Who knew a PBS cartoon could have some really sad moments?
In the episode "Lost!", Arthur goes on a bus for a swimming lesson, but sleeps through it and misses his stop. Depressed how he is broke and doesn't know the way back home, he lets out a tear. Also heartbreaking for older viewers as his parents and sister are understandably terrified when he doesn't show up for class. Any wonder his mother burst into tears just recounting it?
In "The Cherry Tree", Muffy wants a huge bouncy house for her birthday. But in order to get it, her favorite childhood tree has to be chopped down. Her despair at this and regret at ever wishing for the bouncy house is quite moving.
It's a good thing that Binky stopped bullying before the watershed, because the tragic results of bullying in the news make his early days much harder to bear.
D.W.'s attempt at the balance beam is quite unnerving.
So is her bad idea of climbing up a REALLY tall tree.
THE GREAT MCGRADY: With Mrs. McGrady getting cancer, it's already sad enough, but the reactions from the kids are worse because of how realistic they are: Arthur and D.W. try their best to help Mrs. McGrady out, to the point that they become a bit of a burden, Francine is unable to face Mrs. McGrady, feeling afraid for her, Muffy acts like nothing has changed, etc., etc.
Buster can't feel bad for the school burning down in flamesbecause he slept through the whole thing.
Sue Ellen's favorite diary is left in the Elwood City School building.
Muffy, for once, isn't a Jerkass and tries numerous times to cheer her up by buying her various new diaries. Until the end, it doesn't really work.
Arthur's dad, who was catering a breakfast at Arthur's school, had gotten caught in the fire at one point. He was okay, but Arthur spends some time feeling terrified that something bad will happen to him again.
This is even more of a Tear Jerker if you go off the assumption that the episode is a stand-in for September 11, and what happened to Arthur's dad is a sanitized version of people getting injured or even dying on 9/11.
Binky, who has an irrational fear of fire, pulls the school fire alarm in fear.
George was teased because he is dyslexic.
One of the worst moments of this is in "The Last Tough Customer" when Molly brushes George by telling him to go read a book and then sneering "Oh; that's right. You can't read." Unlike previous run-ins with the Tough Customers, George is hurt rather than scared, his voice getting very small as he stutters "I can read..." and runs off, crying. Binky is appalled at Molly's actions.
Binky: That was a little harsh.
In "D.W.'s Time Trouble", D.W. is so angry Arthur took her to a movie she didn't want to see that she and her imaginary friend Nadine go back in time to when Arthur was born and change things around so that she's the older sibling. However, D.W. and Nadine start seeing their teenaged selves. Turns out the whole thing was a bad dream D.W. had. So she sleeps in Arthur's bed for the night. The ending scene is both a Tear Jerker and a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
In "Revenge of the Chip", D.W. is mad at her mom because she told her friends about D.W.'s chip incident from the previous episode. Mom made a promise with her, but she broke it and told an adult about it. Even more sad, D.W. runs away.
The episode "So Long, Spanky" can be a real downer for anyone who has lost a pet and has to cope with that loss.
"Grandpa Dave's Memory Album", in which Grandpa Dave gets Alzheimer's disease. That pretty much explains it all.
D.W. is a jerk, but many viewers can relate to her feelings in "D.W.'s Perfect Wish".
By extension, we see Arthur as Mr. Puffy trying to save the kids from Mr. Melt, only to then be mocked and pelted with snowballs. Pretty sad when you save someone's life and they just mock you.
The Woogle episode. Poor old Arthur being humiliated for not having a Furb- um, Woogle. Especially the dream sequence.
"The Half-Baked Sale", when Grandma Thora finds out that Arthur and D.W. hid her awful cookies because they were afraid she would get insulted by someone else.
Thora: Sarah McGrady, am I a bad cook? (Sad music plays)
Seeing Carl have a panic attack in the Asperger's episode was really sad.
"The Last Tough Costumer" reveals why Molly is such a bully, and it also has her write letters to all her friends, saying that she doesn't want to be respected, she wants to be liked.
Made worse by the event that makes her realize what she's become: her little brother James, previously established as a kind and sweet kid who Molly absolutely adores, shoves a little girl out of the way in line for the water fountain in the park to Molly's obvious horror and shock. Molly tries to tell the girl that James didn't mean it but trails off when she sees the little girl in the exact same position she had been in after being bullied when she was younger. And when she asks why James did it, he tells her:
"So Funny I Forgot To Laugh" has Sue Ellen reacting to a picture Arthur sent...of her with the head of a sheepdog. After the initial shock, it makes Sue Ellen cry. It's very painful to see the usually cheerful and carefree Sue Ellen actually hurt.
In the episode "Buster's New Friend", after Arthur tells Buster off for spending too much time with Mike when he should have been working on their science project, Mr. Ratburn asks Buster to give a progress report on what he's done so far. His eventual response is "I don't really know what I'm doing..." Sort of Played for Laughs, but it's pretty sad regardless.