Anyone who's never had PBS Kids shows blaring from their TVs likely best knows Arthur from the myriad Internet memes inspired by the long-running series. However, Arthur unexpectedly made headlines recently when announcing its Season 22 premiere would center on a same sex wedding that Arthur and his friends attend. The episode aired on PBS in most areas of the country on Monday, May 20, but viewers in Alabama were not allowed to see it.
After taking a look at the Arthur episode for preview purposes, execs for Alabama Public Television (APT) chose not to air it on the night of its premiere, and it doesn't seem like anyone will be reversing that decision in order to air the episode in the future. Here's how the decision was explained by Mike McKenzie, the director of programming for APT:
In Mike McKenzie's view, the APT would have been taking away parents' choices over the TV shows their children watch, at least if it had aired Arthur's episode "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone" as planned. Audiences got to watch a rerun in place of the new episode.
Possibly knowing that certain parents would take issue with the episode, PBS went public with the news that Arthur would feature a same-sex marriage in its Season 22 premiere. The first segment's storyline centered on teacher Mr. Ratburn coming out and marrying his chocolatier boyfriend Patrick, with Arthur and other kids attending the ceremony.
Mike McKenzie also told NBC News that PBS had sent a message to the various local stations around the country in mid-April, noting that the episode's content may lead to "possible viewer concerns." After he and others took a look at it, the decision was made to yank it from the upcoming schedule.
For what it's worth, the episode's second storyline featured the class getting into a debate about video games, sparked by an argument between Arthur and Buster. That angle, however, didn't appear to trouble Alabama Public Television too much.
Arthur creator Marc Brown wasn't pleased at all by this news, and told People that he was "very disappointed" by APT's decision. In his words:
This isn't even the first time that Arthur has provoked swift action within the Alabama Public Television walls. In 2005, the episode "Postcards from Buster" was pulled by the APT because Buster met a female character who had two mothers. The angle was deemed too risky then, before Mike McKenzie took over, so it'd likely stand less of a chance now.
Alabama Public Television's stance on Arthur comes soon after the state landed in the midst of another controversial situation. Last week, female governor Kay Ivey approved the most limiting abortion law in the country, which labels any abortion a felony unless the mother's health is in danger. That bill is expected to take effect in six months, though it's highly likely that others will attempt to fight it.
Arthur sometimes deals with material that may be deemed unsuitable to the youngest of viewers, but the show probably won't be angling for an abortion storyline in Season 23 or beyond. As such, the animated series likely won't get kicked off of Alabama Public Television again anytime soon. (Unless maybe Arthur wears an LSU sweatshirt or something.)
Arthur airs weekday mornings on PBS at 6:30 a.m. EST. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend to see if anything else comes of this TV debate.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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