In the episode, titled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone”, the title character’s third-grade teacher Mr. Ratburn gets married — to Patrick, a chocolatier.
Mike McKenzie, director of programming at APT, said PBS alerted stations in mid-April to “possible viewer concerns about the content of the program,” according to AL.com, and after viewing the episode with others at APT, decided not to air the episode and ran a re-run instead.
“Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children’s programs that entertain, educate and inspire,” McKenzie said in a statement to AL.com. “More importantly — although we strongly encourage parents to watch television with their children and talk about what they have learned afterwards — parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision. We also know that children who are younger than the ‘target’ audience for Arthur also watch the program.”
“The vast majority of parents will not have heard about the content, whether they agree with it or not,” he said. “Because of this, we felt it would be a violation of trust to broadcast the episode.”
GLAAD has issued a statement and has begun a social media action in response to the move by APT.
“With LGBTQ visibility at an all-time high on television, including in the Kids and Family Programming genre, this attack to censor content is not only mean-spirited, it’s a losing battle,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “The uptick of LGBTQ characters and stories on kids TV shows has been met with praise from families of all kinds, and media need to put context to the extremely fringe anti-LGBTQ organizations and individuals who speak out against any inclusion. TV worlds often reflect our actual world and today that includes LGBTQ parents and families. LGBTQ parents and their children deserve to see themselves reflected in media and if leadership of this public broadcasting station cannot serve the interests of the entire public, it’s time to find someone who can.”
The episode shows the teacher taking a cell phone call while preparing to hand out a pop quiz on homework. His students overhear talk of flower arrangements and get him to admit that he’s headed to the altar. Arthur, Buster, Muffy and Francine then set off to learn the identity of the bride. They casually spy on Mr. Ratburn, intervening when they think he’s marrying a bossy female rat and trying to convince librarian Mrs. Lancaster that their teacher wrote amorous — if clumsy — love poems to her. No dice.
The scene later shifts to the wedding, but the kids still don’t know who he is marrying. Speculation spikes when they see that female rat from earlier, who turns out to be the teacher’s sibling. “If Patty is his sister,” Arthur begins … “then who is Mr. Ratburn marrying?” Muffy finishes.
Cut to the aisle, where Mr. Ratburn is heading for the altar arm-in-arm with his soon-to-be-husband. Patrick gives the slack-jawed kids a wink as he passes them and is met with smiles.
APT previously pulled an episode of Arthur in 2005, when Buster, a bunny character, visited a girl who had two mothers, according to AL.com
Arthur debuted in 1996 and follows the adventures of its title character, his friends and family. The show targets kids ages 4-8 and often tackles difficult topics families deal with in their daily lives, including asthma, diabetes, cancer and dyslexia.