Alabama Public Television has chosen not to air a headline-grabbing episode of Arthur, because the recent instalment of the PBS children’s show includes a same-sex wedding.
“Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone” aired on May 13 and served as the premiere of the longrunning show’s 22nd season.
The episode, which made headlines and sparked a frenzy on social media, culminates with the title character and his schoolmates attending the wedding of their teacher and his same-sex partner. The storyline revolves around mistaken identity, and the episode includes no explicit mention of Mr. Ratburn’s sexuality.
APT showed a rerun instead.
According to APT director of programming Mike McKenzie, American public broadcaster PBS alerted its stations and affiliates in mid-April that they may encounter viewer concerns about the content of the episode and gave them the option to preview it.
McKenzie said he has no plans to air the episode.
“Although we strongly encourage parents to watch television with their children and talk about what they have learned afterwards, parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision. We also know that children who are younger than the ‘target’ audience for Arthur also watch the program,” he said in a statement to NBC News and AL.com.
McKenzie told entertainment outlet The Wrap he felt the depiction of a same-sex relationship would have raised serious objections among many APT viewers.
“Many parents feel that Mr. Ratburn’s marriage conveys a positive message that they think is appropriate for their children. Many other parents disagree, either because their children are too young, or because of their beliefs,” he said.
“The vast majority of parents will not have heard about the content, whether they agree with it or not, and our greatest concern was taking away these parents’ choice…. Our broadcast would take away the choice of parents who feel it is inappropriate.”
McKenzie also encouraged parents who wish to watch the episode to stream it from the PBS website.
In 2005, an episode of Arthur spinoff series Postcards from Buster stoked controversy with an episode that showed kids from families with lesbian moms.
At the time, PBS came under fire for declining to officially distribute the episode, although dozens of individual stations subsequently requested and aired it. Alabama Public Television did not air the Postcards from Buster episode in question.