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Featured TV on DVD Review: Hey Arnold!: Season One

August 19th, 2011

Hey Arnold!: Season One - Buy from Amazon

Hey Arnold! was created by Craig Bartlett back when he was working on Rugrats while now he's making Dinosaur Train. That's a pretty good track record for kids shows. While Hey Arnold! is probably not as well known as Rugrats is, it still has a number of fans. Will these fan want to pick up this 4-disc set, or will neophytes be interested as well?

The Show

Hey Arnold! focuses on the life of Arnold, a fourth grader at PS118 in the city of Hillside. (It's a combination of Seattle, Portland, and New York City.) He lives with his two grandparents ever since his parents... I'm not sure. They are just not there. He's a good protagonist for a kids show, as he's generally a good kid and tries his best, even if he doesn't always succeed. His head looks like a football, leading some to believe he's related to Stewie from Family Guy. His best friend at school is Gerald and the two have known each other since kindergarten. While Arnold is the star, the two of them tend to drive the plot of the show in most episodes. The next biggest driving force on the show is Helga, Arnold's personal bully. But it's not that Helga hates Arnold, she's secretly in love with him and since she can't let her feelings be known. (It's more complicated than a simple crush, as Arnold has a crush on Lila, while Brainy's in love with Helga.)

Some of the secondary characters include Harold, the school tough guy; Phoebe, the smart girl and Helga's best friend; Sid, whose prone to paranoid fantasies including thinking Stinky is a vampire; Stinky, looks like a vampire; Rhonda, the popular girl; and many others. While the series deals mostly with Arnold and his friends, there are also a number of episodes that focus on his home life. He lives with his grandparents, who run a boarding house and this adds a collection of strange characters.

Each episode is usually divided into two stories, sometimes with very little continuity between them. (The first one of disc two has Heat, which is about a massive heat wave and Arnold and Gerald's attempts to stay cool, followed by Snow, which is about a snow day where all the kids get to play, except Arnold who has to help Grandpa shovel the sidewalk, fix the furnace, and all the other wintertime tasks.) The show isn't trying to impart and academic lesson, unlike Dinosaur Train, but it does deal with a lot of coming of age issues, including first crushes, sibling rivalries, dealing with bullies, not fitting in, etc. But mostly, it's just trying to be entertaining. It does succeed in that goal, but in a much more low-key way. It doesn't have the energy of a show like SpongeBob, for instance, but comes across as a lot more realistic and relatable. (The characters include a wide range of personality types, as well as ethnic backgrounds, which adds to that quality.) On the other hand, if you really like the over-the-top energy of a SpongeBob, or the absurdist humor, then this won't be one of your favorite shows.

The Extras

Unfortunately, there are no extras on the DVD. It would have been really cool to get an interview with the creator or some of the voice talent. A lot of the actors were actually kids when the show was made, so it would be fun to do a "Where are they now?" featurette.

The Verdict

Hey Arnold!: Season One is great value for parents used to shelling out $12 to $15 for single-disc releases. On, the four-disc set is just $20, and it is definitely worth it. Even if you've never seen the show but enjoy more realistic cartoons, it's worth picking up.

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