Hey Arnold Episode Reviews

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Hey Arnold Episode Reviews

Post by bobby12 on Sat Sep 04, 2010 11:13 am

I have recently begun posting detailed, in depth analyses of Hey Arnold! episodes to the web. These don't just offer a brief synopsis, but examine every scene and try to bring some of the smaller details to the forefront. I then offer a subjective score on the episode based on the structure of the story, how much we are made about the characters involved, and a tilt from my own personal bias (I also recalculate the score without my tilt for those who don't like it). Below you will find a review of "Downtown As Fruits." I have a review of "Helga's Boyfriend" completed and it will be ready for posting within the next 24 hours. With a little luck, these reviews will generate some more ideas for great fanfics! Please, enjoy!

“Downtown As Fruits”

Written by Craig Bartlett, Joe Ansolabehere, and Steve Viksten

Directed by Tuck Tucker and Larry Leichliter

Okay. Technically, we all know that Arnold originally hails from the Penny shorts, the comics in Simpsons Illustrated, and the original theatrical short that was later remade into the episode “24 Hours To Live,” but for all intents and purposes as far as the show is concerned this episode is Arnold’s premiere as a TV series. I’d rather talk about the show than debate the finer points of Arnold’s origins, so please, let’s just agree that this is the first production episode and thus the beginning of the show.

That said, we haven’t even gotten past the first seen without an homage. Arnold is daydreaming about surfing, a definite trait that carries over from the aforementioned Simpsons Illustrated comics. And he’s snapped out of his reverie by an overbearing Helga, who is readily established as something of an antagonist. But despite her demeanor, one has to give her credit—even know she’s showing signs of artistry, concerned about the depth of the production and stirring the audience. Another observation we can instantly make about Helga is that she’s two-faced. Notice how she can talk in a sweet, feminine voice when it suits her, as she does while mocking Harold. Lastly, you’ll notice that her movements are very exaggerated. The show was much cartoonier in these days, and Helga probably got the brunt of that as she has always been the most extreme character. She’s literally stretched quite a bit as she paces the stage. It’s also worth mentioning that when Helga threatens the gang with Ol’ Betsy, Arnold looks anything but intimidated. Of course, in these days, the relationship between Arnold and Helga was much more obtuse. Arnold didn’t do much acknowledgement of Helga, it just wasn’t worth his time. In later seasons, he would often be trying to help her, like he does to everyone else. But that’s another story for another time.

Monkeyman runs past the Sunset Arms that night as we change scenes. Not a major development, but hey, it’s Monkeyman!

Man, when you sit and analyze this thing, you suddenly realize how many staples of the show turned up right here in the first episode. Arnold exits the boarding house and a train of pets emerge. He is dressed in a banana costume and he meets Gerald, who is a strawberry. I’d be hard pressed to pick which costume is more embarrassing. Both Arnold and Gerald bemoan how they are fruits. There’s a much more negative connotation to that statement, but for the sake of political correctness, let’s just take them literally, shall we?

On the bus, Arnold and Gerald are feeling humiliated. I can’t say as I blame them. Arnold quips about how he can’t believe that they’re doing this for Helga. He says it in a very negative tone—it’s pretty rare when Arnold states that he doesn’t like Helga, even if she isn’t his favorite person in the world. But as we’ve established, this is a very different Arnold we start out with. Speaking of Helga, why do they have to do this play for her? What kind of school allows a fourth grader to direct a play without adult supervision? Is Miss Slovak too busy? Maybe it’s another budget cut.

Arnold goes through a bit of a morality struggle and actually gives into his inner devil! Apparently his fear of humiliation and dislike of Helga outweigh his desire to do the right thing. Enjoy that victory, Arnold. You won’t have many of them.

We cut back to Helga and some more of her grandstanding. Her pigtails have gotten longer. Then again, she’s traipsing around in an oversized milk carton, so it’s doubtful anyone noticed. We get introduced to the legacy of Peapod Kid, who will be stuck with that moniker for the duration of the series. I had to pause the episode when Helga declares that the meats are “lusty and powerful.” Lusty is an awfully risqué word for a nine year old, and I’m pretty surprised that Nickelodeon even let it into the script, but it’s there. I really don’t want to know what Helga feels is so “lusty” about meat. After Helga realizes that the fruits (there’s the connotation again) are missing, she screams Arnold’s names to the heavens, and Arnold is apparently able to hear her from across town. This is another great gag that gets used more than once, but for some reason it was retired after “Helga Blabs It All.” Kind of a shame, as I always got a kick out of it.

We quickly learn a primary lesson of this episode—don’t take advice from hippie movies. Arnold and Gerald end up stranded at the end of the bus line. Downtown, as fruits. I’ll forever wonder why they couldn’t just change into their outfits after getting to the school, but it’s kind of a moot point now. As the gravity of their situation begins to sink in, some suspicious characters drive by and throw them a bag full of money. “Wow! People downtown sure are friendly!” Arnold remarks, and for some reason, that’s always been one of my favorite lines from the episode. As the boys move off, some even shadier characters in identical costumes show up, thus setting up a sub-plot.

Arnold and Gerald immediately proceed to have a good time, hitting a 24 hour clothing shop and changing into some cool outfits. They deposit their fruit costumes into a dumpster and grab some dinner from a Slovaki stand.

Back at the play, Helga is having problems keeping things together with the fruits missing. She motions for Eugene and Harold to stretch out their routine, which quickly evolves into a disaster. Helga states that she prepared for her role by eating nothing but dairy products for two weeks. I for one would consider that to be a fine case of suffering for her art, as she’s gotta be pretty well constipated by now. Maybe that’s why she’s so cranky. And if so, does she ever get over it? Miriam reminds Helga to take her constipation medicine in “School Play,” but I digress. Helga then goes on to muse about how much she truly loves Arnold, and hates him, and loves him, etc. It’s easy to see why she hates him, since he’s mucking up her play. But we’re left with no real reason why she loves him. Apparently, she just does. This is an issue that isn’t addressed until much, much later in the series, which seems a bit odd, considering it’s the most consistent and frequently used plot. Another staple shows up as Brainy is seen to be eavesdropping behind Helga, and she socks him. I wonder how Brainy got out of having to wear a costume?

Downtown, Arnold and Gerald are dancing on a pool table at Ernie’s Pool Hall. We can only assume it’s not to be confused with Ernie Potts, who lives in the Sunset Arms. Arnold then climbs on Gerald’s shoulders and executes a brilliant trick shot, winning a pool match. He orders sodas for everyone in the place and instructs someone named “Fatman” to rack another table. Meanwhile, the shifty looking guys in fruit costumes we saw earlier are wondering why their partner never showed up for the hand-off. Their partner says he gave the money to another banana. After providing a physical description, they all immediately point to Arnold, and he and Gerald run out the door. They duck into an alley and hide inside of Zamboni Jones Psychic Palace. The Great Zamboni tells them that there is a disturbance in their karmic energies because they have wronged someone. Gerald sets to thinking, and we’re shown an image of Helga crying and hitting herself in the head with a stage light. I sincerely hope this is only a dramatization, because the subject matter of her play isn’t worth beating herself up over. She’ll say and do plenty of other things worth beating herself up over in later episodes, anyway. Gerald clears the image and says he can’t think of anyone he’s wronged. Arnold has a change of heart and realizes that they made a commitment to Helga’s play and have to do it. They run off without paying the fortune teller, which teaches us another lesson—always get payment in advance!

Arnold holds out an absurdly ridiculous wad of cash and hails a taxi, which takes them to the dumpster to pickup their costumes. We can see that the criminals have been busted by the cops. Crime doesn’t pay, another lesson learned. They pass a stranded family trying to fix a flat tire. Arnold has the driver stop and he gives them a bunch of money. What goes around, comes around. They change back into their costumes and take the freeway all the way to P.S. 118, jumping out. Arnold throws the rest of the money to the cab driver and they run inside. There is a sign that reads “Helga Pataki’s The Four Food Groups The Musical.” It’s only the first episode and we’ve just learned Helga’s last name. We never do learn Arnold’s. The title of the play needs some serious work, but as we pan inside, this seems to be the least of Helga’s problems. Helga is sobbing about how her play is ruined and that her future as a playwright is over. Maybe it’s a good thing, we all know her real talent lies in poetry, anyway. Helga’s tears produce tears from Phoebe as well. That’s pretty pathetic. Phoebe was always Helga’s best friend and somewhat of a lackey, but she is still usually her own person. Phoebe doesn’t even speak in this episode, though. I’ll cut her some slack on the count of it’s the first episode. Phoebe’s tears seem to invoke something in Helga, she snaps out of her reverie and steps out onto the stage with grim determination. Just as Helga announces to an increasingly violent audience that there will be no fourth act because “some food groups aren’t as dedicated as others,” Arnold and Gerald slide onto the stage, literally bouncing Helga off. She flies in an arc and lands somewhere offstage. They’re a big hit! They bring the play to a rousing finale. Helga is incensed, but as she sees the audience raving in approval, she looks at Arnold lovingly and it seems she’s forgotten what he put her through this evening. Brainy lowers the curtain and Helga gets a bouquet of flowers in her face. Finis.

Concept & Execution:

This is the first episode, so I don’t really want to compare it to many others. It just wouldn’t be fair. In all honesty, I feel that it works pretty well. This is a solid Arnold/Gerald outing, but it introduces a plethora of staples for the show. The episode doesn’t drag in any places. Certainly, there are much better outings for Arnold and Gerald, but I’d like to cut them some slack since this is the first. The show is still in the process of finding its legs. Both the script and the voice work do a terrific job of telling us who these characters are. We learn quite a bit about Arnold, Gerald, and Helga in the space of just over eleven minutes. That’s pretty impressive in my book. Interestingly enough, we don’t meet Arnold’s grandparents, but I suppose there’s only so much you can do in eleven minutes, and the staff wanted to introduce the three most important characters fully. If I were to compare this episode against the whole series, it wouldn’t perform as well, but I’m going to tilt it in the interest of fairness.

Concept & Execution Score—8.0

Heart & Soul:

The episode fairs noticeably worse here. This isn’t a bad episode, but it doesn’t really make us care too much about the characters. Arnold and Gerald come off as fun, yes, but I’m certainly not left with a feeling of emotional investment. Ditto for Helga. Most of her tears seem forced, and our first impression of her doesn’t leave us with the feeling of someone we should be sorry for. And if we view it as the first episode, we’ve got nothing to go on as to why she would lapse into occasional reveries about being in love with Arnold. It makes Helga interesting, but again, I don’t exactly feel an emotional bond with her. Fortunately, I’ll come to think of these characters as my own children over time, so it’s not a total loss.

Heart & Soul Score—4.5

Tilt:

I like this episode. There’s nothing that stands out, it certainly isn’t one that I spend a lot of time remembering, but while watching it, I do find it entertaining. It isn’t a bad episode, it just isn’t a great episode either. But as a premiere, things could have been considerably worse. I don’t want to see the episode dragged through the mud to much, so I’m going to give it a fair tilt.

Tilt Value: 7.0

Overall Score: 6.5 (6.25)

And there it is, my first official review of an HA episode. I hope that you found it enjoyable. If people like these, I’ll do more. I’m giving strong consideration to tackling “Eugene’s Bike” tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.

Till next time,

Lord Malachite

“I ask you, Edmund, if there is any sight more endearing in this world than a boy taking his dog for a walk?”
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bobby12

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