The series finale of PBS Kids staple Arthur aired on Feb. 21, wrapping up the show after 25 years on air.
This last episode of the beloved children’s series featured a flash forward, 20 years into the future, to reveal what Arthur and his friends have been up to. Voice actor Michael Yarmush, who originated the character back in 1996, reprised the role one last time as a 28-year-old Arthur. (Unlike the other voice roles, Arthur and his sister D.W. were recast to always be voiced by children). Adult Arthur is a budding graphic novelist, who shows off his new book to his friends — and in a heartwarming twist, it is revealed to be based on the first episode of the show.
Based on the Marc Brown picture books of the same name, Arthur follows the titular character, a bespectacled aardvark in the third grade, and his friends, who are all anthropomorphized animals living in the fictional Elwood City. Arthur notably included a wide range of celebrity guest cameos — from author Neil Gaiman to late Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek — as well as cultural references including Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tintin, and even Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and South Park. But what made Arthur stand out was how the show approached real life issues without ever being patronizing to young viewers. With a blend of humor and honesty, Arthur tackled learning about different cultures, grappling with illness, and dealing with the traumatic aftermath of a school fire, among other things.
“We are not writing kids programming; we are writing programming that kind of speaks to kids where they are and that is respectful of them but also understands that they like to laugh,” executive producer Carol Greenwald told the LA Times in a new interview.
“Whenever we would take new writers on, I would tell them not to write for a children’s show,” added longtime head writer Peter Hirsch. “You should write from your own experiences — things that would disturb, inspire or engage you — and then let’s figure out how to suit that for children.”
In this final episode, the characters take a personality quiz to see what their future will hold and most of them are pretty surprised with their fates. As it turns out, all of their prophesied career choices came true: Fashionable Muffy becomes a politician; competitive Francine runs a sneaker company; zany Buster is now a teacher; and Arthur’s pesky sister D.W. is a traffic cop. Hirsch says that they didn’t want to go with obvious options, and instead show kids that life is full of twists and turns.
Not all of Arthur’s expansive cast appeared in the finale, so it’s unknown if mystery-loving poet Fern became an investigative journalist or worldly Sue-Ellen followed in her parents’ footsteps as a diplomat. But while the show itself is ending, there is more Arthur content on the horizon. The characters will appear in short PSAs about timely topics, like wearing masks, and there is also a podcast in early stages of development. Even so, all 25 seasons of the show are available to watch on the PBS Kids website — and even though some of them might be two decades old, the lessons are still relevant and timely for today’s kids. There really is an Arthur episode for everything.