Hey Arnold! was and is one of the greatest shows that Nickelodeon has ever aired. It was also one of the best of the best of the network’s “Nicktoons” programming block. Now with only two real “Nicktoons” left—Spongebob Squarepants and Fairly Oddparents—the release of this classic Nicktoon’s previous three seasons is more welcome than ever. Fans have been able to pick up the show’s previous trio of seasons thanks to both Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory. Now next Tuesday, fans will be able to pick up the fourth season of Hey Arnold! Whether one already owns the previously released seasons or not, Season Four is one more welcome addition to any classic Nicktoons Nostalgic’s home library. This critic should probably copyright that term, huh?
Hey Arnold! lasted as long as it did in its original television run because its writers were so capable at balancing its family friendly comic elements with warmer, more heartfelt elements without getting too emotional. Audiences get even more of that in what would eventually become the penultimate season of this standout cartoon. This is exemplified early on in the episode, “Oskar Can’t Read?” “Oskar Can’t Read?” stands out this season as it actually tackles the issue of adult illiteracy. Mr. Kokoshka is typically seen as a lazy mooch who refuses to do anything to help himself. But when it’s discovered that he can’t read, Oskar actually sets out to prove that he will do whatever it takes to be able to read because he is genuinely embarrassed about his inability to read. Adult illiteracy is one of those topics that is rarely discussed, but crosses generations. So even now years after this episode originally aired, it remains just as moving and entertaining today as it was in its original airing. That the show’s writers would tackle the subject at all is one more part of what makes this series and Season Four so enjoyable.
For all the seriousness of “Oskar Can’t Read?”, Hey Arnold! Season Four offers its own share of more comical, easygoing stories, too. Among the best of that crop is “Synchronized Swimming.” This episode is centered on the classic battle of the sexes. Coach Wittenberg (voiced by James Belushi—The World According To Jim) is at it again with his wife. This time the couple is disagreeing on whether boys can participate in the artistic aquatic event. This was not Belushi’s first appearance as Coach Wittenberg. And he was just as funny as ever this time out. Coach Wittenberg’s wife Tish is just as funny being that she is so much like him. Just like Jack (Coach Wittenberg), she can’t properly pronounce Synchronized Swimming. There’s just something funny about this and the couple’s constant competitiveness. The process of Arnold and his friends training to be a synchronized swimming team is just as funny. The end result turns the battle of the sexes on its ear in a way that will leave any viewer laughing and smiling. It’s just one more episode that makes Hey Arnold! Season Four so enjoyable.
Hey Arnold! Season Four offers a solid balance of laughs and more serious matters over the course of its two discs, as one can tell through the episodes already noted here. There is at least one more episode that exemplifies that balance in this season. It’s an episode that pays tribute to America’s men and women in uniform. The episode in question is simply titled, “Veterans Day.” In “Veterans Day” Arnold and Gerald are taken to a big Veterans Day ceremony by Arnold’s grandpa, Phil. Martin, Gerald’s father, comes along, having served in Vietnam. Martin makes a statement that still rings true to this day, as sad as it is. He notes that people see it less as a chance to honor those that served as more as just an excuse for another day off. He adds how few people actually attend ceremonies honoring veterans. Save for parades, there is a certain amount of truth to this statement even to this day. Along the way to the veterans’ ceremony, both Phil and Martin share their stories with Arnold and Gerald, hoping to impart some knowledge to the boys. That goal is achieved, as both young men learn some very valuable lessons about honoring those that served, especially as their numbers grow older and fewer. Yet again, the writers behind Hey Arnold! have taken a very weighty topic and put it into a format that young audiences will understand and hopefully appreciate to this day, and that audiences that originally watched it as kids will appreciate even more as adults. This and the previously mentioned episodes comprise just one more sample of what continues to make Hey Arnold! the timeless show that it is. Of course, there are plenty of other episodes for audiences to enjoy over and over again. Some of the best of the rest include: “Eugene’s Birthday”, the Halloween themed episode, “Headless Cabbie”, and the season finale, “Dino Checks Out.” In all, audiences will have their own favorite of the season’s seventeen total episodes. And there is definitely plenty from which to choose. Audiences will get to see their favorites over and over again when the double-disc set hits stores and online outlets Tuesday, May 14th. It can be ordered online direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217311.
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