Celebrating 'Arthur'

The Baltimore Sun

I use this space almost every day to tell you about prime-time programs that look appealing. There is plenty of that tonight, ranging from Heroes on NBC at 9, to CSI: Miami on CBS at 10.

In fact, the 10 p.m. network lineup is pretty good across the board with NBC offering the second week of its pleasantly off-kilter detective series Life, while ABC serves up another episode of Boston Legal.

But every so often something special and a little different comes along, and that's what I want to highlight today: the season premiere of the PBS children's series Arthur. You remember Arthur; it's the kids' show that teaches diversity.

In today's season opener - titled Is That Kosher? - comedian Joan Rivers gives voice to a tart-tongued grandma who visits the home of Francine, one of the cartoon kids, for the Yom Kippur holiday. Francine wants to fast during the holiday like her older sister, but Grandma thinks she's too young.

Amid all the wisecracks and laughter is a sensitive and smart exploration of Jewish religion and culture that entertains as it informs.

This is children's television at its best, and you don't have to be Jewish to love this episode and the kind of great work the producers and writers of Arthur do episode in and episode out. (5 p.m., WETA) ****

LATE-NIGHT GUESTS: Actor Gerard Butler visits the Tonight Show with Jay Leno (11:35 p.m., NBC); actor Russell Crowe appears on the Late Show with David Letterman (11:35 p.m., CBS).

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