Arthur: Lost Episode
Arthur, a kids TV show that's been around since the 90's, and still goes to this day. It's one of the weird, very 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, and the tape it's about, has soured me from buying the 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, have decided to release it.
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 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 Asbergers) 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 from the time. I bought about $5 worth of the old tapes, each at 50 cents. They all seemed fine at the time. Each was properly labled with episode times, recording dates and time stamps. The one of interest said "Death of Gramma", recorded 3/5/98 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 by decided against scraping it off. Perhaps it was a recording of something in the peoples lives? I decided to watch it first.
The begining was the opening of Arthur, the theme sounding a bit tinny, probably due to bad recording equiptment. The tape had issues that troubled me, mainly the tracking. I just couldn't get it to stop being jumpy and awkward to watch! I 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. The sad music was playing. There was only one car, 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 to listen to. I'll do my best to recreate what they were saying, though it's hard to remember.
"Why won't you play with me, Arthur? I'm bored! Why are we even here?"
"Shut up, DW! I'm trying to read!"
The parents came down the hall, the mom crying and the dad looking shocked. DW ran to them, asking why Arthur was ignoring her. The dad told her to sit down.
"Now kids, I'm afraid that we won't be seeing Gramma Thora again. She's…gone to a better place…" He broke into tears. As always, the voice acting was pretty good.
Arthur dropped his book in shock and stared. They sat there, unmoving, the tape rippling with static, as the parents crying looped over and over. It cut to them at home. The mom was talking on the phone, looking sad but acting professional. DW was staring at the TV but it was at a black screen. Baby Kate was just sitting there, unmoving. The dad was making a wedding cake, his face grim. The doorbell rang and Arthur opened the door. It was 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, 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. Buster spoke, his mouth not moving with the words at all.
"We should go do something fun, cheer ourselves up."
Arthur just stared at him, eyes blank. It jumped suddenly to the funeral. Everyone was in black. There was no music, only 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 Gramma Thora but instead his mom. Her 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). Her teeth were showing and the color was off, being more of a yellow than the normal white. Her eyes suddenly opened but they were not human, but rather black button eyes like on Arthur's stuffed bear Stanley. He screamed and everyone vanished, 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, his face pale. His mom was whispering something to dad. DW was crying. They 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.
Commercials. Nothing amazing, just some adds 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, solemly playing with her dolls. The parents were reminicing over pictures. Arthur was in his room. Pal came in and started barking at him, wanting to play. Arthur got up and kicked the dog. He kept kicking him, the soundtrack now consisting of Pal's yelps, before slamming his door shut. Kate started crying. Arthur gritted his teeth and the scene faded out. It was night in the next shot. Arthur crept out of his room, a 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, the normal happy music. He ran to the graveyard. He stopped at his grandma's grave, staring at it. There was an owl hooting sound and he started digging, crying out in pain as he did. His bare hands were soon slicked in dark red blood and he stopped, finding the coffin. He was crying now. The coffin opened and it was Arthur inside it, his eyes closed, glasses shattered. His family gathered around, staring down and crying. Kate was screaming. DW threw Pal into the open grave. His body was unmoving, a still of him running. The screen went black and there was a low sound that rose to a high chatter, 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 cries of pain. Stanley appeared, spiralling down through the blackness. His head tore off and the cartoony organs from the episode where Arthur cut his knee started trailing 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 gone. The red sockets started to stream blood and Arthur screamed in rage. There was 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.
"I killed them all. I beat out Kate's brains and stabed 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."
It went to the credits. They had the normal, cheery music. Stunned, I went to rewind the tape, to see if I had really seen it or if was a dream. The rewinder seized up and I opened it. The film had split an inch from one reel all the way down to a few inches from the other one. If had been my imagination making it seem worse, I will never know. I remember it pretty well though, suggesting it was real. If it was made by some sick someone as a joke, I give them a thumbs-up on making something that seemed so real. After all, it 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 want to see it again, to prove to myself I'm not going mad.
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