DVD Review: Hey Arnold! (Season 1)

Long before Stewie Griffin, there was another kid with a head shaped like a football ruling the cable dial. Arnold was a 4th grader living in a city with his grandparents on Nickelodeon’s Hey Arnold! The kid tried to look cool for ’96 with his baseball cap, plaid shirt that stuck out from his sweater and four fingers on each hand. But Arnold was a bit of a goof. He was far from smooth. He had a few friends and a major nemesis in Helga. The unibrowed gal made his life a living hell. Why? Because she had a secret crush on the schmuck. Hey Arnold!: Season 1 gives the first 20 episodes of the animated series.

“Downtown as Fruits” is more innocent than the title suggests. Arnold and his pal Gerald are cast in Helga’s play about the Four Food Groups. The duo skip the performance and take the bus to the end of the line. The real issue is how they’ll survive in the urban jungle while dressed as a banana and strawberry. They’re pretty much easy targets for hustlers. “Arnold’s Hat” shows that Helga is completely obsessed with her classmate. She steals his hat to finish her shrine to the football head kid. “6th Grade Girls” is trouble. Arnold and Gerald pretend to be sixth graders so a pair of older girls can take them to the dance. They’re good at playing mature. Things aren’t good when the real sixth grade boys don’t like them.

“Heat / Snow” flips the weather between adventures. “Heat” beats the high temperatures in unusual ways. “Snow” sticks Arnold with his grandfather instead of out playing in the white stuff with pals. “Arnold’s Christmas” doubles up for a holiday special. He plays secret Santa reuniting a family. “Benchwarmer” draws up a simple basketball play: throw the ball to the coach’s son. Arnold and his friends aren’t liking their lack of real action on the court. Arnold’s grandparents run a boarding house full of colorful characters that Arnold befriends. “The Old Building” introduces us to a tenant that work in demolition. He teaches how to swing the wrecking ball. He’s excited at the prospect of knocking over a run down theater. Trouble is Arnold knows people who want to save the theater since it once played host to a Frank Sinatra-esque singer. Can he make everybody happy or will it be an implosion at the boarding house? “Arnold’s Valentine” twists the little kid into a pretzel with three girls looking for his heart. He might resemble a football, but the ladies aren’t ready to punt him down the block.

Hey Arnold!: Season 1 holds up after all these years. The situations that crack on Arnold aren’t completely out of control. His character comes off as a 4th grader and not a middle aged man trapped in a football head. He’s a welcoming kinda guy even if he gets tripped up by life. The humor comes natural in the weirdness. It didn’t seem that unnatural for him and his pal to board a bus dressed as fruit. Those who grew up on Hey Arnold! will enjoy revisiting the old neighborhood.

The Episodes
“Downtown as Fruits / Eugene’s Bike,” “Downtown as Fruits / Eugene’s Bike,” “Downtown as Fruits / Eugene’s Bike,””Arnold’s Hat / Stoop Kid,” “Helga’s Makeover / The Old Building,” “6th Grade Girls / The Baseball,” “Heat / Snow,” “Operation Ruthless / The Vacant Lot,” “The List / Haunted Train,” “Mugged / Roughin’ It,” “Door #16 / Arnold as Cupid,” “Arnold’s Christmas,” “Benchwarmer / Cool Jerk,” “Das Subway / Wheezin’ Ed,” “Tutoring Torvald / Gerald Comes Over,” “Spelling Bee / Pigeon Man,” “Olga Comes Home / Sally’s Comet,” “Abner Come Home / The Sewer King,” “False Alarm / World Records,””Magic Show / 24 Hours to Live” and “Arnold’s Valentine.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are sharp so that you can enjoy the urban landscapes Arnold and pals roam around. A few years ago, Hey Arnold! was released as burn on demand DVD-Rs. The quality on this DVD release is so much better. The audio is stereo. The mix is fine for the sounds of 4th grade horrors.

No bonus features.

Hey Arnold!: Season 1 is an elementary school delight. Arnold is a likable enough kid who has plenty of goofy problem in his life. He means well even if he’s rather clueless as to Helga’s real emotions for him. The show holds up for adult viewing if you have fond memories of the series when you were young nearly 15 years ago.

Shout! Factory presents Hey Arnold!: Season 1. Starring: Toran Caudell, Francesca Smith, Jamil Walker Smith and Dan Castellaneta. Boxset Contents: 20 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: August 9, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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