Hey Arnold! is a kids TV show about a fourth grader who lives in a big city, has a head shaped like a football, and is a bit of a goody-two-shoes. He lives in an apartment building with his unusual grandparents and a whole bunch of eccentric neighbors. The show revolves around his school, home life and a girl called Helga who secretly admires Arnold while bullying the hell out of him. I am sure most of you will already know what the show is about so I’ll spare you any further synopsis or episode play-by-play.
I watched Hey Arnold! as a 12 year old but it wasn’t my favourite of the Nickelodeon shows of that period. I thought it was a bit too moralistic/sweet but then I was into more crass cartoons. I was wondering if this show would hold up well as it’s been 15 years since I watched it and I think I enjoyed it more as an adult. I noticed a lot more quirkiness/zaniness in the characters and humour in the exaggerated features of the characters such as Arnold’s football head and the overweight, unintelligent pig-looking bully Harold. One thing I missed as a kid were the sexual undertones which really stuck out to me this time. Still innocent, but giving Helga (Arnold’s secret admirer and bully) a makeover where she looks like a hooker is pretty funny.
The show never relies on crassness and deals with a lot of topics that kids deal with on a day to day basis: bullying, crushes, social status, acceptance etc. A nice selling point for parents will be that the show has some lessons and positive messages for kids but it’s not as innocent as I recall it being. There’s a lot of strange characters and there’s some subtle jokes about alcoholism, marriage status, teen crushes etc but it was made at that time before weird/dark/pop-culture references up the wazoo got cool so it’s never too out there.
Hey Arnold! just reminds me of being a kid, of getting into situations and finding ways out of them, the characters remind me of certain bullies, know-it-alls and goody-two-shoes I’ve encountered. It reminds me of sitting on my nana’s couch after school eating cheese and crackers and if you watched it as a kid I am sure it will bring back memories for you too.
Both seasons are an absolute must own for fans of the show and Nickelodeon in general. Beyond have released a whole bunch of 90s shows including Catdog, Rocko’s Modern Life, AAAH!!! Real Monsters, which are all worth checking out too.
Beyond Home Entertainment have released two collections of Hey Arnold! – Season 1 is a 4 disc set consisting of 20 episodes with a run time of of 460 minutes; Season 2 is also a 4 disc set with 20 episodes and a 460 min run time. Both sets contain no special features but you’re getting a decent amount of viewing material here and I don’t know how interesting any behind-the-scene extras would be anyway.
Oh, and an interesting fact is that Arnold was originally created to be a minor character on Pee-wee’s playhouse.
Available on R4 DVD.