The long-running children’s TV show Arthur recently opened its 22nd season with a groundbreaking episode that featured the kids’ longtime teacher Mr. Ratburn’s marriage to anther man. In the episode “Mr. Ratburn And The Special Someone,” which premiered May 13, Arthur and his pals are concerned that their teacher is about to marry the bossy Patty (voiced by Jane Lynch). They’re relieved to discover that Mr. Ratburn is instead marrying the much nicer Patrick, who runs his own chocolate shoppe.
Arthur creator Marc Brown, who wrote the books the TV series is based on, told the CBC that he was thrilled by all the positive messages he received on social media after the episode aired. He explains, “With Arthur, we have an opportunity to deal with all kinds of characters. We go into their lives and we want to see how they’re connected with their families… Art reflects life. Life reflects art. And I think that kids need to see what’s happening in the world.” PBS reinforced that philosophy in its own statement after the episode: “PBS KIDS programs are designed to reflect the diversity of communities across the nation. We believe it is important to represent the wide array of adults in the lives of children who look to PBS KIDS every day.”
Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with Mr. Ratburn’s new relationship status. Specifically, Alabama Public Television refused to run the wedding episode, opting for a rerun instead. AL.com reports that in an email, APT director of programming Mike Mckenzie vaguely states,
Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children’s programs that entertain, educate and inspire… More importantly—although we strongly encourage parents to watch television with their children and talk about what they have learned afterwards—parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision. We also know that children who are younger than the ‘target’ audience for Arthur also watch the program.
APT previously pulled a 2005 episode when Arthur’s friend Buster visited a girl who had two mothers.
“Mr. Ratburn And The Special Someone” remains available at pbskids.org for parents interested in showing their kids what the world actually looks like.