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  • 65-Episode Cartoon: Originally planned to be one, but averted big time. The original run had 65 episodes split into three seasons aired between 1996 and 1998. There was a one-year hiatus in 1999, but the popularity of the show resulted in a ten-episode season every year from 2000 to 2015, and two seven-episode seasons beyond that.
  • '90s Hair: Nadine's high pigtail, which was also an '80s Hair do.

  • Abandoned Catchphrase: "Vomitrocious" was a Catchphrase for Muffy, but wore out after the earlier seasons. Double subverted in that there's a season 8 episode titled "Vomitrocious", where you'd expect Muffy to say it, but the word isn't said at all in the episode.
  • Academic Athlete:
    • Prunella's friend Marina, who is a Book Worm but also quite good at yoga and gymnastics. She plays soccer at her school as well.
    • Brain is academically brilliant and great at chess. However, he's also great at basketball and soccer.
    • Francine may be a mild case. In addition to being a Passionate Sports Girl, she generally makes pretty good grades; Mr. Ratburn has singled out her work as "superb" before, and she was one of Buster's main tutors in "Buster Hits the Books."
  • Abnormal Allergy: In the episode "Binky Goes Nuts", Binky dreams about a boy who's allergic to formica, two other boys who are allergic to utensils and their own hands. Bionic Bunny is also allergic to salt.
  • Accent Interest: Ladonna Compson has a Southern-American accent, which the other kids describe as "cool."
  • Actor-Shared Background: In "Fright Night", Buster's uncle Bob is a scary story writer. He's played by R.L. Stine, who is most famous for writing the Goosebumps books.
  • Acting Out a Daydream:
    • In "Bitzi's Break-up", Buster imagines his mom's new date as a boring dude named Martin Spivak, which leads to Buster shouting aloud, "I hate Martin Spivak!". Arthur is confused and asks "Who?"
    • Muffy imagines being famous and repeats "thank you, thank you." Francine's response is, "Quit thanking the ketchup and pass it to me!".
  • Action Girl: S14's "The Agent of Change" involves Francine, Muffy, and Molly creating a cartoon out of frustration with no good movies about female heroes. To top it off, they call her "Agent Double X."
  • Actually Pretty Funny: "The Pageant Pickle" - D.W. tricks Arthur into performing as the chimp as accompaniment to her recital of a poem she wrote for her preschool's pageant by pretending that none of her friends or classmates would agree to perform the poem for her. Afterwards, Arthur talks with her classmates, who loved his performance and says that he bets they wished they hadn't refused her offer and nobody has any idea what he's talking about. His friends rib him for being tricked by D.W. He says he's going to get her back, but Francine says that D.W. is just too smart. He admits the whole thing was pretty funny and they crack each other up acting like chimps.
  • Adam Westing: Alex Lebeck, the host of "Riddle Quest" in "Arthur and the Big Riddle", is voiced by Alex Trebek.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: In the book "Arthur Goes to Camp", the boys and the girls at Camp Meadowcroak turn out to be mistaken when they figure each group played pranks on the other, and then learn the campers from Camp Horsewater were responsible for the pranks all along. In the TV episode based on the book, Binky plans to prank the girls, and the girls prank the boys before they all find out the kids from Camp Horsewater are much nastier.
  • Adaptation Decay: In-universe example — S10's "Unfinished" has Arthur finding and enjoying an old out-of-print book 93,000,000 Miles in a Balloon. However the last few pages are missing and he desperately tries a number of ways to find out the ending including renting an old 16mm film adaptation. But whereas Arthur's book is a fantasy exploration, the film is a backstage musical about a starlet in a Broadway show also named 93,000,000 Miles in a Balloon. It goes so far as to turn the balloon explorer in the book into a Broadway producer in the movie.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Some episodes are expansions and bifurcations of stories from the books. "Arthur's Teacher Trouble" was split into two S1 episodes: "Arthur and the Real Mr. Ratburn" and "Arthur's Spelling Trubble". S1's "Arthur's Baby" was adapted for the show and got a P.O.V. Sequel, "D.W.'s Baby", as its sister episode (fittingly enough, since it's (part of) the same story told from D.W.'s perspective.)
  • Adaptation Species Change:
    • In the original books, the Tibbles and their grandmother were humans; here, they're bears.
    • Applies to Arthur's second grade teacher Mr. Marco. In the books, he was a moose; in the cartoon, he's an aardvark.
    • Ms. Sweetwater is a cat in her book debut and a rabbit in the TV series.
  • Ad-Break Double-Take:
    • "Arthur and the Real Mr. Ratburn" opens with Arthur and his friends seeing their teacher's assignment. The resulting scream sandwiches the title card.
    • At the beginning of "The Substitute Arthur", Arthur tells Buster that he's going away for the weekend. Buster screams as there's a fade-out to the title card, and when we get back to the episode, he's still screaming. Then he stops and uses his inhaler.
  • Adoptive Name Change: Downplayed for Binky's sister: She keeps her first name Mei Lin, but her surname, which was previously unknown, gets changed to Barnes.
  • Adult Fear:
    • S3's "Attack of the Turbo Tibbles" has the Tibbles hit D.W. in the face with a swing and making her cry hysterically, with Emily screaming to Ms. Morgan that D.W.'s face is bleeding. It turns out that D.W.'s injury was so bad that her lip needs stitches.
    • S2's "Lost!" has Arthur getting lost outside city limits, worrying his family greatly. Jane even cries during the episode.
    • In S7's "April 9th", a response to September eleventh, the characters react to a fire which damages the school. Arthur in particular becomes very worried about his father, who was in the school during the fire. Mr. Read tells him it's his job to worry about Arthur, not the other way around.
    • In S4's "Hide and Snake", Arthur panics when his friends express suspicions that he brought home a very venomous snake even though it turns out to be harmless. They spend a good part of the episode looking up and down Arthur's house, all while fearing being bitten and poisoned.
    • In S8's "Thanks a Lot, Binky", Binky imagining his friend Rattles hurting himself and breaking every bone in his body doing a dangerous rollerblading stunt, causing him to tell Principal Haney. Then later he gets a Dream Sequence detailing what would happen if no one in the world cared - litter would be everywhere, Rattles would be in the hospital in agony wearing a full-body cast if Binky didn't report him, and Binky's parents would constantly neglect him, even using his college funds to go on frequent vacations.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Francine's family members sometimes call her "Frankie", particularly her father. Francine's grandmother puts a Yiddish spin on it and calls her "Frankeleh".
    • In "Revenge of the Chip", we find out Buster's mom used to call him Boo-Boo, until she slipped up and said it at school, resulting in him being teased by other kids.
    • In "Kids are from Earth, Parents are from Pluto", Binky reveals his parents have a lot of these for him, including Mr. Muffin Man and Binky-Winkums. They use both these names at Parents' Night, prompting Binky to pretend he doesn't know them.
    • Prunella's older sister Rubella occasionally calls her "Prunie".
    • Brain's "nickname" can also be referred to as this, since his real name is said so infrequently.
    • It's subtle, but the Tough Customers often do this, with Binky being called "Binks" and Molly "Moll".
  • Affection-Hating Kid: In "D.W.'s Perfect Wish", Arthur finds Valentine's Day gross because he finds the idea of everyone falling in love too soppy.
  • Agony of the Feet:
    • In the teaser for "Prunella Gets it Twice" Arthur and Buster are presenting her with a large crate containing a present for her, and Arthur accidentally sets it down on Buster's foot.
    • Arthur stubs his toe on a bowling ball in "D.W. Tricks the Tooth Fairy".
    • Subverted in "My Club Rules". Arthur and his friends try to get D.W. to kick a bowling ball because she asked what they were doing. D.W. comments that she'll "break her foot" if she kicks it and refuses.
  • An Aesop: Often played straight, but reasonably often played with in some way. For example:
    • At the end of S3's "Mom and Dad Have a Great Big Fight", Nadine states that the moral of the story is "Don't put your milk close to the edge, because someone's going to knock it over."
    • At the end of S4's "What is that Thing?" Buster suggests that "Maybe there's something to be learned from all this." Beat "Nahhhhh!".
    • At the end of "Goldilocks and the Bears Trio as Told By Sue Ellen" from the album "Arthur's Really Rockin' Music Mix," Sue Ellen states that the moral of the story is "It's fun to take a walk in the woods, but you should never try to play with the bears."
  • All Animals Are Dogs: In "Sue Ellen Vegges Out", the pig she meets who inspires her to become a vegetarian acts a lot like a dog, rolling over and licking Sue Ellen's face.
  • All for Nothing: In "Francine's Split Decision," Francine attempts to go between a bowling tournament and her cousin's bar mitzvah, with Brain forming an elaborate plan to do so. However, there are so many hitches that she ends up missing the best parts of the bar mitzvah, and she is so late to the tournament that Muffy ends up winning the game for them. And then Francine gets found out and is punished.
  • The Alleged Car: The "Baxtermobile" qualifies as one, suffering from ruined upholstery, poor mileage, a broken air conditioner, and often loses parts during drives. In real life, such a vehicle would be deemed unsafe for travel.
  • Alliterative Name: Non-PBS news tend to refer to the show Arthur and Arthur Read as "Arthur the Aardvark".
  • Alliterative Title:
    • A book in a bad dream that Francine has in "Francine's Pilfered Paper" is entitled "Francine Frensky: Fraud!"
    • A few episodes follow this naming scheme as well:
      • "Arthur's Number Nightmare"
      • "Muffy's Classy Classics Club"
      • "Buster's Book Battle"
      • "Brain's Biggest Blunder"
      • "Binky's Music Madness"
      • "The Tardy Tumbler"
      • "Arthur's Toy Trouble"
      • "Fern's Flights of Fancy"
      • "Ladonna's Like List"
      • "The Princess Problem"
  • Amateur Film-Making Plot:
    • The kids decide to make a James Hound Fan Film because they aren't likely to be allowed into the latest, PG-13-rated, real one. Hilarity Ensues: they make a model supersonic jet for their villain (which gets eaten by Arthur's dog, Pal), they use their inflatable shark, Sharky, as part of a Bond villain-esque peril scene (Arthur defeats it by deflating it), and Brain accidentally hacks into the library's electrical power and turns it off while simulating trying to hack a nuclear missile. Prunella (who has seen the real film despite being only a year older) thinks the result is Better Than Canon.
    • Happens again in "The Director's Cut", but it's taken in a different direction. George's movie looks good enough, but he can't get his friends to follow the script.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: In "Draw!":
    Buster: Your comic was so good, I drew one too! Mine's called "The Big Clumsy Moose With Big Feet Named Franny"!
    Fern: Her feet are named "Franny"?
  • Amicable Exes: Buster's parents are divorced, but still like each other and keep in contact.
  • And That's Terrible: S6's "For Whom the Bell Tolls". D.W. loses her voice to a case of laryngitis. Arthur celebrates not having to deal with a noisy sister for a few days, but Francine annoyingly scolds him several times throughout the episode: "You're mean, Arthur Read! M-E-A-N, mean!" "That's what you get for being mean, Arthur!" D.W. gets better earlier than expected, and pretends to continue to be sick in order to milk other characters for sympathy.
  • And You Were There: Done in "D.W.'s Name Game", which has an Off to See the Wizard sort of plot. In the story, after Arthur and D.W. trade insults, events culminate with Arthur shocking her by calling her "Dora Winifred" (her full first name) and her being sent to bed. She has a dream in which she consults "The Great Thesaurus" and Arthur is cast as a wicked wizard. When she finally wakes up, she tells her family "And you were there, and you, and you were there too." At which point, the Thesaurus (a dinosaur) appears outside her window, saying his Catchphrase, "Ah, sheesh." Notably, though, neither Mr. Read nor Mrs. Read were actually in D.W.'s fantasy in any form.
  • Animal Lover: Even though the characters are anthropomorphic animals themselves, a few of them are explicitly shown to be lovers of normal, non-anthromorphized ones.
    • D.W. likes animals (except mice, which she's scared of, and Arthur's pet dog Pal, whom she thinks is dumb) and in "D.W.'s Deer Friend" she befriends a deer and even cried over the death of a fish her parents caught. She also takes a liking to Ladonna's pet rat, General Higgings, with Ladonna saying she can play with him whenever she wants.
    • Sue Ellen became a vegetarian after befriending farm animals.
    • Kate has made friends with most of the animals she's met. It helps that she Speaks Fluent Animal.
  • Animal Talk: Starting with S6's "The Secret Life of Dogs and Babies", there would be episodes involving Kate, Pal, and the non-furry animals with their own stories. Later expands to stuffed toys and imaginary friends.
  • Animation Bump:
    • The differences between early S1 to late S1 and onwards are extremely noticeable.
    • Inverted starting with S16, which is very noticeably animated in-house using Flash to cut production costs (a trend that had previously hit fellow PBS Kids show Western Animation/Cyberchase and would later hit The Fairly OddParents). Also inverted by seasons 12-15note , which also exhibits a noticeable drop from the previous seasons by AKOM.
    • Season 20 is animated by a new studio. Switching from Flash to Toon Boom, it looks much better than Season 16-19. It improves in Season 22.
  • Animated Actors: The Cold Opens often use this trope.
  • Antidisestablishmentarianism: Shows up in S1's "Arthur's Spelling Trubble".
    Brain: I can never remember if it has five "I"s or six.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: It's shown that the old food in Buster's "food cabinet" (a drawer where he keeps old, rotten food that's sentimental to him) are actually alive and can talk to each other.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: In-universe. In "Arthur Loses His Marbles," Arthur constantly worries about facing Grandma Thora, especially since she is the one who actually taught him out to play in the championship, and makes every attempt to sabotage himself to please her, but she throws the championship herself, citing an archaic rule in which players are not allowed to step in the marble circle.
  • Apple of Discord:
    • S6's "More!" when D.W. asks Arthur and his friends how much allowance they all have. Seconds later, everyone storms off, angry that Muffy gets far more allowance than the rest of them.
    • S2's "The Big Blow-Up", when Arthur asks Francine and the Brain which of them is better at sports. (This is before Jenna, described by Francine as "the only person who ever beat me at sports".)
  • Appropriated Appellation:
    • The band "U Stink" got their name like this.
    • Arthur would sometimes state that the initials of his little sister D.W.'s name stood for "Disaster Warning". In "Sue Ellen Gets Her Goose Cooked", D.W. plays Virtual Goose under the username DisasterWarning99.
  • Arc Number: Every episode in Season 10 has the number 10 hidden in various places and mentioned in the dialogue at some point. The first episode of the season, "Happy Anniversary", plays this trope Up to Eleven, with the titular anniversary being Mr. and Mrs. Read's tenth, and the Reads have a Plot-Driven Breakdown outside a restaurant called "The Ten Spot Diner".
  • Are We There Yet?:
    • Arthur asks his father this during their long car ride in "Arthur's Family Vacation".
    • According to the teaser of "Baby Steps", when D.W. goes on a car ride, it's a constant litany of "Are we there yet?" from her, and when she bakes cookies with her family, it's "Are they done yet?"
    • Exaggerated in the special "The Rhythm and Roots of Arthur." There's an entire song by D.W. about how bored she is during a car ride, and "Are we there yet?" is the final line of the chorus.
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: This exchange from S1's "Arthur's Birthday":
    Binky: What are you thinking about?
    Francine: About whose party to go to. Why, what are you thinking about?
    Binky: Where's Ohio?
  • Argument of Contradictions: Season 14 has a feature called "Which Arthur character are you?" One of these shows one girl who says that she's like D.W. because she's funny and another that's like Arthur because she's smart. The funny girl says that they don't argue like Arthur and D.W. do, but the smart girl disagrees and they argue back and forth in this manner, interspersed with clips of Arthur and D.W. doing the same, before finally agreeing that they really are like Arthur and D.W.
  • Art Shift: Used frequently when they are parodying another work.
    • The episode "The Contest" is composed of a series of such shifts, including parodies of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, Dexter's Laboratory, Beavis And Butthead, WWE, and even South Park. The former and latter were animated in Squigglevision and construction paper, respectively.
    • The beginning of the episode "Binky Rules" is mostly drawn in the artistic style of Edward Gorey, in a parody of the introduction to the PBS series, Mystery!.
    • The show shifts to Stylistic Suck when showcasing the kids' drawings. ("Crushed", "Arthur's Family Feud", "Team Trouble", "Draw!" "Arthur vs. the Very Mean Crossing Guard", "Love Notes for Muffy", and more.)
    • Dark Bunny is styled after Batman: The Animated Series.
    • Arthur has an Alice in Wonderland-esque dream in "Arthur and the Big Riddle".
    • In "Unfinished", when Arthur is reading 93 Million Miles in a Balloon, there is a subtle art shift where the animation in the book gains crosshatched shading and generally looks a bit more "old-timey."
    • Arthur is known for staying on-model a majority of the time and rarely if ever having any sort of cartoony elements in its visual style. So Buster's nightmare in "Arthur's First Sleepover"—where he has a Wild Take complete with a Jaw Drop and an Eye Pop—is definitely a sight to be seen.
  • The Artifact: On PBS Kids broadcasts of early episodes of the show, a black bar with white lines on it would appear on the left side of the screen. This was the signal for the Actimates toys of Arthur and D.W. to respond to the program, and appeared during reruns long after the toy had been discontinued.
  • Artistic Age: Every single character. Seriously, they're supposed to be elementary schoolers, but most of the characters behave like they're between the ages of 13 and 15, with some of the kids such as Binky and the Tough Customers acting like they're as old as 17. The preschoolers who are D.W.'s age are the ones who behave more like elementary school kids. To make matters worse, whenever a character has an illusion of the future, when the characters are supposed to be in high school, they are drawn to look like they're in their early twenties at the least.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: Deconstructed. In "Sick as a Dog", Arthur feeds Pal a lot of table food (which includes old Halloween candy for some reason) and Pal ends up with stomach problems severe enough to warrant an overnight stay at the vet. Arthur learns better, fortunately. By the time of "One Ornery Critter", he's volunteering at the local shelter and once warns Buster about giving his aunt's dog human food.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Lampshaded in "Brain Freeze" when Brain sees the curly pig tail on the rear of Yumbobo's penguin mascot Puk Puk and tells him that his anatomy is inaccurate.
      Brain: A tail? Not only are you blue, you're also anatomically incorrect!
    • Played straight in "Water and the Brain" when Brain states that sperm whales eat 60 tons of plankton. Sperm whales do not eat plankton at all.
    • In another episode, Brain refers to scorpions as vertebrates.
    • In "Arthur's Treasure Hunt", Brain claims chipmunks don't burrow.
    • In "Lend Me Your Ear," Mr. Ratburn fudges the concept of hearing loss by only describing the noise-induced variety. Perhaps describing other causes of hearing loss was thought too difficult or time-consuming.
  • Artistic License – History: In "Team Trouble," Brain points out the flaws in Francine's report on Ancient Rome, saying that the Olympics were banned by the Romans in 194 BC. In reality, the Romans did not conquer Greece until nearly 50 years later, and they banned the games in AD 394 as part of a campaign to remove what they saw as pagan rituals after Christianity became the state religion. Brain also forgets another key flaw in her report: women were not allowed to partake in the Olympics.
  • Artistic License: From "Buster's Amish Mismatch". In general, Amish people are anxious to keep themselves separate from the outside world. Most of the time, though they are hospitable, they do NOT take kindly to outsiders just poking around. Due to a lack of modern technology to communicate with a school (i.e., phones, email) it is highly implausible that they would randomly set it up so a public school class could come to someone's house and take a tour. Even if an Amish family agreed to this, it would have to be cleared through their church elders and bishop, and the family/groups involved would need to have a close bond with the teacher or someone at the school.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Fern and George in Arthur's group, James in D.W.'s group, and George makes friends with a boy named Carl, who has Asperger's Syndrome.
    • Prunella and Molly. They both get a few episodes later on.
    • Also Bailey, Muffy's butler. He plays a major role in episodes such as "The Butler Did... What?", "Muffy's Classy Classics Club", "The Butler Did It", and "Arthur and the Haunted Tree House".
    • Jenna similarly was mostly a background extra till about Season 7, and slowly began receiving more focus, but mostly shows up as a supporting character.
    • Rattles initially appeared as just another member of the Tough Customers, but slowly ended up appearing in supporting roles and even one or two focus episodes. Slink was originally a one-shot character that was unconnected to the other kids at Lakewood, but was later added to the Tough Customers and even received a focus episode.
    • Maria (a rabbit girl in the same class as the main characters who has never spoken) received her own episode in Season 19. Jenna also gets some focus here, and is depicted as a good friend and confidant of Maria's. Maria also has a big role in Season 22's "Binky Can't Always Get What He Wants".
  • Ascended Meme: "Arthur's Big Meltdown" features two close-ups of Arthur's right hand curled into a fist when he gets angry about his shoes being ruined. This is a reference to a similar shot in "Arthur's Big Hit" that had become memetic beforehand.
  • Aside Glance:
    • D.W. gives a definite wink to the audience at the end of "Best Enemies" when she says that she's sure that she and W.D. will find something they have in common with each other.
    • Mrs. MacGrady does one at the end of "Arthur Accused!" when her brownies are cleared by a metal detector.
  • Atlantis: Buster believes in it, and tries to contact its king in "Buster Baxter & the Letter from the Sea".
  • Atlantis Is Boring: D.W. thinks so.
  • Audience Surrogate: Used as a plot device whenever the writers want to explore typical reactions to real-life phenomena. Some episodes, such as "The Great MacGrady" and "April 9th", have an ensemble cast exemplify a range of reactions.
  • Author Filibuster/Take That!: Parodied. In S3's "Buster's Growing Grudge", Buster ends up replacing his comedy act for the school talent show with a long tirade against Binky (whom he blames for the poor grade he got on a report). He doesn't even try to make it funny. When George wins the talent show, Buster proceeds to pin this on Binky as well.
  • A Weighty Aesop: "Arthur Weighs In" is about Arthur freaking out over becoming "husky" (despite not looking any fatter than usual).
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: When Dr. Fugue first meets Arthur, he takes a close look at Arthur's hands and determines that he's been playing the piano for two and a half years.
  • Awkward First Sleepover: A minor character in class is invited to Muffy's sleepover, and she is worried because she wets the bed.

  • Baby See, Baby Do: In "Shelter from the Storm", one of the Read parents whispers something into the other's ear, who does the same to the other parent, who does it to Arthur, who does it to D.W., who does it to Kate, who whispers gibberish into Pal's ear.
  • Baby's First Words: Zigzagged for Kate. She has said her "first words" multiple times, from "go" to "ball" to "Brain" to "bloog-agua."
  • Babysitting Episode:
    • This is the plot point of the episode "Arthur Babysits", where he has to babysit the dreaded Tibble Twins.
    • "Crushed" focuses on Arthur bonding with his babysitter, Sally, due to the fact that they both love playing a video game called Dark Bunny 6: Curse of the Moomy.
    • "Two Minutes" has Arthur babysitting the Tibbles again.
  • Bad Future:
    • An Imagine Spot centered on this trope is what convinces Prunella to let go of her stuff in "Prunella the Packrat".
    • Arthur has had a couple of daydreams based on this too, such as when he imagined a mistake at the school recital would follow him forever and cause him to end up homeless (while D.W. ended up as a movie star, The Hiccup Kid).
    • An Imagine Spot of Buster's showed him in his 40s and still in third grade, which inspired him to buckle down in "Buster Makes the Grade".
    • In "The Lost Dinosaur", Bud imagines himself as an adult, unable to get a job because he hasn't heard from his only reference (his Imaginary Friend) in 20 years.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone", the audience is led to believe that Mr. Ratburn will be marrying the uptight, stickler female rat Patty. Arthur, Buster, Francine, and Muffy are worried about this, so they try to break up the two, and even try to set him up with Ms. Turner. Actually, Patty is his sister, and Mr. Ratburn is actually marrying a male aardvark, Patrick, who runs the chocolate shop.
  • Bait-and-Switch Time Skip: In "Waiting to Go" (loosely based on Waiting for Godot) Brain and Binky are left alone waiting for their mothers to pick them up after soccer practice. They act as if they've been on their own for hours and expect to die there, but at the end of the episode when their mothers show up it turns out they've only been waiting an extra 15 minutes.
  • Banana Peel: In "The Wheel Deal", Buster carelessly discards a banana in the gymnasium while Brain is practicing for a free-throw competition. When Brain winds up slipping on the banana he suffers a torn ligament in one knee and a twisted ankle, leaving him bound to a wheelchair.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Nadine wears a blue long-sleeved dress without shoes. However, almost all of the characters are fully dressed.
  • Baseball Episode: Several, mostly about Arthur and his friends playing on their own team, the Grebelings. They include "The Curse of the Grebes", "Baseball Blues", "Arthur Calls It", and "Arthur Makes the Team".
  • Baths Are Fun: In D.W.'s Guide to Perfect Manners (later retitled D.W. Says Please and Thank You for paperback), D.W. is shown in the bath holding a toy mermaid in one hand, a rubber duck in the other, and splashing Mrs. Read and Pal. She states that at night, it's not nice to complain about taking a bath or brushing your teeth and you can play while you get clean, but sometimes she plays a little too hard.
  • Beach Episode: "D.W. All Wet", "The Shore Thing", "Buster Baxter & the Letter from the Sea" and "Swept Away" all take place on the beach. The kids go swimming and build sand castles.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The kids constantly wish that Mr. Ratburn would be an easier teacher. In "Arthur's Substitute Teacher Trouble", they get exactly what they wanted: a Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher who is so easy that her classes are boring.
  • "Begone" Bribe: In "The Scare Your Pants Off Club", the kids circulate a petition to get the Scare Your Pants Off books, an Expy of Goosebumps which a group of parents had removed, back in the library. Brain's way of soliciting signatures involves giving a long lecture to Innocent Bystanders. This prompts one to say, "We'll sign if you promise to stop explaining why we should!".
  • Behind the Black: In S1's "D.W. Gets Lost", D.W. doesn't notice that Emily's ears have turned green until the camera pulls back.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Fern is very quiet, but she will act on her anger. She made Francine tear up (in "Draw!"), and tricked Brain into thinking giant worms were attacking Elwood City ("War of the Worms").
  • Bewitched Amphibians: One of the episode title cards that were commonly used from Seasons 1 to 15 shows D.W. as a fairy who magically turns Arthur's head into that of a frog.
  • Be Yourself: The theme song, naturally.
  • Big Applesauce: There's an episode where Arthur has an Imagine Spot about going to a town whose symbol is a banana, a reference to how New York is often called the Big Apple.
  • Big Blackout: As a consequence of the heavy snow, the power goes out in "The Blizzard". The Sequel Episode, "The Blackout", has the Reads dealing with the heat after their electricity goes out.
    • In "Elwood City Turns 100, Muffy's super extravagant sign causes the city to lose power.
    • In "Poor Muffy", Muffy causes the apartment to lose power by having dozens of plugs plugged into a single power outlet.
  • Big Disaster Plot: "April 9th" involves a fire, and "Shelter from the Storm" involves a hurricane.
  • Big Game: "Muffy's Soccer Shocker" has one against Mighty Mountain Elementary. It ends with a tie.
  • Big "NO!":
    • "D.W., the Picky Eater" has an Imagine Spot scene with Arthur the astronaut who does not want D.W. to go to outer space. The manager will not let Arthur go to outer space without D.W. and cancels his mission.
      Announcer: There has been a mistake! This mission is being cancelled!
      Arthur: What's going on?!? But why?!?
      Manager: You know the rules! You don't get to do anything without your sister!
    • Also happens at the end of "Buster Baxter, Cat Saver" when Buster keeps insisting that such a concept of the "Piano Tamer" exists.
      Buster: How about a CD?
      Arthur: No!
      Buster: A video game?
      Arthur: No!
      Buster: Comic book?
      Arthur: NOOOOO!
    • Buster does one when he learns that Arthur is going away for the weekend in "The Substitute Arthur".
  • Big "SHUT UP!":
    "People think I can't write a poem,
    But they are so wrong, I can write a poem,
    I wrote this one, I wrote this poem,
    And I gave it the title 'Binky's Poem'... so shut up! Thank you."
    • Earlier in the episode, as the kids are arguing, Fern yells "QUIET!" so loudly that a car alarm goes off.
    • George whistles and yells "Quiet!" to stop an argument in "He Said, He Said."
  • Big Storm Episode: Two of them, namely S4's "The Blizzard" and S19's "Shelter from the Storm".
  • Big "WHAT?!": In "Is There a Doctor in the House?", this is Arthur's reaction in an Imagine Spot when D.W. tells him that she sent their baby sister Kate to an orphanage. D.W. points out that they just couldn't take care of her and that she deserves to be in a place that can change her diapers.
  • Big Word Shout: D.W. shouts "HEY!" at the end of the intro.
    Arthur: Hey! D.W.! (waves at her inside the TV)
    D.W.: HEY!
    Arthur: (falling backwards) Woooooah-ooomph!
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • In an Imagine Spot in "Buster's Back" where Arthur imagines Buster as a ninja, Buster's line in Japanese translates to "Osamu Tezuka is the god of manga."
    • The title of the S6 episode "Arthur and Los Vecinos" is partly in Spanish. Translated, it's "Arthur and the Neighbors."
  • Bile Fascination: In-universe examples:
    • S13's "Brain Gets Hooked" has Brain hate a show due to how illogical it is, but become obsessed with watching it nonetheless.
    • S14's "Muffy and the Big Bad Blog" has Arthur and the others admit that they can't look away from reading Muffy's and Francine's blogs, even though they're disgusted by the blog wars between the two.
  • Binocular Shot:
    • Arthur surveying the family reunion in "Arthur's Cousin Catastrophe" is shown through his binoculars.
    • In "Revenge of the Chip", as D.W. investigates to see if Arthur told everyone about her thinking green potato chips are poisonous, and at one point she looks at him and Buster through binoculars and there is a shot showing what she sees through them.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: In "D.W. Thinks Big", cousin Cora acts like a brat when she's alone with D.W. and acts like an angel when grown-ups are around. In the end, her true Spoiled Brat nature is exposed in front of everyone at the wedding when she refuses to recover the lost ring from inside the church organ, when she could easily fit in there, simply because she'd get dirty.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: The cold open for "Grandma Thora Appreciation Day" features Arthur bringing up the fact that Grandma Thora doesn't have cable TV as a reason she must be the saddest person alive. What makes it this trope is the fact that she not only mentions that she lacks cable TV, she says as a consolation that she "can get public television clear as a bell." Public TV is a term synonymous with PBS most of the time.
  • Birthday Buddies: "Arthur's Birthday," adapted from a book of the same name, deals with Arthur and his classmate Muffy having their birthday parties on the same day. Arthur and his friends aren't sure whose party to attend until they come up with a solution: they turn it into a surprise party for Muffy at Arthur's house.
  • Birthday Episode: A lot.
    • "Arthur's Baby" and "D.W.'s Baby" take place on Kate's birthday. Arthur and D.W. then recall the story of when Kate was born in a Whole Episode Flashback.
    • "Arthur's Birthday" is one for both Arthur and Muffy. They compromise and have a surprise party for Muffy at Arthur's house.
    • "D.W.'s Perfect Wish" and "D.W. and the Beastly Birthday" both focus on D.W.'s birthday. In the former, Arthur reminds D.W. of all the great things she has done, and in the latter, Arthur skips her birthday and learns what she'll be like in the future.
    • "Prunella Gets it Twice" has Prunella's birthday as a plot point, where she receives two of the same present.
    • "The Long Road Home" celebrates Alberto's birthday, and Arthur plans to give him El Boomerang, the soccer ball he lost earlier in the season.
    • "Surprise!" is about Francine trying to ruin her older sister Catherine's birthday, angry that she wasn't invited.
    • The special "The Rhythm and Roots of Arthur" has Arthur's family visit Arthur's great uncle Theo for his birthday.
  • Birthday Party Goes Wrong: In the special "D.W. and the Beastly Birthday", the plot is started by D.W. having a lousy birthday party. It's raining outside, the cake isn't the flavor she wanted, the party guests are annoying her (although they don't know it), she didn't get the gift she really wanted, and her brother Arthur isn't attending. She goes to hide in an area beneath the stairs, where her imaginary friend takes her to an island called Ukubonga, which she enjoys. She soon gets tired of Ukubonga and realizes that her own friends are lame and that she should hang out with Arthur because he's more interesting; Arthur soon arrives with the present she was expecting, and she teaches him a song she learned on Ukubonga.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Arthur without his glasses in the post-1997 episodes (in the first season he had normal eyes when he wasn't wearing his glasses), and Prunella in most cases.
  • Blah Blah Blah: Played straight in the Kate and Pal episodes, when listening to anyone else speaking from their point of view.
  • Bland-Name Product: Muffy collects World Girl dolls.
  • Blinding Bangs: Molly and later Slink have vision-obscuring fringes. One must wonder how they skateboard without accidents.
  • Body Wipe:
    • "The Perfect Brother" with D.W. during her fantasy of having two Arthurs.
    • "D.W. the Copycat" with D.W.'s dress in the beginning of the episode.
    • "Brain's Shocking Secret" does this twice. First, Mr. Ratburn takes Brain away before he could get a school picture. Brain sighs and then fills up the screen. Next is when Brain is shocked when the clock reads 9 a.m. and he's running out of bed.
  • Book Dumb:
    • Depending on the Writer, any one of Arthur's immediate friends, Arthur himself (especially Egregious due to one of his defining traits being his love of reading), or even the grown-ups may be subject to this.
    • Buster is one of the most flagrant examples, having had an entire episode dedicated to the fact that if he didn't pass what amounted to a teacher-made final exam, he'd have to repeat third grade.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Twice for Muffy's "Vomitrocious!"
    • In "Arthur Goes Crosswire", Arthur begins to inherit Muffy's stuck-up and snooty nature after spending time with her for a class project. When he sees all his friends imitate his behavior as a plan to show him how obnoxious he's being, Arthur says, "Vomitrocious!" He then quickly stops himself and goes back to normal.
    • In "What's Cooking?", Muffy imagines Ming Tsai as a judge on a cooking show. He tastes Muffy's quiche and says, "It was vomitrocious!"
  • Bottle Episode:
    • "Desk Wars" takes place entirely in Mr. Ratburn's classroom except for the final scene, which takes place at Muffy's pool as she lets everyone cool off.
    • "The Best Day Ever" has Sue Ellen, Arthur, Buster, Binky, and George relaxing at the park, where they stay for the entire episode.
    • A few episodes, like "Staycation", are set entirely in the Read house.
  • A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family: Arthur, D.W., and Kate.
  • Brainy Pig: In "Sue Ellen Vegges Out", Sue Ellen befriends a pig named Sally, who can do tricks, jump through hoops, and take a bow. Sue Ellen winds up enjoying her time with Sally so much that it leads her to become vegetarian.
  • Bratty Half-Pint:
  • "Brave the Ride" Plot: "D.W. & Bud's Higher Purpose" is about D.W. and Bud wanting to ride an intense roller coaster called The Buzzard, hearing from their older siblings Arthur and Ladonna, respectively, about how scary it is. The two agree to go on the ride no matter what, and after numerous attempts, they are finally let in despite not being old enough. As the ride is about to start, they realize that it's too intense for them and get off at the last minute. They do a much tamer ride instead.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    • In "I Owe You One", Buster says that he has lots of interests:
      "Video games. Aliens. Video games about aliens."
    • In "Kidonia", Buster asks Arthur what he's thinking of. Arthur guesses, "Aliens? Pizza? Aliens eating pizza?"
  • Break the Comedian: "Buster Bombs" has Buster telling a joke to the point that it isn't funny anymore. He goes too over-the-top with being funny again, but people find it boring and dislike it. Finally, he decides to give up on humor altogether; at least until he gets advice from both a famous comedian and the school lunch lady, when he learns that humor happens naturally and can't be forced.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Nearly every episode's beginning teaser has Arthur and other characters talking to the audience. There have been instances where other characters besides Arthur introduce the show, like Fern's mother in S2's "Fern's Slumber Party". ("Look into the camera, like when Arthur does it.") There have been instances though where it happens in the show proper:
    • S2's "Arthur and the Square Dance", where Francine looks at us and says "What's gotten into him?" after Arthur hastily leaves the Sugar Bowl ice cream shop following a silent teasing from Brain and Binky.
    • S3's "Buster's Growing Grudge" has Binky ask who would want to watch Arthur on TV.
    • S3's "Arthur's Almost Real Not Live Music Festival" has D.W. tell Arthur and Buster that "their show would never work on real TV."
    • S4's "What is that Thing?" has Buster suggest that "there's something to be learned from all this." He and his friends then shout "Nah!".
    • S5's "You Are Arthur", an episode entirely shown in Arthur's perspective, has Buster asking the former if there is somebody watching everything he's doing from a TV screen.
    • S8's "D.W., Dancing Queen" has Binky quoting the theme song. D.W. asks him if he made it up, and Binky responds that he heard it somewhere, but can't remember exactly where.
    • S12's "I Owe You One" ends with Arthur demanding his show back, unpleased with Muffy taking over with "Smart Accounting with Muffy".
    • S12's "Home Sweet Home" has Buster writing that he hasn't eaten in two hours. When he writes again at the end of the episode, he states that it has been two hours and eleven minutes.
    • S22's "The Longest Eleven Minutes" has the internet go out for 11 minutes, AKA the entire duration of a typical Arthur episode.
  • Brick Joke: The aftermath of the big snowstorm was when D.W. got her special snowball.
  • Broke Episode: Downplayed in "Arthur Read: Super Saver": Arthur's parents have been making less money than usual, so Arthur tries to help them save money. His ideas such as cutting the grass with scissors instead of using the lawnmower, are not the most helpful.
  • Broken Aesop:
    • Happens with the "Be Yourself" moral of many episodes. Sometimes, the actual moral seems to be, "Be yourself unless X." For example, in "Fernkenstein's Monster", Fern changes a scary story she made up so it's tamer, to placate friends who suddenly claim she is a dark, scary person ("Queen of Darkness" was the term Buster used). So...she's only allowed to pursue her interests and be herself if everyone else thinks it's okay? Other characters have fallen into this trap, too, often members of the "secondary cast".
    • "Arthur's Big Hit" has become infamous for this, with its intended message being that physical violence is never the answer in settling your disputes with others, as shown when Arthur hits D.W. for breaking his model plane. Binky is pressured into hitting Arthur later and the episode actually justifies this action as now Arthur has learned "how it feels when someone does it to him"; the way the episode goes about this instead just seems to justify the very thing it was speaking out against.
    • "Buster Gets Real" could be this in many different ways, as Buster stops watching Bionic Bunny in favor of an ambiguously more "realistic" show named "Top Supermarket Clerk" for the simple fact that Bionic Bunny isn't real, as if something being of a fictional nature takes away from its value as something to enjoy, further undermined by the fact that it's Buster of all people making this claim in stark contrast to his eccentric, superstitious nature. It also may host several unfortunate implications about conformity, as Arthur insists in classic fashion that unless they like the same things, then they can't call each other best friends anymore. Arthur then attempts to mend things by training himself to enjoy Top Supermarket Clerk, which he still does not care for. Granted, the true message may be that your friendships will remain strong even if you don't all have the same common interests, but the confusing nature of the episode and the strange decision to have Buster saying these things may only rob it of its intended meaning.
    • The first book, Arthur's Nose, was about Arthur wanting to change his nose because of the suffering he endured from having it, and then deciding not to because he realized looks aren't important. That didn't stop Marc Brown from redesigning him over the next decade until his nose became invisible, though.
    • According to "Fern and Persimmony Glitchet", if you write happy stories, they'll be really boring and nobody will like them. Your stories have to be super dark and depressing for people to like them. This moral doesn't apply to any of the show's episodes.
  • Brutal Honesty: In "To Tibble the Truth", Timmy and Tommy decide to be super honest and always tell the truth. They end up losing all their friends due to their truth-telling ending up being insulting.
  • Buffy Speak:
    • The episode "Whip. Mix. Blend." concerns Rattles learning what it's like to live in a blended family through interactions with his mom's boyfriend, Archie Vanderloo, and the Vanderloo twins, Angie and Ansel. Angie is very into slang and uses it constantly, to the point her speech is sometimes barely comprehensible.
    • Arthur forms a long sentence trying to talk to Mrs. MacGrady about how he was pressured into stealing due to a misunderstanding, but without actually saying that outright in "Arthur, World's Greatest Gleeper". She's completely confused by his vague terminology... and then Muffy walks in accusing him of stealing her cellular phone.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Do any of the characters look their nationalities? Then again, they are anthropomorphic animals... Or are they?
  • Butterfly of Doom: In S14's "Follow the Bouncing Ball", the intro imagines Brain taking his friends back in time to see the dinosaurs, when Buster accidentally drops his container of raisins. When they arrive at the present, everyone is a lizard and they have to take a fly eating class.
  • Butt-Monkey: Principal Haney always seems to have bad things randomly happening to him in Season 1.
  • By Wall That Is Holey: Happens to Binky in the episode "Night Fright" when Binky imagines that he gets so strong he makes the entire school collapse by slamming a door. After the whole building falls only the door he slammed, minus the glass in a small window at the top, remains standing, and it promptly falls onto him, with him going through the window hole.

  • Call-Back:
    • One of the reasons the show is so popular with the Periphery Demographics is it's clever use of this trope in the series' continuity. For example, S9's "Breezy Listening Blues" contains numerous references to the TV special "Arthur - It's Only Rock 'n' Roll".
    • Michael Yarmush, who was Arthur's original voice actor for the first five seasons, now voiced Slink, who's now one of the Tough Customers.
    • Mark Rendall, who voiced Arthur for Seasons 7 and 8, (and the redubs of Season 6) now voices Rafi, the new teenager working at the Sugar Bowl.
    • "Lend Me Your Ear" reveals that Mr. Ratburn has teamed up with some other Elwood City elementary school teachers to form a band called "The Lost Teachers." In "The Buster Report," Binky learns that Mr. Ratburn fronted a band called "The Ratburn Rats" in high school.
    • In "D.W. Flips", D.W.'s gymnastics teacher tells D.W. to stay off the balance beam, because her class won't be using it for at least a year. In "D.W., Bossy Boots", the class uses a (much lower) balance beam.
    • Binky's nut allergy in "Binky Goes Nuts" is brought up a few more times in the series. In "Big Brother Binky", he specifically eats peanut-free Chinese food. In "Too Much of a Good Thing", Binky says that he wouldn't have wanted to eat the chocolates he was protecting for Buster because they have nuts in them. A more serious instance is in "Take a Hike, Molly", where Molly only packs snacks that have nuts. Binky takes offense, showing just how little she cares about the other Tough Customers.
  • Camping Episode: Many.
    • "Arthur Goes to Camp" doubles as a boys vs. girls plot, where the guys and girls in the summer camp enter a prank war before teaming up to beat a rival camp.
    • "Home Sweet Home" has Buster camp at a different summer camp than he's used to.
    • "Adventures in Budylon" is about D.W. and Bud camping in the front yard.
    • "D.W.'s Deer Friend" and "Cast Away" have the entire Read family on a camping trip.
    • "Staycation" has Jane and David camp in the backyard.
    • "Arthur's First Sleepover" has Arthur, Buster, and Brain camp out near Arthur's house.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke:
    • The opening to "Arthur the Unfunny" depicts Arthur as a stand-up comedian. He tries to tell a joke, but messes up telling it and walks away in disappointment after he accidentally gives away the punchline.
    • In "Slink's Special Talent", Slink tries telling jokes as his talent. He gets the joke mixed up for a few minutes, then gives up when everyone else starts to get bored.
  • Canon Immigrant: Killer, Grandma Thora's dog, was first seen in the books.
  • Captain Obvious: In "MacFrensky", Francine's response to Prunella predicting she will have "lunch with a stranger" is "I don't know any strangers!"
  • Captain Ersatz: Bionic Bunny is obviously an animal equivalent of Superman. Likewise, Dark Bunny is obviously this to Batman.
  • Car Radio Dispute: A downplayed version appears in the episode, "Cast Away," in which during a car trip to the lake, the Read family try to pass the time with the radio; Arthur begs his parents not to play D.W.'s Mary Moo Cow CD, so they listen to his Henry Skreever audiobook instead, however, the cassette player eats the tape, so they listen to D.W.'s Mary Moo Cow CD instead, much to his chagrin.
    • Also downplayed in "Arthur's Perfect Christmas" everytime Arthur hears the radio jingle for Tina the Talking Tabby which D.W. loves to hear because that is the toy she wants for Christmas. When mom obliges to change the station, she changes it to a station playing a jazz tune. Later on when he asks dad to put something else on, he puts in a cassette of Crazy Bus.
  • Cartoon Creature: One of the most frequently asked questions about the show is the subject of which animal the characters are supposed to be. Arthur and the rest of the Read family are the most confusing since they do not even resemble aardvarks at all. Arthur looks more like a human with abnormal looking ears at the top of his head instead of where his glasses are.
    • The characters frequently wear headphones where humans' ears are, instead of on the top of their heads. Slink wears earbuds in his actual ears in "Slink's Special Talent", and D.W.'s ears are checked in "Operation: D.W.!"
    • Given the diversity of the show's cast, there are a number of characters that are actually mixed species. For example...
      • Emily's parents are a bunny and a monkey; Emily herself has the ears and the complexion of a bunny, though she has a very slight monkey snout.
      • Molly and James's parents are a dog and a bunny; James more closely resembles a bunny for the most part, and while Molly has an overall bunnyish appearance, her ears are more rounded, and she has the nose of a dog.
    • Patrick, Mr. Ratburn's husband, has a long head and looks more like a horse than an aardvark.
  • Cast as a Mask: Seen in The Teaser Imagine Spot for "Arthur's Big Hit", where Binky impersonates D.W. by means of a Full-Body Disguise and perfectly imitates her voice. It's made even funnier when you realize that D.W. actually is voiced by a boy.
  • Cast Herd: After 22 seasons, there are roughly four:
    • The biggest one is Arthur's circle of friends, which includes most of his 3rd grade class, other kidsnote  and various adults such as their parents, and school faculty. This makes up the bulk of the series.
    • D.W.'s friends, which include Nadine, Emily, the Tibble Twins, Vicita, James, Cheikh, and Bud.
    • The babies and non-furry animals, which has Kate, Pal, Amigo, Nemo, Mei-Lin and Killer among others. This group has the most fantastic and strangest plots.
    • The newest one are the Tough Customers; since they've shed their bullying ways, they've had more positive interactions with Arthur's friends.
  • Catapult Nightmare: A higher incidence than usual, because of so many of the Imagine Spots turn out to be nightmares. One example is with Rubella in "Arthur Babysits".
  • Cats Are Mean:
    • Subverted in S3's "Francine and the Feline", where Francine gets a cat, and Arthur believes cats are mean and bite off kids' ears. But in the end he learns An Aesop about giving them a chance. But during the Animal Talk episodes, this trope is played completely straight with Nemo, frequently appearing as the antagonist.
    • Averted with Sue Ellen, who may be one of kindest of Arthur's group of friends.
  • Caustic Critic: After Fern tries writing a book, Francine immediately criticizes it for being a Sugar Bowl. Thankfully, Fern doesn't give up, and when she makes it more action-packed and dramatic, Francine gives the book her approval.
  • Celeb Crush: In "Arthur - It's Only Rock 'n' Roll", Muffy has a huge thing for the Backstreet Boys, and can't even make up her mind on which of them she's "meant to be with." This also later serves as Continuity Nod when Muffy brings the subject up again in "Bitzi's Break-up", in her attempts to sympathize with Buster over Bitzi and Harry's breakup.
  • Censorship by Spelling: In "Prove It", Francine spells a word out loud when talking with Arthur while D.W. is in earshot.
    Francine: Muffy lost her mother's expensive P-E-N.
    D.W.: Her what? If you spell stuff, I can't understand what you're talking about.
    Arthur: That's exactly why we spell stuff.
  • Central Themes: There is a set of them. See here.
  • Centrifugal Farce: "D.W.'s Imaginary Friend" has an amusement park ride called the Hurl-a-Whirl that did pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin: basically a dumbbell-type centrifuge, except the car itself spun perpendicular to the arm as well. The individual cars actually had a dial to increase the ride speed, with the highest setting being "Liquefy". Riders are issued complementary barf-bags. We later see Arthur and Buster tossing theirs away (full), with Buster wistfully wishing he could keep his as a souvenir.
  • Chained to a Railway: In "Kiss and Tell", while at the mall, D.W. watches a situation on TV where a man saves a woman from a railroad, ending in a kiss. She tries to imitate this by spinning herself on the merry-go-round and getting James to save her; he stops it and she falls on the ground.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: Quite a bit. "Prunella and the Haunted Locker", "Arthur and the Square Dance", "Francine & the Soccer Spy", and "Sue Ellen & the Last Page" for example.
  • Characterization Marches On: The characters were markedly different in early installments, sometimes Depending on the Writer or sometimes due to Character Development.
    • Francine was a Jerkass in early episodes. In the books, she didn't seem to be Jewish and in the Living Books she lacked her Tomboy personality and had a very apparent crush on Arthur.
    • Brain went back and forth in displaying stereotypical tendencies befitting nerds. He apparently used to have a huge comic book collection (136 of which he managed to bring to camp with him). He was also seen as having little regard for organization, leaving his bedroom in shambles - Arthur even points out how neat and tidy he was when he spent the weekend at his house, to which he responds, "Yeah, and it almost killed me!"
    • Arthur goes from being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold (in "My Club Rules", he tries to get D.W. to kick a bowling ball because she asked what he and his friends were doing, and he screeches at his band in "Arthur and the Crunch Cereal Contest" when they start playing without his permission) to a Nice Guy.
  • Character Development:
    • As noted above, Francine was a lot meaner in earlier episodes; in fact, during the first couple of seasons in general, she was not above outright bullying others: she was the first to make fun of Arthur when he started wearing glasses, and was quick to harass him about having not lost any baby teeth; she even proudly boasts in one episode, "I'm kind of a rude person." Although she mellows out eventually and isn't much of a straight-forward bully anymore, she does still have a tendency to stoop to passive-aggressive actions against her friends, sometimes for no reason.
    • Similarly, Binky is The Bully, especially in the first season, where he's more of a supporting character, and was only featured on the show on a semi-regular basis. Starting in the following season, he slowly becomes part of Arthur's gang, and also slowly and progressively evolves more into a Gentle Giant, though still occasionally will do something mean and/or unnecessary, if only to maintain appearances.
    • Related to Binky above, the rest of the Tough Customers started getting in on this, too, eventually interacting with and helping out Arthur and friends and even swearing off bullying completely as of S16's "The Last Tough Customer". Molly in particular shapes herself up after seeing her brother James copy her tough act, and writes apology letters to George and everyone she has bullied in the past.
    • Both Fern and George have become a lot more outgoing and socialize with other kids a lot more over the years, but are still a little shy, though nowhere near as reclusive and withdrawn as they originally were. It helps that they're both Ascended Extras.
    • Prunella was initially rather stuck-up and somewhat snobbish (though not to the same extent as Muffy), nor was she above giving Arthur and his friends a hard time about having Ratburn as their teacher, as she had him the year before; at the same time, she was also somewhat popular and had huge birthday parties for herself (both full birthdays and half birthdays) that everyone attended. After a season or two, she mellowed out, and was occasionally shown to be pretty good friends with Arthur and the others. By the time she befriends Marina, she's a lot more of a thoughtful and considerate person, even though she occasionally goes overboard with her good intentions.
    • Muffy is still something of a Spoiled Brat who believes It's All About Me. However, she has slowly developed more empathy in later seasons. Examples include:
      • "Spoiled Rotten!" at the end of which she takes on a charity project/job helping sell secondhand clothing.
      • "The Cherry Tree", wherein she expresses sincere regret that her desire for a bouncy house will mean the loss of the eponymous tree she's had since she was little. Even though the tree is cut down, she ultimately decides to dedicate her annual spring party to cherry tree planting, not the bouncy house (which she ends up not commissioning).
      • "Shelter from the Storm", during which she has to relocate to a shelter during Hurricane Sadie and meets a new friend, Kaylie. Upon learning Kaylie's house was destroyed, Muffy invites her and her family to stay with the Crosswires for a while.
      • "Little Miss Meanie", during which she almost tells Lydia Fox, who uses a wheelchair, to drop out of a beauty pageant to avoid winning due to sympathy. When Muffy hears another girl say the same thing to Lydia, she realizes it's mean, and she and Lydia team up to try to help each other win. Neither does, but they do tie for first runner-up, and their nemesis receives no honors.
    • D.W. seems to be maturing, perhaps because of positive influences from the Compson siblings Bud and his sister Ladonna.
    • In early seasons, Mr. Ratburn would assign insane amounts of homework, such as filling in a map of the entire world. He also seemed like a somewhat aloof and scholarly person. Of course, that could be due to Unreliable Narrator, but this has been toned way down. Now he's still strict and dedicated to his students' educations, but seems to be much warmer and more relatable. In "Lend Me Your Ear", Arthur even goes to say hi to Mr. Ratburn after seeing him in public.
  • Character Outlives Actor: Principal Haney appears in Season 20, despite the fact that his voice actor, Walter Massey, passed away. "The Hallway Minotaur" explains that Haney went to South Africa to live out his dream of founding a school.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Parody: In "Buster Hits the Books", Arthur and Francine try to have Buster read a book entitled "Sam and the Sandwich Factory", which of course spoofs Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and as Buster reads it he has an Imagine Spot where he is Sam, who has found the Golden Sandwich and won a tour of the Spectacular Sandwich Factory, but he chipped his teeth when trying to eat the Golden Sandwich. But the Willy Wonka-esque factory owner ignores that, and just says Sam has won all the real sandwiches he can eat.
    Oompa-Loompa Parodies: When you break off all your teeth,
    it becomes so hard to eat!
  • Child Prodigy:
    • Alan Powers is absolutely brilliant, able to build and invent things many adults can't. He can easily handle Mr. Ratburn's demanding homework load, work part-time at his parents' ice cream shop, and still make time for fun.
    • George, to a lesser extent: he's show to be really good at constructing things you wouldn't assume kids would know how to make (wooden dummies, guitars, etc.) In fact, for at least one season, a Running Gag was that George always won talent contests, much to the other kids' annoyance.
    • Marina could count as well. Sure, any kid can be good at soccer or gymnastics, but how many blind kids do you know who can master such physically-demanding activities?
    • Carl is also quite bright, with a photographic memory and encyclopedic knowledge of trains. Brain is written out of "Buster Spaces Out", wherein the other kids need help building and launching a model rocket. Instead, Carl offers to help, and serves as the team's risk assessor.
    • Lydia Fox, born paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair, is a professional basketball player, playing for an acclaimed team composed entirely of wheelchair users. She is also about as book smart as Brain (and quite showy about it), and is apparently also nationally ranked in chess.
    • In her debut appearance, Vicita Molina shows signs of being advanced for her age.
    • In "Baby Steps", Mei-Lin is shown to be capable of playing the first four notes of Beethoven's Symphony No.5 and spell "hello" on a calculator despite being Kate's age.
  • Christmas Special: "Arthur's Perfect Christmas" has a main plot about Arthur and his family, but it also deals with Francine being Jewish and celebrating Hanukkah, Brain being African-American and celebrating Kwanzaa, and Buster creating his own holiday (Baxter Day).
  • Cinderella Circumstances: In "Go to Your Room, D.W.", D.W. has an Imagine Spot in which she endures these.
  • Circling Vultures: This is used (and mentioned), as Francine and Fern draw attention to the fact that there are vultures above them when they're lost in the mountains.
  • Circus Episode: "Francine's Big Top Trouble" focuses on Francine and her friends becoming acrobats in a circus.
  • City People Eat Sushi: Francine's sister makes the family go to a sushi restaurant because she won the Coin Toss to decide what to do on family night. Francine complains that the fish isn't cooked, and then puts a big heap of "guacamole" on hers in the hopes of making it taste better. Then tries to wash her mouth out with a bottle of soy sauce.
  • Classical Music Is Cool: D.W. gets Yo Yo Ma to come to the library to play the cello. Arthur and his friends are sure it's going to be boring. Francine has invited her uncle, jazz musician Joshua Redman, to visit the same day. The kids hope that the two will get into a fight. An Imagine Spot has them in a wrestling ring; Ma pulls out his cello and puts Redman to sleep. But on the day of the meeting it actually goes well, both get along and Redman expresses his enjoyment of classical music.
  • Clear My Name: In "Arthur Accused!", Arthur is falsely accused of stealing quarters that were part of a fund raiser. This happens as a result of everyone getting the wrong idea when Buster brings up Arthur becoming the pinball champion in the arcade the day before.
  • Clip Show:
    • S3's "D.W.'s Perfect Wish" has clips of various events D.W. has done for the past two seasons.
    • S16's "The Best Day Ever" has clips of many previous events about the characters' best and worst days ever.
  • Clueless Aesop:
    • "Meek For a Week" seems to have the Aesop "Being too nice makes you seem fake and it isn't healthy to hold in negative emotions".
    • "Buster Gets Real" seems to justify Buster's bizarre logic that it's wrong to like something that "isn't real", which is already extremely out of character for someone as spacey as Buster is. Also very little issue is raised on his or the Read family's obsession with a reality TV series that like Bionic Bunny isn't exactly grounded in reality either. Finally, at the end it seems to reinforce the notion that in order to remain best friends, you have to have most, if not everything in common with each other.
  • Cold Open: Every episode has one. Sometimes it's a sneak peek of a scene in the episode, sometimes it's a No Fourth Wall-type situation where the characters discuss the theme of the episode, and other times it's just a bizarre Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Done quite often with a TV:
    • In S6's "Arthur Plays the Blues", Arthur had given up playing the piano, and was subjected to a televised concert performance, the organ-playing Phantom, and a spoof of a piano-playing scene in Casablanca.
    • In S7's "Jenna's Bedtime Blues", Jenna, trying to get through a night without wetting the bed, tries watching TV and sees a diaper commercial, an actor with a mock Scottish talking about his broken bagpipes ("It's got a wee-leak!"), and a Sesame Street-esque skit involving the letter P done with Wimzie's House Expys.
    • In "Is that Kosher?" Francine experiences this; she's trying to fast for Yom Kippur, but finds nothing on television but food-related shows and ads. She tries reading and is tormented with such titles as Food of the Gods and Who Moved My Cheese (ironically, neither involves food). She settles on Dickens' Little Dorrit, which has a mouth-watering food description, and finally breaks down and scarfs a slice at Arthur's pizza party.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • This exchange in S14's "Muffy and the Big Bad Blog":
      Mr. Ratburn: You need to do other things in life besides... (searches for word) blogging.
      Muffy: That's true. If I don't do other things, I won't have anything to blog about! Thanks!
    • In "Prunella's Prediction":
      Rubella: You can't sit in your room eating soup and peanut butter all winter!
      Prunella: You're right... I'm gonna need some crackers!
    • Also from "D.W.'s Very Bad Mood":
      Arthur: What if she never lets me go to sleep again?
      Brain: Actually that would be a very interesting experiment. We could chart your deterioration and then, once your brain starts to shut down—(Francine cuts him off).
    • In season 1's "Stolen Bike" regarding Francine's fake story about the bike eating truck.
      Arthur: Did anybody else think there's something very fishy about Francine's story.
      Buster: Yeah. Does she really expect us to believe she was running home to do her chores?
  • Comic-Book Time: Most of the main cast has been eight years old and in the third grade for 22 years. This evolves into an Exaggerated Trope.
    • According to S14's "D.W. Unties the Knot", the events of S1's "D.W. Thinks Big" are said to have happened "a few months ago." In S17's "Opposites Distract", the events of S1's "Poor Muffy" are also said to have been "a few months ago."
    • Then there's this Facebook post wherein Arthur claims that the spelling bee from season one took place in 2014.
    • However, in S18's "Two Minutes", D.W. says that the events of S1's "Arthur Babysits" were "a long time ago," although this might have just been an exaggeration on her part. In "The Rhythm and Roots of Arthur," Arthur and Buster remark that 3rd grade feels like it has gone on forever.
    • An Arthur Thanksgiving says that "last" Thanksgiving, Arthur's family didn't have Pal yet, meaning the entire series has taken place within the span of a year.
  • Company Cross References:
    • "The Big Blow-Up" has a fantasy sequence involving a hockey player driving a racecar on a golf course. The athlete's jersey and car feature the logos of the show's two producers at the time: Cinar and WGBH.
    • The "A Word From Us Kids" segment following "How the Cookie Crumbles" shows a group of blind children baking cookies. After the cookies are put into the oven, a girl wipes down a table while singing the "Clean Up" song from fellow PBS show Barney & Friends.
    • Another Barney reference: in "Sue Ellen and the Brainasaurus", as Sue Ellen tries to sculpt a dinosaur head out of clay, she ends up making Barney's head. Unsatisfied with the result, she promptly squishes it and tries again.
    • In "Attack of the Turbo Tibbles", as Tommy and Timmy change the channels on the TV while D.W. goes to get her mother to help fix the Mary Moo Cow videotape they were watching, one of the shows they see is a parody of The Busy World of Richard Scarry where Huckle and Lowly are bats sleeping on the ceiling. Both The Busy World of Richard Scarry and Arthur were produced by Cookie Jar Entertainment, known as Cinar back when the episode originally aired.
    • In "Prove It," Arthur and Buster watch NOVA, another PBS show produced by WGBH, complete with live-action footage on the Reads' TV. Later, D.W. insists on watching the show with Brain.
    • Yet another Barney reference: In "The Last of Mary Moo Cow", Mary sings the first line of the famous "I Love You" song to D.W. in a fantasy sequence.
    • The "A Word From Us Kids" segment following the above episode is re-titled "A Word From Us Zoomers", and goes behind the scenes at fellow PBS/WGBH program ZOOM, hosted by then-current cast members Kenny and Caroline.
    • In "The Making of Arthur", George records a video where he fixes Vicita's toy house. He calls it This Old Doll House, the name being a play on This Old House, which was also made by PBS.
  • Completely Off-Topic Report: In "Buster's Growing Grudge", Buster is frustrated that Binky told one of Buster's jokes and seemingly got a good grade for it while Buster receives a D. Near the end of the episode, we get this exchange between Buster and Arthur.
    Arthur: Buster, you hardly did any work at all. Your whole report was about eggnog.
    Buster: That's not my fault. They put it right next to "Egypt" in the encyclopedia.
  • Competence Zone: Parodied. When Arthur complains about D.W., Binky says she's just a kid, and it's not like she's in third grade.
  • Compressed Vice:
    • Arthur not getting enough exercise in "Arthur Weighs In".
    • Resident Cloud Cuckoo Lander Buster losing interest in Bionic Bunny in favor of a reality show about grocery store workers in "Buster Gets Real" because it's more true to life. The events of the episode happen solely for Arthur to learn that you can still be friends with someone with different interests than you. To top it off, Buster's interest in the reality show didn't last beyond this episode and he has since been shown still enjoying Bionic Bunny.
    • Arthur's infamous bullying streak in "So Funny I Forgot to Laugh" is an especially blatant case of this, as Arthur is known for being a Nice Guy and was a frequent bullying target himself. Yet he was made one here for no other reason than to have an anti-bullying moral.
    • Happens with an adult character of all people in "The Half-Baked Sale". Grandma Thora is said to be a terrible cook in this episode, and it only happens in this episode; as stated in Lethal Chef, she's shown to have perfectly good cooking skills in other episodes (even "Arthur's Birthday" and "Arthur's Chicken Pox," which come before this one in episode order), and her flaw here was introduced for the single purpose of teaching when it's important to tell someone that they may not be fit for something, even when it's someone you're close to.
  • Concept Album: Arthur's Really Rockin' Music Mix, released in 2001. Besides a remix of the show's theme song, every single song in the album is entirely new and never played once in the show. The songs in this album double as musical summaries of select episodes and Image Songs of characters, composed in a variety of musical styles.
  • Conspicuously Light Patch: This happens a lot, but one strong example is Pal, at birth.
  • Continuity Nod: There's a number of episodes that recall events that have happened in seasons earlier. Such as...
    • "The Contest" has an Imagine Spot into the future where Arthur and the gang are teens; they reminisce about when they first learned Mr. Ratburn was their teacher ("Arthur's and the Real Mr. Ratburn"), when Buster moved away ("Arthur's Faraway Friend"), and when Francine taught Arthur how to play baseball ("Arthur Makes the Team").
    • "The Boy with His Head in the Clouds": George pulls Wally out of his closet, and mentions how he got dumped with D.W. ("Arthur's Dummy Disaster").
    • Both "Fernkenstein's Monster" and "D.W. Dancing Queen" has Arthur obsessing over the incident in which his pants rip, revealing his underwear in "Arthur's Underwear".
    • "The Blackout" contains many references to "The Blizzard", mostly regarding Dr. Jake's predictions and forecasts. note 
    • "The Great MacGrady" recalls the events of "Room to Ride", as both episodes featured Lance Armstrong (Both episodes are now banned as a result of Armstrong's scandals).
    • "D.W. Unties the Knot" also recalls events from "D.W. Thinks Big."
    • "Grandpa Dave's Memory Album" has Francine's Bubbe mention Arthur's pizza party from "Is That Kosher?"
    • "Opposites Distract" has Arthur temporarily staying and studying with Buster while the leak in his ceiling is fixed; Francine and Muffy warn this will cause problems for both of them, citing the events of "Poor Muffy," in which Muffy stays with the Frenskys while the Crosswires replace their carpet that Muffy is allergic to.
    • "The Ballad of Buster Baxter" calls back "Arthur and the Square Dance" (he has trouble keeping up in square dancing), "How the Cookie Crumbles" (he stumbles across the Muffy and Friends cookies while in the supermarket) and "Finders Key-pers" (he finds Mr. Morris' key for the sprinklers without knowing what it's for) when Buster tries to re-adjust to being back in Elwood after being gone for so long. There's even a call back to Arthur and Buster's Robin Hood story (which the Brain helped Arthur write while Buster was gone) from "Arthur's Faraway Friend".
    • In "Bleep", Arthur is seen working on a model plane, only to drop and break it when he hears D.W. swear. The aforementioned plane was apparently the same one from "Arthur's Big Hit", and broke in both of those episodes. D.W. lampshades this. It could also be a cross-reference, since it wasn't the first time that DW's swearing caused someone to drop something.
      D.W.: Whoa! It happened again!
    • The Brain's model biplane that was seen in "What is that Thing?" reappears in "Nerves of Steal" and "The World Record" (in the latter, the plane even crash-lands just as it did in its first appearance.)
    • Brain's memory in "Brain's Brain" has paintings of scenes from "The Contest" and "Friday the 13th."
    • In "The Substitute Arthur," Arthur mentions that Buster was a part of the bird-watching club, which happened in "For the Birds."
    • In "When Rivals Came to Roost," Buster has jellybeans from Patrick's Chocolates, which previously appeared in "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone."
    • In "Locked in the Library!" Arthur reminds Francine of when she made fun of him for not having lost a baby tooth, which is exactly what happened in "Arthur's Tooth."
  • Continuity Porn:
    • D.W.'s story in the season three episode "I'd Rather Read It Myself" incorporates elements from almost every D.W.-centric episode that predated it.
    • Also from season three is "D.W.'s Perfect Wish," which is more or less done as a Clip Show, albeit with the music and some sound effects redone, and one flashback having new animation made (of Mr. Rogers singing to D.W.). The same episode has a Call-Back to "D.W., the Picky Eater" (a flashback of a scene that was not present in the original episode.)
  • Contrived Coincidence: In "Happy Anniversary", Arthur and D.W. are locked in a pantry, and Arthur misses the special episode of Bionic Bunny that he planned to watch with Buster where they would have found out the connection between Bionic Bunny and Dark Bunny. D.W. gives her version of what could have happened with Bionic and Dark Bunny being separated at birth with an evil witch taking one and a robot taking the other. Arthur dismisses this until the next day, when Arthur gets caught up on the special he missed:
    Arthur: So, what happened in the special? I've been dying to know!
    Buster: Well, first of all: Bionic Bunny and Dark Bunny are — get this — brothers, and...
    Arthur: Wait, don't tell me: Were they separated at birth by an evil witch?
    Buster: Yeah, and a robot! How did you guess? [Arthur groans when he finds out D.W. was right]
  • Conveniently Timed Distraction: In "Best of the Nest," when the Brain asks Arthur why he isn't playing the eponymous game anymore and going camping instead, he says that on Level 10, his goose was destroyed by "a cruel force of nature." A flashback then shows that when he got to that point, he was confronted with this question:
    Night has fallen and the temperature is dropping. Do you:
    A: Wrap yourself in dead leaves?
    B: Cuddle up with the crocodile?
    or C: Do the Hokey-Pokey?
Arthur makes it clear that he intends to choose "A," but before he can do so, the phone rings and he gets up to answer it. D.W. then uses the opportunity to go to the computer and select "B." Just as Arthur reenters the room, he sees that his goose has been eaten by the crocodile, who is belching out its feathers.
  • Conversational Troping: In "Bugged," Brain watches a Bionic Bunny episode with Binky, and is annoyed by how cliched and predictable the episode is, such as the Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts trope utilizing a Conveyor Belt o' Doom (to which Brain gives a "Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?" type of comment) and the Evil Plan and Latex Perfection devices, and his criticism and Lampshade Hanging annoy Binky in the process.
  • Cool Old Lady: Grandma Thora, Bubbe, and Mrs. MacGrady.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef:
    • Even though Mr. Read is a professional cook and caterer, he is not afraid to experiment in cooking new things, and that is when his family and everybody else are hesitant to try his food, because it always comes out weird. This is amusingly the focus of a song in "Arthur's Almost Live Not Real Music Festival".
      Arthur: My dad's a chef!
      You think that's great?
      Just try to guess what's on your plate!
      He mixes things and then he bakes!
      Why can't he stick to chocolate cakes?
    • Grandma Thora, on the other hand, is shown to be highly incompetent as a cook in the episode "The Half-Baked Sale", but she thinks she does a very good job because Mr. Read thinks she's bad with him being a professional.
    • Binky is shown to be less-than-competent in Arthur's Perfect Christmas because he fails to remove pecans from their shells when making pecan pie, forgets to sweeten his brownies with sugar, and doesn't peel the bananas when making banana bread.
    • A Running Gag in earlier seasons was rather disgusting flavors being shown at Brain's mom's ice cream shop, with ingredients such as squid and chicken.
  • Couch Gag: A very easy-to-miss one, but still a Couch Gag nonetheless. In the early seasons of the show, the noise the title letters would make as they fell (at the end of the theme song, when Arthur falls backwards) had at least four variations. The "normal" version is the glass shattering, with a second version adding in a "boing" when Arthur initially hits the ground. The third version has the impact sound like a big splash of water, and the fourth and final sounds like a stack of tin cans falling over. In later seasons, only the first version is ever used.
  • Credits Gag:
    • S4's "My Music Rules/That's a Baby Show!" replaces the standard truncated theme song in the credits with the jazz-classical rendition of Crazy Bus heard in the first half. Also, for the entirety of Season 6, the remixed theme song from the then-new album "Arthur's Really Rockin' Music Mix" was played over the credits as a way to promote it.
    • S21's "Arthur Takes a Stand" has a cover of the theme song over the credits.
  • Critical Research Failure:
    • In universe: Arthur, in "Dear Adil", based his research about Turkey from an Illinois Jack comic; but Adil thought that Arthur was crazy and didn't think what to write. Then Alberto shows how the comic was inaccurate and also told him what he thought America was like from TV.
      Alberto: They made me think that every kid in the U.S. went surfing after school, and went home to their skyscrapers, and put ketchup on all their food! Yep, you would sure have a weird impression of a place if all of you knew from it came from TV and comic books.
    • In "Team Trouble," Arthur, Buster, and Francine decide to make a comic book for a report on Ancient Rome. However, none of them do any research on their first attempt. Arthur makes a section that is a mishmash of ancient myths, Francine makes one in which she wins the Olympics even though women were banned from the games, and Buster creates a splash page involving Spartacus delivering pizzas.
  • Crossover: Mister Rogers made a guest appearance in one episode where he befriends Arthur. Marc Brown later returned the favor when he appeared in an episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and Arthur (a puppet of him, anyway) visited the Land of Make-Believe.
    • In "Prove It," Arthur and Brain watch NOVA, and D.W. joins in, taking on an interest in science.
    • The "And Now A Word From Us Kids" segment for "The Last of Mary Moo Cow" featured Caroline and Kenny from ZOOM giving a behind the scenes tour of that show.
    • In "Hic or Treat," Arthur and D.W. watch a Dark Bunny/Mary Moo Cow crossover.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: A few instances.
    • "The Long, Dull Winter" and "The Short, Quick Summer" are opposite in both plot and title. In the former, Arthur and his friends try to create a holiday to make the time go faster, and in the latter, Arthur fears that he won't have time to do everything he plans over the summer.
    • "When Carl Met George" and "He Said, He Said" are both Carl episodes whose titles allude to romantic films.
    • (Character)'s [X] Trouble and variations thereof are commonplace.
    • A few episodes in Season 16 and 17 are based on popular phrases, such as "Based on a True Story," "Just the Ticket," and "Opposites Distract."
  • Courtroom Episode: Season 16's "Read and Flumbergast" is all about D.W. and her friends putting Tommy Tibble on trial for stealing a cupcake.
  • Crying Critters: Downplayed. The anthropomorphic animals cry, but not the pets.
  • Cultural Cross-Reference:
    • The episode "Buster's Back" has an Imagine Spot where Buster is a ninja who says "Osamu Tezuka is the god of manga" in Japanese.
    • In "I'd Rather Read It Myself!", Buster appears in D.W.'s story as a robot named Bust-trantor and gets a song referencing Gigantor's intro theme.
  • Cultured Badass: Rattles is shown to be this after a handful of seasons since he first appeared; despite being a Tough Customer, he's an expert chess player, has a mind for business, and apparently is quite a cheese connoisseur. note 
    • Binky as well, especially in later seasons. Traits include his gifts for ballet and the clarinet, as well as his appreciation for opera (he's the one who introduced Muffy to the story of Carmen.)
  • Cursed With Awesome: In a more down-to-earth example, Arthur gets chickenpox, which gets him a lot of attention and special treats, including an oatmeal bath, a back rub, stories from Grandma Thora, and a really tricked-out lunch with drinks 'from a crazy straw!' Is there any wonder why D.W. wants chickenpox, even when the circus is coming?
    • This trope gets lampshaded:
      David: D.W, you're lucky that you're not sick! Chickenpox is no fun!
      D.W.: Yes; it is! It's more fun than anything!
      David: ...more fun than the circus? ...more fun than elephants and cotton candy and ice cream?
      D.W.: Of course!
    • This trope gets turned Up to Eleven when D.W. gets chickenpox herself. She is overjoyed, actually skipping around and singing. Of course she goes to Grandma Thora and requests those special treats. The rest of the family is confused by her joy, Jane wondering if D.W. has a fever. The irony is that she gets chickenpox after she admits that her wanting chickenpox was out of jealousy, making her getting chickenpox some odd cosmic reward or something.
  • Cuteness Proximity: In "Blockheads," D.W. and Emily are determined to finish building a block tower, but the lure of a koala that has been brought into class too strong and they break down.

  • Daddy's Girl:
    • Muffy, very much so. This may be partially because her dad is a soft touch when it comes to what his daughter wants. However, they also share some interests, such as opera, and the common trait of seeing marketing potential in absolutely everything.
    • Francine as well; she's a lot like her dad and seems very close to him.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: In "Nicked by a Name", after Brain gives the other soccer team players cool nicknames, Arthur is dubbed "Average Arthur", which leads to team squabbles due to others coming up with derisive nicknames for each other.
  • Dangerous Drowsiness: In the episode "So Long, Spanky", the eponymous budgie is seen looking droopy. He dies in the next scene.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Dark Bunny, in contrast to the other established in-universe show, Bionic Bunny.
    • In-universe, the Grotesquely Grim Bunny comics in relation to Bionic and Dark Bunny ones. They are in fact scary enough to give Arthur nightmares.
  • Dark Is Evil: Rattles of the Tough Customers is a school bully is almost never seen without his leather jacket, though it's slowly subverted as he starts revealing his own Hidden Depths. In S16's "The Last Tough Customer," he and his friends decide to drop their bullying ways entirely.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • "Tipping the Scales" gives some screen time to Dr. Fugue.
    • "The Play's the Thing," "The Last Tough Customer," "Slink's Special Talent," and "Take a Hike, Molly" are all about the Tough Customers. "Slink's Special Talent" in particular is about Slink, who hadn't been the main focus of an episode since "Buster and the Daredevils" ninteen seasons earlier.
    • "Maria Speaks" and "Binky Can't Always Get What He Wants" include Maria, a silent girl in Mr. Ratburn's class, as a major character.
  • Day of the Jackboot: S13's "The Pride of Lakewood" involves Arthur, Francine and Muffy setting up a pride committee as a way of supporting school activities, with Buster as their spokesman. They end up putting flyers on the lockers of non-members Brain and Sue Ellen announcing they have no school spirit (as well as George, who WAS a member, but didn't cheer loud enough at track meets), and the two have to hide just to avoid being publicly harassed. In the end, they successfully recruit Buster to make a speech on why they feel the organization is unjust and membership shouldn't be compulsory to express school spirit.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: Grandma Thora's dog, Killer. Apart from a bit of a Hair-Trigger Temper, she's nice.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: S1's "So Long, Spanky" has D.W.'s one-off pet bird die. She is sad and tries to cope, even looking for another pet. D.W. eventually accepts a toad that likes to stay near Spanky's grave as her pet.
  • Deconstruction:
    • You would think that a series that is founded on the "Reading Is Cool" Aesop would support programs on the vein of Book Adventure. However, S16's "Buster's Book Battle" points out serious flaws: the program is not guaranteed to have listings on "the classics" or books children actually want to read; the prizes might be lackluster; the participants try to "game" the system: most importantly, the program would not teach people to read for the fun/utility of reading itself, instead reading just to earn prizes.
    • "D.W.'s Library Card" goes over some realistic problems with libraries. D.W. is disappointed when a book she wants has already been taken out, and it isn't even returned on time. When she does get it, the book is in bad condition and D.W. is afraid that she'll ruin it if she opens it.
  • The Dentist Episode: Arthur goes to the dentist in Arthur's Tooth and its episode adaptation.
    • D.W. also goes there briefly in "D.W. Tricks the Tooth Fairy".
  • Denser and Wackier: Retroactively, the first season is this compared to later seasons. There's a lot more Zany Cartoon-like animation (such as Buster's nightmare in "Arthur's First Sleepover" where he comically reacts in an extremely exaggerated manner, complete with eyeballs popping out of his sockets), and in particular the show was a lot more willing to occasionally forego the Willing Suspension of Disbelief for the sake of humor, such as all the outlandish pets in "Arthur's Pet Business." Special mention goes to the Imagine Spot sequences, which were a lot more outlandish in the first season than any other.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • In Binky's report on Ancient Egypt — "Mummies were dead Egyptians who died and got embalmed and tightly wrapped in cloth after they died."
    • "I'm a Poet" has Binky writing a poem for a contest with the word "poem" written four times.
  • Depending on the Writer: Some episodes have D.W. so bratty to the point of unlikability, while others have her as a more realistic (and funny) little sister character.
  • Description Cut: "Dad's Dessert Dilemma" begins with Mr. Read introducing the episode from his garage kitchen. He acknowledges that the viewer is probably expecting Arthur and says that Arthur must be doing his homework. The scene cuts to Arthur in the house kitchen cramming his face full of cookies.
    • In "D.W.'s Imaginary Friend" Nadine says she no longer wants to hang out with D.W. because Arthur does not like her. D.W. assures Nadine that Arthur likes her a lot and even hung up a picture D.W. drew of Nadine on his wall. The scene cuts to the picture just as Arthur indifferently rips it up and discards it.
  • Desert Skull: At the start of the episode "Feeling Flush," there's an Imagine Spot where the kids are walking through the desert. The very first shot we see is of a skull.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: "Brain's Brain" takes place on the days up to and including Easter, but is chiefly about Brain trying to make sense of his own mind and remember where he hid a particular Easter egg.
  • Diet Episode:
    • A variant: "Is That Kosher?" has Francine trying to fast until Yom Kippur.
    • "Arthur Weighs In" has Arthur trying to diet to lose weight.
  • Digging to China: One forlorn summer project according to S2's "The Short Quick Summer." Presumably repeated every year.
  • Disappointed in You: In "Arthur the Wrecker," Mrs. Read is "not mad, just disappointed" that Arthur disobeyed her by playing on her computer when she asked him not to. And this isn't the only instance of her using this or a similar line in the series.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named:
    • "Grandpa Dave's Memory Album" is about Grandpa Dave developing Alzheimer's Disease (or a similar ailment), but they never once call it by name.
    • Averted in "The Great MacGrady" where it's explicitly said Mrs. MacGrady has cancer. What kind of cancer, though? That isn't mentioned (but didn't need to be).
    • Subverted for "Is There a Doctor in the House?": both the Read parents get sick with an illness that has symptoms of sneezing, coughing, and sleepiness. It's not specified within the episode, but on Mrs. Read's page on the official website, she says it was a cold. That's also what official summary listings say about it.
  • Disneyland Dad: We only ever hear from Bo Baxter when he's treating Buster to something big.
  • Disney Villain Death: Arthur imagines this happening to him after D.W destroys his model airplane.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • In the episode "Draw!" Francine probably shouldn't have called Fern a mouse, but did she really deserve nearly all the other kids making rude comics about her?
    • Arthur's Big Hit. He punches D.W. for destroying his model plane!
    • In "My Club Rules," D.W. is genuinely interested in what Arthur and his friends are doing. Their response is to give her a bowling ball and tell her to kick it out of the yard, then make her draw a goofy picture of Mr. Ratburn and insult it.
    • At the end of "Arthur and the Crunch Cereal Contest", D.W. sings a song about how Arthur "stinks like a piece of yellow cheese", but is "okay as long as there's a breeze". Arthur then assaults her with snowballs.
  • Disrupting The Theater:
    • In "Buster's Growing Grudge", Buster is mad over Binky stealing his joke. At a movie theater, he is still upset and shouts about the problem as the other theatergoers stare. Francine and Arthur have to get him to calm down.
    • At the beginning of "Phony Fern", Muffy and Fern watch a sad movie about a little girl and an elephant in the movie theater. Near the end of the movie, Muffy gets a phone call from Chip, her older brother calling her from college. Muffy's talking annoys the other moviegoers, causing a few of them to leave, and Fern complains to her that she missed the movie's ending (to which Muffy tells her that the elephant dies).
  • DIY Dentistry: In the episode "Arthur's Tooth," when he finds out that he is the only one in his class who hasn't lost a tooth yet, he tries to pull his loose tooth out by doing the doorknob method, eating crunchy food, and other methods employed. He then goes to the dentist when all methods fail, and the dentist assures him that all baby teeth fall out naturally and the age of falling baby teeth vary from person to person. At the end of the episode, Arthur's baby teeth finally fall out when Francine throws a soccer ball at his face.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • "The Pride of Lakewood," a toned-down version of The Wave...and we all know what that was about...
    • "Prunella the Packrat" is reminiscent of Hoarding: Buried Alive or Hoarders, but for kids. Similarities include Prunella saving things for odd or weak reasons, not being able to let go, accumulating more stuff, and being shocked that she actually has closet space.
    • The Big Boss Bars in "To Eat or Not to Eat" are highly addictive, which could cause some viewers to think of drug addiction.
    • "All Thumbs," in which Arthur walks in on Buster sucking his thumb, treats the resulting embarrassment between the two as if Buster was caught with his pants down.
    • "Whip. Mix. Blend." has Rattles' attempt to bond with his soon-to-be step-siblings, Angie and Ansel, come off like a rough first date.
  • Domestic Appliance Disaster: In "Is There a Doctor in the House?", Arthur and D.W. try to take on the household chores after Mrs. Read gets sick with a bad cold. It doesn't go well - Arthur causes the vacuum cleaner to start smoking by vacuuming up paper clips and other objects that are too large for it, the dishwasher doesn't clean the dishes properly because they weren't scraped first and the detergent door wasn't closed, and there's other problems as well that aren't even related to appliances. Mr. Read is less than happy, especially when he discovers D.W. cut a hole in his pajamas to try to hang them, but can't grump about it too much, as he's coming down with the cold too. Fortunately, both of them turn out to be fast learners. The next day they wash the dishes by hand and are otherwise smarter in their chores, negating Mr. and Mrs. Read's plan to call in Grandma Thora for help.
  • Doomed Supermarket Display: in the episode "D.W. Gets Lost" D.W. enters the store's security room and begins playing around with the cameras to find Mom on the screens. Her antics first knock out an employee in the Video Department followed by toppling a display of tennis balls arranged in a pyramid. When she sees customers tripping over her mess her response is "Look at all those clumsy people!"
  • Don't Explain the Joke:
    • When Mr. Ratburn does a puppet show, Buster laughs and explains why the puns are funny. "It's so subtle!"
    • In "Buster Bombs," Buster notices that his friends aren't laughing at a joke he tells. He starts explaining it, and they respond that while they understand the joke, it just isn't funny.
  • Door-to-Door Episode: In "Buster's Sweet Success," Buster goes door-to-door selling chocolates. He ends up eating all the chocolates he was supposed to sell when nobody wants to buy them, and makes terrible knock-off chocolates, selling those instead.
  • Downer Ending:
    • "Nerves of Steal" ends with Buster still grounded for stealing, and being punished with no dessert.
    • "Rhyme for Your Life" ends with Arthur becoming "a prisoner of poetry" after making a rhyme and running off.
    • "The Pageant Pickle"'s ending involves Arthur's friends laughing at him after D.W. tricks him.
    • "Just the Ticket" has Arthur reflecting on the fact that he "never really wins anything" after he wins front-row concert tickets, but the stage is too tall for him to actually see the performance.
    • "Binky Can't Always Get What He Wants": While the cat adoption talent show goes well for Binky, Sue Ellen ends up with the acting job; she is in a large beet costume, falls over, and is unable to get up.
  • The Dreaded Pretend Tea Party: In "D.W.'s Backpack Mishap", Arthur follows D.W. while she tries to find out who took her backpack. One stop is Emily's house, where she invites Arthur and D.W. to a pretend tea party; Arthur reluctantly does along with it, but is very bored.
  • Dream Episode:
    • "Arthur's Underwear" (which is also a book) focuses on Arthur having frequent Not Wearing Pants Dreams.
    • A large portion of "Buenas Noches, Vicita" is about Vicita dreaming she's in her favorite story.
  • Dream Sequence: About Once per Episode.
  • Dream Within a Dream:
    • One chapter book adaptation of a story had Arthur have one of these and then lampshade it on waking up for real.
      Man, I hate double-dreams!
    • S3's "What Scared Sue Ellen?" had one in which Sue Ellen dreams that the mythical Baba Yaga is after her. Then she "wakes up," only for the Baba Yaga to appear outside her window.
    • In "Jenna's Bedtime Blues", this happens to Jenna, giving her the false impression that she had a bedwetting accident in Muffy's waterbed. It turns out that the bed itself has sprung a leak, and Jenna takes the opportunity to get up and go to the bathroom.
  • Drop-In Character: The Molina family, Carl, Lydia Fox, Cheikh, Ladonna Compson and her little brother Bud... the list goes on.
  • Duck!: Plays both meanings of the word. In "Arthur's Birthday," Arthur is trying to send a note to Muffy when he gets confronted by a group of workers in her yard. Francine tells him to duck as one approaches and he does, just as a worker who happens to be a duck walks by and quacks.


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