Friendship is one of the most important things that people can have in life. Without friendships we as a species likely would have little chance of survival. Friendships give us the experiences in life that help us become who we are. They help keep us going in our highest and lowest points. That is why they are central to almost every television show and movie ever created. Early this month, PBS Distribution released a new collection of episodes from PBS/PBS Kids’ hit long-running series Arthur that focuses on the matter of friendship in the form of The Ultimate Friendship Collection. While not perfect, the three-disc collection is largely a success. That is due in part to its featured episodes. They will be discussed shortly. The episodes tie in to the set’s one negative, its lack of an episode guide. This will be discussed a little later. The stories that are featured within the stories add to the set’s appeal and couples with the episodes themselves to give audiences even more to appreciate even despite the concern raised by the lack of an episode guide. Keeping all of this in mind, the set is one of this year’s top new family DVD/BD box sets.
PBS Distribution’s new Arthur box set is easily one of this year’s top new family DVD/BD box sets. That is due in part to the set’s episodes. The episodes in question take audiences from Season One all the way to Season 21. It’s not a full series set, considering the series is in its 23rd season (with at least two more seasons already planned), but is still a deeply rich presentation in its own right. It features specific episodes that focus on different issues of friendship. There is the matter of teamwork, that of treating others as equals, and even not letting power go to one’s head among much more. This will all be discussed in more depth later in the discussion on the stories featured in the episodes. Making the matter of the episods even better is that the set runs almost chronologically. It starts in Season One with the episode “Poor Muffy” and runs all the way to Season 21’s episode, “Muffy Misses Out.” Now that is not to say that every episode centers on Muffy. The episodes feature stories that focus on her, Francine, George, Arthur, Buster and the rest of Arthur’s friends (including the Tough Customers) throughout. Keeping all of this in mind, the episodes that are featured in this in-depth collection form a strong foundation for the set.
While the episodes that are featured in Arthur: The Ultimate Friendship Collection go a long way toward making the set an impressive presentation, the lack of an episode guide to accompany them detracts somewhat from the set’s presentation. Yes, there are 48 episodes here, and that is a lot. That is understandable. Even with that in mind, those responsible for the collection’s assembly could have just as easily printed the corresponding episode titles and disc numbers inside the case, as many companies do with their box sets. Another option would have been to print a booklet of sorts that outlines the episodes and their corresponding discs. The added material might have meant the possibility of the set’s average price point of $16.07 (determined by averaging prices at PBS’ online store, Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble Booksellers – It was not listed through Target and Books-a-Million ) slightly higher, but still would not have made that price a budget breaker. Yes, it is more of an aesthetic element, but the less time that audiences have to spend trying to decide which disc to watch, the more the enjoyment grows. But in the case of this set, the episode titles are only available when each disc is played. There is not even an episode summary. To that end, this aspect does hurt the set’s presentation. Luckily, the issues raised by the lack of an episode guide do not do enough damage to make the set a failure. It is just something that hopefully will be taken into account with the next Arthur box set (or box set from any PBS Kids series).
Putting aside the concerns raised by the lack of any kind of episode guide here, there is still one more element to examine in PBS Distribution’s new Arthur DVD box set. That element in question is the stories contained within the featured episodes. As already noted, the episodes all follow the theme of friendship in one way or another, and rarely repeat their themes. This adds even more appeal to the set. One of the stories that audiences are sure to appreciate comes in the Season Seven episode “Prunella Sees the Light.” This episode finds Prunella and her blind friend Marina butting heads after Prunella visits Marina’s house one day. Prunella brings to light once too often, the fact that Marina is blind. The problem is that Prunella thinks in her own mind that she is helping Marina. Marina on the other hand, points out to Prunella that she does not need to be reminded that she is blind and that she is offended when she is treated as anything other than a person. This is a time honored theme for children’s series (and even to an extent, for grown-up shows). Saved By The Bell did this many years ago when Zack befriended a young woman in a wheelchair. Other series have taken similar approaches. It is a lesson that sadly even now in the 21st century, still bears repeating for audiences of all ages. Making the episode even more enjoyable for audiences is the blatant spoof of the Harry Potter franchise, of which both young women are part.
“Buster and the Daredevils” (from Season 2) is another key example of what makes the set’s featured stories so important to this set. It’s another story that focuses on a character other than Arthur, yet is so enjoyable in its own right. It shows that while Arthur is the series’ title character, some of the best episodes are the ones that do not center on him. Buster learns in this episode that real friends are those people who like you for you. Real friends are not people who make you do embarrassing things in order to be accepted. He learns this after he tries to make friends with one member of The Tough Customers and his own friend because he thinks at first that they are cool. This is just one of those difficult lessons that everyone learns as part of their development. It makes this story timeless in its own right.
In yet another important addition to the set, George (another of Arthur’s friends) has to learn the important lesson that it is okay to say no to people. This happens as Buster keeps asking for everything that George has. Buster essentially is taking advantage of George and his kindness. It takes George losing his pencil, his jacket, and even a dessert at lunch one day for him to finally reach his breaking point. What’s important to note here is that while George does in fact blow his top at one point, he is much calmer in handling Buster. How he addresses the situation with Buster will be left for audiences to discover for themselves. It’s important because it shows it is possible for people to deal with conflict peacefully. This is just one more of so many ways in which this box set proves such a success. When all of the set’s stories are considered along with the episodes themselves, they make the set well worth watching. Again, that is despite the one minor issue of the set’s missing episode guide. Keeping all of this in mind, Arthur: The Complete Friendship Collection proves to be a nearly complete success.
PBS Distribution’s new Arthur DVD box set The Complete Friendship is an impressive presentation that even despite its one negative, is still an enjoyable set. The success comes mainly from the set’s featured episodes. The episodes take audiences from Season One to 21. Not every single episode from the series is featured here (especially considering that the series is in its 23rd season). Even despite that, the episodes certainly present a rich picture of the series’ beginnings and evolution while also featuring stories that maintain the set’s central theme of friendship. For all that the episodes do positively for this set, the lack of any episode guide detracts from the set at least to a point. It does not make the set a failure, but certainly would have added even more to the set’s appeal regardless. The stories entertain and educate audiences of all ages from one to the next, putting the finishing touch to the set’s presentation. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the set. All things considered, they make Arthur: The Complete Friendship Collection a nearly complete success.
More information on the new DVD set is available along with lots of printables, activities, games and more at:
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