Sometimes, I look through my collection of dvd and blu-rays. I tend to notice patterns fairly well. First, I like plenty of science fiction or thriller types. On the animation front, for the most part I tend to like anything oddball or superhero. Plain jane ordinary kid cartoons never seem to be my thing. The weirder the better. Today, I review Hey Arnold!, the first season. Perhaps I can give this Nick classic some bland cookie cutter love.
Hey Arnold! was a show that ran from 1996 to 2004 on the Nickelodeon network. It was a staple for that station for many years. It even churned out a movie at one point. It had a ton of characters but I will go over a few. There is the main character, Arnold who is in the fourth grade. His head is shaped like a football (something that many of the earlier cartoons beat to death) and he stays with his grandparents, Phil and Gertie. He also has a pet pig named Abner and they live in an old apartment building.
Arnold’s best friend is Gerald. Gerald is a hip-hop master of cool who tells some pretty good stories. Among the other kids, there is Helga who has a love-hate relationship with Arnold. She hates him to his face but when his back is turned, she proclaims her love and then hits her stalker, fellow fourth grader Brainy in the face. Her best friend is Phoebe who she often confides in. There is also Harold, the school bully (who is really a coward) and Eugene the resident dork.
Let’s look at a few random episodes. There is Downtown as Fruits where Helga is directing a play about the major four food groups. Arnold and Gerald happen to be the banana and strawberry. However, they decide on the bus ride to go past the school and miss the musical. This puts them downtown with no money, that is until somebody drops a bag of cash. Crazy moments follow.
There is Eugene’s Bike where Eugene has a brand new spiffy ride. After all, every dork has his day. But that all comes to an end when Arnold accidentally knocks it over into the street and it gets run over. Then Arnold spends the rest of the time trying to make it up to Eugene. Benchwarmer is about Arnold and Gerald joining a youth basketball league where everybody supposed to play. They find out that the only thing there are really supposed to do is pass to the coach’s kid, Tucker.
In Magic Show, Arnold is a magician for a day and makes Helga disappear. As it turns out, Helga just slipped out the back and then runs into a pole and renders herself unconscious. While she is out, she dreams about what the world would be like without her. 24 Hours to Live involves Arnold knocking Harold on the head with a baseball in a lucky swing. Then Harold gives Arnold twenty fours to live before he pulverizes him in the school yard. Helga is ridiculously annoying in this one.
If you are sensing a common theme, you aren’t the only one. Each show revolves around Arnold and something related to one of his friends. They make fun of his head (and it even becomes part of the plot sometimes, like in Cool Jerk, he overcomes an obstacle. Gerald and Arnold go home happy, best friends forever. It is a persistent cycle and makes me want to stab out eyes with red hot pokers. Okay, maybe not that bad but it is one of the plainest cartoons I have ever come across.
It reminds me of Doug (another Nick staple) and so many other cartoons of the 90’s where they presented a very simple plot that went nowhere. Heck, Droopy and Huckleberry Hound were more exciting. I like the wealth of characters in Hey Arnold! and Gerald is probably the most interesting friend of the bunch but the positives are too far and wide in this soon to be forgotten cartoon show. Fifteen, twenty years from now, very few people will remember this show.
The video is framed in 1.33:1 fullscreen presentation. Despite this show being only about ten to fifteen years old, it has not held up very well at all. The animation style can be described as rough to begin with and then preservation (or lack there of) has not done this show any favors either. Colors are okay but this show feels incredibly bland from start to finish. The fact that the print is now very fuzzy at points makes this hard to watch.
For the audio portion, we get a 2.0 English Dolby Digital Track. Sound is thankfully a lot better. In fact, it is pretty darn decent. Dialog is crisp and clear and there is even a tiny bit of stereo enhancement. There are no miracles to be had but chances are if you can get through the video presentation, you will be able to enjoy the sound as is. Subtitles are not included.
As mentioned before, the show was a staple of the Nick network for many years. It lasted one hundred episodes (the magical number for syndication) and will probably be shown in cartoon time slots for many years to come. However, just as I discovered when the show was originally on, the show is really bland. It has a simple story from episode to episode and never really changes despite the subject matter. Arnold has an adventure, Gerald is his cool friend, Helga secretly loves him and Harold wants to beat him up.
The video and audio in this show are miles apart. The video was never great to begin with but this clearly shows that the video has not aged well. Sound is much better thankfully but that is the set’s only high point. Furthermore, this seems like a cash grab from Shout Factory with no extras or any presentation value. If you liked the show, you will probably snatch this up but no recommendation can be found for the other cartoon lovers out there.
Downtown As Fruits/Eugene’s Bike
The Little Pink Book/Field Trip
Arnold’s Hat/Stoop Kid
Helga’s Makeover/The Old Building
6th Grade Girls/The Baseball
Heat & Snow
Operation Ruthless/The Vacant Lot
The List/Haunted Train
Door #16/Arnold as Cupid
Das Subway/Wheezin’ Ed
Tutoring Torvald/Gerald Comes Over
Spelling Bee/Pigeon Man
Olga Comes Home/Sally’s Comet
Abner Come Home/The Sewer King
False Alarm/World Records
Magic Show/24 Hours to Live