but they were not human, but rather black button eyes like on Arthur’s stuffed bear Stanley. Arthur screamed and everyone ran away, leaving him alone in the church. The walls fell in, exposing a red and black streaked sky. DW’s laughter could be heard, high and rapid. There was a loud bang and the images stopped. Arthur was sitting there with his face pale. His mom was whispering something to dad. DW was crying but not making some kind of sound. They were walking in a single file line to the coffin. As Arthur got closer you could hear the buzzing of flies. He swallowed and wiped his eyes. The coffin lid was open. He looked in and there was a shot of his face. He was enraged. There was a flash of white and the sound was gone for a moment. Suddenly they were in the car again. The episode ended. As for the commercials, they weren’t anything amazing. Just some ads for “Chick-fa-lay” and” KSPS”.
The next part did have a title. ‘Recovery’. It was written on a plain white background. I could hear DW screaming, like when Arthur punched her, before the episode started up. The family was at home. It seemed a continuation of the previous part. DW was in her room, solemnly playing with her dolls. The parents were reminiscing over pictures, and Arthur was in his room. When Pal came in and started barking at him, wanting to play. Arthur got up and kicked Pal. He kept kicking him, the audio now consisting of Pal’s yelps, before slamming his door shut. Arthur looked at the viewer and clenched his teeth and the scene faded out. The next scene showed that it was night time as Arthur crept out of his room, with his backpack on his shoulder. He walked past Pal, who whined and drew away, before grabbing his coat and sneaking out. He ran for a full three minutes, the streets all in shadow. There was music, very soft, normal happy music that we all knew from the show. That ended though when he ran into the graveyard.
He stopped at his grandma’s grave, staring at it. There was an owl hooting sound and he started digging, screaming in pain as he did. His bare hands were soon slicked in dark red blood and he stopped, finding the coffin. He then said in a depressed voice "Grandma Thora, why would you do this?". The coffin opened and Grandma Thora was inside it, her eyes were closed and her glasses were shattered. Arthur and his family gathered around, staring down and crying extremely hard. It was the same crying from the funeral before. Kate was screaming and for whatever reason, and DW fell into the open grave. Although her body was still moving, there was a still video of Arthur running away from his family. The screen went black and there was a low sound that rose to a high chatter. It was the Tibbles laughing. The grave started to spin in empty space, opening and sucking the world into it. I could hear DW yelling ‘KATE DID IT’ over and over again, mixed with Pal’s yelps of pain. Stanley appeared, spiraling down through the blackness. His head tore off and the cartoony organs from the episode where Arthur cut his knee started trailing out from the body. There was a series of loud thuds and it showed Arthur again, sitting there, in the Sugar Bowl. Buster was unmoving on the floor beside the booth, his eyes were gone. The red sockets started to stream blood and Arthur screamed in rage. There were a few white flashes and it showed him in prison, wearing the black and white clothing the show always used, his face covered in the scars they showed on bad guys sometimes. His last words were louder than the other speech clips.
Arthur: “I killed them all. I beat out Kate’s brains and stabbed DW. I killed my dog. My parents ate poison, but I didn’t do it. SHE did it. Thora did it, she made me kill them.”
The normal credits played followed by 15 minutes of static. Stunned, I went to rewind the tape, to see if I what I just saw was real or if was just a dream. When I tried to rewind the video, the tape seized up, so I took the tape and opened it up. The film had split an inch from one reel all the way down to a few inches from the other one. Either I had just witnessed one of the worst things to ever be associated with a children’s cartoon, or I’m just off my nut… I will never know. I remember it pretty well though, suggesting it was real. If this was made by some sick fuck as a joke, I give them a thumbs-up on making something that seemed so real, like as if it was actually part of the series. After all, the video had never cut out like it said on the tape, unless it had on what had originally been recorded. But now I think of it…since the show always covers very real topics…could this have been a real episode they only aired once? They did one on DW’s bird dying but never one on abuse or anything. If it really was a real episode, and I almost hope it is. I’m intrigued and I really want to see it again, to prove to myself I'm not going mad.