Nickelodeon began producing original content in earnest during the tail end of the 1980's. At first, they had been rebroadcasting programming from other parts of the world like Canada ("You Can't Do That On Television") and Spain ("David the Gnome"). The cable network began with live-action series like "Hey Dude" and "Salute Your Shorts." In 1991, they produced animated shows under the brand Nicktoons with the most well-known being the controversial "Ren & Stimpy." Also debuting at the same time were more the kid-friendly cartoons, "Rugrats" and "Doug." Thanks to these early efforts Nick became the home for other popular series like "Spongebob Squarepants," "Rocko's Modern Life," "The Wild Thornberries," "Invader Zim," and "Hey Arnold."
"Hey Arnold" was originally created as a comic strip by Craig Bartlett, a writer for "Rugrats." The show debuted in 1996 and revolved around the misadventures of Arnold, a fourth grader with an oddly shaped head. Arnold lived with his grandparents in a boarding house located in the fictional city of Hillwood, which was based on Bartlett's hometown, Seattle, and Portland, where Bartlett went to art school. Arnold's neighborhood of brownstones is also reminiscent of New York City. Just like the Big Apple, Arnold's home is littered with colorful characters, like a pig-faced bully named Harold and Stoop Kid, who yells at passers-by, but never leaves his stoop. Arnold is best friends with Gerald, an African-American boy with a Kid 'N Play hairdo. On occasion, they must deal with Helga, a girl with a unibrow, who treats Arnold harshly and calls him "football head" in order to conceal her secret crush on him.
The kids learn valuable lessons from time to time, but show generally avoids schmaltzy "very special" episodes. The best installments of "Hey Arnold" involve the protagonists getting into over-the-top antics, such as treasure hunting or delving into underground tunnels to face the eccentric Sewer King, voiced by David Landers from "Laverne & Shirley." Other guest-stars you'll hear are Mark Hamill, James Belushi, Lacey Chabert, Tony Jay, and Vincent Schiavelli. "Simpsons" cast members Dan Castellaneta and Tress MacNeille voice Arnold's grandparents.
"Hey Arnold" was previously made available on DVD through Amazon's manufacture-on-demand program, CreateSpace. Now, Shout! Factory owns the rights and has released Season 1 in a 4-disc set. Each half-hour episode is consists of two installments save for the Christmas and Valentine's Day episodes. Included here are:
"Downtown as Fruits & Eugene's Bike" – Arnold gets into misadventures with Gerald while dressed as fruits for a school play, then befriends a klutzy boy named Eugene.
"The Little Pink Book & Field Trip" – Helga sneaks into Arnold's room to retrieve a journal containing love poems about him. Arnold tries to rescue a tortoise he believes is being mistreated at the local aquarium.
"Arnold's Hat & Stoop Kid" – Helga takes Arnold's hat not realizing the affect it would have on him. Arnold also gets to know the Stoop Kid, an older boy who fastidiously guards his front stoop from everyone else.
"Helga's Makeover & The Old Bulldog" – Helga is angered when the other girls don't invite her to their slumber party. Arnold is caught in the middle when his Grandma tries to save a historic theater from being torn down.
"6th Grade Girls & The Baseball" – Arnold and Gerald pretend to be 6th graders in order to snag two cute dates, then go to a ball game to see their favorite player before he retires.
"Heat & Snow" – Arnold faces weather of both extremes when he tries to cool off during a heat wave and gets stuck shoveling snow in the winter while his friends play.
"Operation: Ruthless & The Vacant Lot" – Helga tries to sabotage Arnold's attempts to approach his long-time crush, Ruth, at the state fair. Later, Arnold and the gang clean up an abandoned lot to use as a baseball field.
"The List & Haunted Train" – Arnold tries to complete all items on the list for a kid's "Perfect Saturday," then investigates Grandpa's legends of a Haunted Train.
"Mugged & Roughin' It" – Arnold gets martial arts lessons from Grandma after his bus pass is stolen, then goes on an old school camping trip with Grandpa.
"Door #16 & Arnold as Cupid" – Arnold tries to return a package to the reclusive Mr. Smith, then tries to get his neighbors, Mr. & Mrs. Kokoshka, back together.
"Arnold's Christmas" – Arnold and Gerald have to believe in Christmas miracles when they try to reunite Mr. Huynh with his long-lost daughter.
"Benchwarmer & Cool Jerk" – Arnold signs up for the basketball team, but gets bummed when the coach wants everyone to pass to his son. Arnold also befriends a motorcycle riding teen, who isn't as cool as he thought.
"Das Subway & Wheezin' Ed" – After they miss their bus, Arnold and the gang take the subway for the very first time. Then, it's "Goonies" time when Arnold embarks on a hunt for lost treasure.
"Tutoring Torvald & Gerald Comes Over" – Arnold becomes the math tutor for a fourth grade bully, then takes Gerald on a tour of the apartment building on rent day.
"Spelling Bee & Pigeon Man" – Arnold and Helga represent their school in the finals of the city-wide spelling bee. When one of Arnold's pigeons gets sick, he visits the mysterious Pigeon Man.
"Olga Comes Home & Sally's Comet" – Helga feels inferior when her older sister, Helga, comes to visit. Arnold and Gerald try to get everyone to turn down their lights so they can Sally's Comet.
"Abner, Come Home & The Sewer King" – Arnold searches all over the city when his beloved pig runs away. Then, he and Gerald descend into the sewers to search for Grandpa's missing watch.
"False Alarm & World Records" – Arnold holds a kids' court to get to the bottom of who pulled the fire alarm, then the kids try anything to get into the book of world records.
"Magic Show & 24 Hours to Live" – Arnold dreams of a world where Helga disappears then prepares for a showdown against Harold.
"Arnold's Valentine" – In this special Valentine's Day episode, Arnold finally gets a date with Ruth while Helga poses as a French exchange student to woo him.
The video is presented in its original fullscreen aspect ratio. The picture quality is clean and colors are sharp.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. This is a basic sound mix with the music, dialogue, and effects coming in crisp and clear.
"Hey Arnold" isn't a complex exploration of childhood dynamics. It is solid entertainment for the young ones with a few episodes that may appeal to older viewers.