PBS // 2000 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // November 18th, 2012
"Can we have a Kwanzaa party next year?"
It's an unwritten rule of sorts that every long-running show -- and quite a few short-lived ones, for that matter -- must eventually have some kind of holiday episode (or two, or three, or twelve). As such, it's no surprise that the long-running PBS series Arthur (fast approaching its 200th episode as of the writing of this review) managed to squeeze a Christmas tale into the mix somewhere in the midst of that run. Arthur's Perfect Christmas is not merely a Christmas-themed episode of the show, but rather a 60-minute special designed to be repeated each holiday season. It's by no means a classic, but the special does manage to achieve the sort of casual charm that Arthur does well on a regular basis.
In lovely little Elwood City, everyone is getting ready for the holidays. Arthur and his sister D.W. are eagerly awaiting Christmas morning and attempting to find gifts for their family and friends. Francine and her family are preparing to celebrate Hannukah, which the insensitive Muffy feels is nowhere near as important as Christmas. The Brain and his family will be celebrating Kwanzaa. The relatively secular Binky Barnes is also planning to celebrate Christmas, but finds the holiday much less meaningful than everyone else seems to. Over the course of an hour, these friends slowly begin to come to a better understanding of what each holiday celebration means and why we should all be respectful of each other's personal beliefs. Between these moments of edutainment, a wide assortment of wacky hijinks ensue.
A few things I particularly liked about Arthur's Perfect Christmas:
The show tells its own story and doesn't offer yet another wheezy riff on A Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life.
While the theme of the hour is inclusiveness, the Important Lessons are weaved naturally into the fabric of the show and don't feel like awkward lesson-learning breaks.
The stakes are appealingly low, as no one is required to save Christmas or rescue Santa or go on a mad dash for the perfect gift. It's just a nice little special about some nice characters going about their respective holiday routines.
As with all Arthur episodes, the special is primarily geared at children but contains some genuine moments of wit older viewers will enjoy.
The DVD transfer is stellar, offering strong detail and vibrant colors. The simple 2.0 audio track is also quite effective, delivering the show's gentle score and dialogue with pristine clarity. There are no supplements included.
Again, it's not essential holiday viewing, but you could honestly do a whole lot worse in terms of finding respectable Christmas-themed options for the young ones. The show does a solid job of educating kids on a host of holiday celebrations without turning too preachy, and it's easy to imagine the special inspiring some valuable conversations about the significance of the assorted holidays between youngsters and their parents. Recommended.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated