A few weeks ago there was a podcast interview with Craig Bartlett (the creator of the 90’s Nickelodeon show, Hey Arnold!) who expressed interest in rebooting the series. So far an air date has not been stated or even an entire plan, but the idea is there.
When I first heard the news I immediately thought of Girl Meets World (the Disney channel sequel to Boy Meets World). A popular show from the 90’s returning to reach out to a new audience in a new decade. I always remembered Hey Arnold! being quite clever for it’s demographic and a series that always stood out to me. I loved the set up, I loved the city they created, the variety of characters, and the dialogue. To this day I can still recall the Pigeon Man episode or Stoop Kid or the Christmas special that I couldn’t watch with my family because it made me tear up at the end. The plots were unique, fresh, entertaining, and definitely ingrained themselves into my memory.
Even when I catch a rerun every now and then, it still holds up pretty well. Yes, it is slightly dated and yes, some of the plots come off as a bit silly, but it’s still good. As much as I can complain about reboots or continuations, I think that Hey Arnold! could work. If put into the right hands (and having the creator on board) it could be pulled off quite nicely. It would be great for younger audiences to discover the show and experience the quick wit and realistic situations hidden under the goofiness.
I always found the home lives of these characters interesting, especially Arnold and Helga. The writers never shied away from displaying the heartbreaking pieces of these character’s environments. While Helga’s parents do love her, she is still in a home where she’s often dismissed. There’s an episode that shows her as a child going to preschool only to walk their herself because her parents forgot about her. In another episode she comes home from school to find that there’s no food in the house because her mom forgot to shop (and her mom seems to be taking something, but that could be reading too far into things).
In addition, there’s an episode where she temporarily has a nanny and once the nanny leaves she tells Helga that she holds so much anger in her heart. She hopes that she eventually finds happiness. Helga is 9 years old. Her anger issues are nothing new, but to have an adult confront her makes her situation all the more upsetting. After reading the letter, Helga picks up a sewing project the nanny had taught her which is meant to bring her some peace. I appreciate that ending now that I’m older because Helga wasn’t magically fixed. Instead she began playing with a needle and thread which demonstrates a desire to escape for a moment and choose a path that can lead to a healthier mental state.
The same idea would happen to Arnold or almost anyone. With Arnold, it was always a struggle to have all the residents in the apartment get along, but they always found a way to work out their differences. The situation wasn’t always easily corrected and a few episodes later another argument would arise, but the characters would often come to an understanding. That’s important for young viewers because it shows them that there is no magical cure to disagreements or a poor situation. It takes listening to the people around and finding the ability to move forward.
Those ideals were never done in a way that felt like they were beating me over the head. They were simply placed there and I believe that this would be perfect for an audience of any decade.Perhaps an updated version is just what new and old viewers need.
Despite my feelings on reboots, I say go for it. I would love to see a modern Hey Arnold! find it’s way to a fresh audience.