The BEST PBS Shows

The top 50 shows on PBS

The New Yankee Workshop

#1 - The New Yankee Workshop

In this PBS series, craftsman Norm Abram demonstrates how to build quality furniture in one's own workshop using traditional carpentry techniques. Abram also gives pointers on restoring and caring for antique furniture, along with short history lessons regarding famous craftsmen of America's past.

star 9.57
325 votes
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Jazz

#2 - Jazz

This series explores the history of the major American musical form. We track its development in African American culture, its rise to prominence with its golden age of popularity spanning from the 1920's to the mid 1940's both in its original form and in Swing through its popular decline and the rise of vital new sub-genres into the present day. Along the way, we learn of the lives and work of major contributors to the form such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Charlie "Bird" Parker and many others who helped form Jazz into the vibrant musical form it is. Moreover, we see how the music reflected the political and social issues of the African American community over the course of the form's history.

star 9.35
191 votes
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Cosmos

#3 - Cosmos

Carl Sagan brings us the Cosmos, everything that ever was and ever will be, in an approach that is easily accessible even for those of us that are not science wizards. This 13 part series covers everything from the history of astronomy, the challenges it faced at its creation, how the universe was created and how it all might end.First aired in 1980, updated segments have been added to the series to include recent discoveries and the current theories in astronomy.Winner of an Emmy and a Peabody Award.

star 9.32
2,534 votes
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Frontline

#4 - Frontline

Since it began in 1983, Frontline has been airing public-affairs documentaries that explore a wide scope of the complex human experience. Frontline's goal is to extend the impact of the documentary beyond its initial broadcast by serving as a catalyst for change.

star 9.24
789 votes
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Reading Rainbow

#5 - Reading Rainbow

Host LeVar Burton shepherds children through the exciting world of books with celebrity guest narrations, youth book reviews, and relevant cultural tie-ins.

star 9.09
187 votes
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The Vietnam War (2017)

#6 - The Vietnam War (2017)

An immersive 360-degree narrative telling the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film. Featuring testimony from nearly 80 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.

star 9.05
608 votes
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How We Got to Now

#7 - How We Got to Now

How We Got To Now with Steven Johnson reveals the story behind the remarkable ideas that made modern life possible; the unsung heroes that brought them into the world – and the unexpected and bizarre consequences each of these innovations has triggered. It's a journey that takes Steven to meet penguins in the middle of the desert, deep down into the sewers of San Francisco and to the frozen wastes of the Arctic to fish with the Inuit.

star 8.98
142 votes
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NOVA

#8 - NOVA

Seen in more than 100 countries, NOVA is the most watched science television series in the world and the most watched documentary series on PBS. It is also one of television's most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over.

star 8.95
2,027 votes
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Wishbone

#9 - Wishbone

An intelligent and witty dog imagines himself in the role of characters from classic books and gets involved in similar real-life adventures.

star 8.95
122 votes
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The Civil War

#10 - The Civil War

Between 1861 and 1865, Americans made war on each other and killed each other in great numbers - if only to become the kind of country that could no longer conceive of how that was possible. What began as a bitter dispute over Union and States' Rights, ended as a struggle over the meaning of freedom in America.

star 8.87
398 votes
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The Elegant Universe

#11 - The Elegant Universe

Eleven dimensions, parallel universes, and a world made out of strings. It's not science fiction, it's string theory.

star 8.86
153 votes
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The Berenstain Bears

#12 - The Berenstain Bears

We follow a family of bears, known as the Berenstain Bears, as they figure out life together. With friendly neighbors and close friends, the journey is never boring. Inspired by the book series written by Stan and Jan Berenstain.

star 8.85
108 votes
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Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth

#13 - Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth

Bill Moyers interviews legendary scholar and teacher Joseph Campbell about the origins and meanings of mythology. Using history, art, Jungian psychology, and even modern cinema, Campbell demonstrates the origins of mythic images in the deepest parts of our psyche and the power of myth in our daily lives. Most of these conversations were filmed at George Lucas' 'Skywalker Ranch.' Lucas volunteered the use of the buildings to thank Professor Campbell for the role his work played in shaping Lucas' Star Wars films.

star 8.83
96 votes
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Baseball

#14 - Baseball

Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns is an Emmy Award-winning 1994 documentary series by about the game of baseball, originally aired on PBS.

star 8.82
228 votes
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American Experience

#15 - American Experience

Examine the people, events, technology, and natural resources that have shaped the country. Hosted by David McCullough until 2002 and narrated by a number of well-known personalities - The American Experience uses historians and authors, period images and film, music, dramatic re-enactments, and contemporary context to set the stage for its topics.

star 8.80
402 votes
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American Masters

#16 - American Masters

To honor America's most notable creative artists and the inspiration behind their work. Special broadcasts profiles a cross-section of the nation's finest artistic pioneers from the past and present.

star 8.79
229 votes
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Bill Nye: The Science Guy

#17 - Bill Nye: The Science Guy

Comedian/scientist Bill Nye stars as the host of this show designed to get kids interested in the science of everyday, and some not-so-everyday, things. On a full range of subjects, including ecology, biology, chemistry and physics, Nye gives an easy-to-understand, yet informative lesson that both kids and their parents can enjoy.

star 8.75
432 votes
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The Mind of a Chef

#18 - The Mind of a Chef

The Mind of a Chef combines travel, cooking, history, science, and humor into an unforgettable journey. Producer and narrator Anthony Bourdain explores the creative processes of international celebrity chefs to learn what fuels their culinary artistry.

star 8.68
163 votes
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Globe Trekker

#19 - Globe Trekker

Globe Trekker takes to on journeys to countries from every continent around the globe. Each unforgettable destination is hosted by one of the Globe Trekker team members, who dare to try or eat anything new. Join veteran Ian Wright, Justine Shapiro, Megan McCormick and their teammates on their journeys by tuning in your local PBS channels.

star 8.66
191 votes
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Austin City Limits

#20 - Austin City Limits

Great music. No limits. Now the longest-running music series in American television history, ACL showcases popular music legends and innovators from every genre.

star 8.63
258 votes
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America's Test Kitchen

#21 - America's Test Kitchen

In "America's Test Kitchen From Cook's Illustrated," a team of expert chefs continue to provide viewers with practical recipes and recommendations that they can use to save money, time and effort in the kitchen. With its uniquely scientific flavor, the show uses blind tasting judges, flash animations and laboratory procedures to answer a variety of kitchen questions. Putting everything from pasta and pasta pots, cheese and cheese graters, as well as host Chris Kimball to the test, this series offers surprises that often defy price points and move beyond fancy packaging and brand expectations.

star 8.60
279 votes
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Ghostwriter (1992)

#22 - Ghostwriter (1992)

Ghostwriter was the story of a group of New York City kids, brought together by the spiritual being known as "Ghostwriter". The kids work together, with Ghostwriter's help, to solve the mysteries they encounter. The series featured a cast of widely different ethnic groups, and focused on the concept of "making reading fun."

star 8.55
122 votes
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The National Parks: America's Best Idea

#23 - The National Parks: America's Best Idea

The National Parks: America's Best Idea is a six-episode series directed by Ken Burns and written and co-produced by Dayton Duncan. Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales – from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska - The National Parks: America's Best Idea is nonetheless a story of people: people from every conceivable background – rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.

star 8.52
260 votes
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The War

#24 - The War

The War is the story of the Second World War through the personal accounts of a handful of men and women from four American towns. The war touched the lives of every family on every street in every town in America and demonstrated that in extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives. A seven-part series by Ken Burns which includes interviews and archive footage.

star 8.52
344 votes
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Rick Steves' Europe

#25 - Rick Steves' Europe

Rick Steves has been the "travel guinea pig" for American Public Television since Travels in Europe with Rick Steves debuted in April of 1991. In his program, Rick shows some out-of-the-way places the average traveler misses, offers countless travel tips, and always enjoys being immersed in the adventure.

star 8.47
256 votes
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NOVA scienceNOW

#26 - NOVA scienceNOW

NOVA scienceNOW is a news magazine version of the venerable PBS science program NOVA. Premiering on January 25, 2005, the series was originally hosted by Robert Krulwich, who described it as an experiment in coverage of "breaking science, science that's right out of the lab, science that sometimes bumps up against politics, art, culture". At the beginning of season two, Neil deGrasse Tyson replaced Krulwich as the show's host. Following season five, David Pogue began hosting.

star 8.46
404 votes
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PBS Specials

#27 - PBS Specials

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is an American non-profit public broadcasting television service with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. However, its operations are largely funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Its headquarters are in Arlington, Virginia. PBS is the most prominent provider of programming to U.S. public television stations, distributing series such as PBS NewsHour, Masterpiece, and Frontline. Since the mid-2000s, Roper polls commissioned by PBS have consistently placed the service as America's most trusted national institution. However, PBS is not responsible for all programming carried on public TV stations; in fact, stations usually receive a large portion of their content (including most pledge drive specials) from third-party sources, such as American Public Television, NETA, and independent producers.

star 8.40
278 votes
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This Old House

#28 - This Old House

This Old House celebrates the fusion on old world craftsmanship and modern technology. Each season features two renovation projects. Project One traditionally consists of eighteen or more so episodes and is filmed in Massachusetts. Project Two is taped in a different region of the country to highlight the variety of American architectural styles and renovation issues.

star 8.38
323 votes
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Country Music

#29 - Country Music

Explore the history of a uniquely American art form: country music. From its deep and tangled roots in ballads, blues and hymns performed in small settings, to its worldwide popularity, learn how country music evolved over the course of the 20th century, as it eventually emerged to become America’s music.

star 8.31
41 votes
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Cook's Country

#30 - Cook's Country

Cook's Country From America's Test Kitchen uncovers the best of American home cooking. Our recipes are developed through in-depth kitchen testing. The result: foolproof recipes you can trust to work the first time—and every time. Cooks's Country From America's Test Kitchen features the cast and crew of America's Test Kitchen, the top-rated cooking show on public television—now in its ninth season. Our new show is filmed in a renovated 1806 farmhouse with a full working test kitchen. Watch us update traditional American recipes—everything from California Barbecued Tri-Tip and Cincinnati Chili to Mashed Potato Casserole and Chocolate Blackout Cake. You'll learn what makes a recipe succeed (or fail) as well as which kitchen tools, cookware, and supermarket ingredients have won our independent tests. Join us every week as we bring the pages of Cook's Country magazine into your home.

star 8.29
233 votes
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Prohibition

#31 - Prohibition

Prohibition is a three-part, five-and-a-half-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that tells the story of the rise, rule, and fall of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the entire era it encompassed.

star 8.28
276 votes
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Nature

#32 - Nature

Stunning documentaries transport viewers to faraway places ranging from the steamy plains of Africa to the splendors of cold Antarctica. The main focus of the program is on animals and ecosystems around the world.

star 8.26
493 votes
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Liberty's Kids

#33 - Liberty's Kids

Liberty's Kids was a truly "revolutionary" children's animated series by DIC. For as long as it ran on PBS, Liberty's Kids entertained seven to twelve-year-olds while introducing them to the exciting stories and people behind the birth of a nation. The program unfurled its historical vignettes through the eyes of two teenage apprentices, Sarah Phillips and James Hiller, who worked in Benjamin Franklin's print shop and discovered first-hand the great adventures of the American Revolution. Benjamin Franklin's wise words and strong principled actions gave guidance to our young heroes, whether he is with them in Philadelphia or writing from across the ocean in France.

star 8.22
112 votes
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Dragon Tales

#34 - Dragon Tales

Two Hispanic children, Max and Emmy, move into a new home. Like any young children, they're not quite happy at first about moving. Then, Emmy finds a secret drawer and inside is box containing a magical, shimmering dragon scale. Hmmm... there's some words on the box. What do they say? "I wish, I wish, with all my heart, to fly with dragons, in a land apart." The magical decorations fly around them, transporting them (and us) to Dragon Land. Brought to you by Sesame Workshop (formerly Children's Television Workshop), the company that brings you Sesame Street it's Dragon Tales! Join Cassie, Ord, Zak & Wheezie, Quetzal, and their human friends, Max and Emmy in two daily adventures, each separated by a musical interstitial, "Dragon Tunes." Dragon Tales has enjoyed two seasons and many years of success on PBSKids. The show's popularity has spawned book, video, DVD and CD releases and even a live stage show. Now, the show's popularity has prompted its return. The third season is no

star 8.20
153 votes
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Super WHY!

#35 - Super WHY!

Super WHY! is a new program designed to help teach kids that reading can be fun by illustrated children’s tales. Kids will learn through four interactive heroes who use reading to solve mysteries overcome obstacles. The fairy tale books that the interactive heroes travel into are somewhat different from the original story.

star 8.13
234 votes
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Wild Kratts

#36 - Wild Kratts

The Kratt brothers go around the world looking for animals and use "creature power suits" - suits created by their friend, Aviva, out of the creatures' DNA. There are three villains in the show: Zach Varmitech, who controls the creatures' minds and uses them as slaves; Donita Donata, who freezes creatures and sells them alive as jewelry; and Gourmond, who makes expensive gourmet dishes out of endangered species. The Kratts use their creature powers to foil these three villains' plots.

star 8.13
331 votes
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The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

#37 - The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

THE ROOSEVELTS: AN INTIMATE HISTORY chronicles the lives of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. It is the first time in a major documentary television series that their individual stories have been interwoven into a single narrative. This seven-part, fourteen hour film follows the Roosevelts for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of those years, Theodore would become the 26th President of the United States and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry his fifth cousin, Franklin, who became the 32nd President of the United States. Together, these three individuals not only redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, but also redefined the role of the United States within the wider world. The series encompasses the history the Roosevelts helped to shape: the creation of National Parks, the digging of the Panama Canal, the passage of innovative New Deal programs, the defeat of Hitler, and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights abroad. It is also an intimate human story about love, betrayal, family loyalty, personal courage and the conquest of fear.

star 8.13
177 votes
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Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

#38 - Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

A new animated continuation to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, where all the original characters are now grown up with their own preschool-aged children.

star 8.10
238 votes
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The West

#39 - The West

This documentary covers the history of the American West from the Native American tribes to their encounter with Europeans and how the Europeans conquered them and settled the land. In telling this story, the film takes into the account to both the viewpoints of Indians and other minorities to balance the white populations history.

star 8.09
68 votes
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The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!

#40 - The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!

That silly Cat in the Hat is back, and this time in his own colorfully animated TV show! The show is based on The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library book series and centers around a science-based curriculum for kids. In each musical episode, The Cat in the Hat visits his friends Nick and Sally. A science related question gets their brains going, and with the help of Thing One, Thing Two and the Fish, The Cat in the Hat takes Sally and Nick on a wondrous adventure to get a first-hand answer to their natural science-based question.

star 7.96
115 votes
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Soundbreaking

#41 - Soundbreaking

Soundbreaking explores the history of recorded music. Featuring more than 150 original interviews, the series charts a century's worth of innovation and experimentation, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at the birth of brand new sounds.

star 7.91
248 votes
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Curious George

#42 - Curious George

George lives to find new things to discover, touch, spill, and chew. Everything is new to George and worth investigating. Of course, in George's hands - all four of them - investigation often leads to unintended consequences! Throughout George's adventures, he encounters and models basic concepts in each of the three content areas.

star 7.90
580 votes
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Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

#43 - Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Fred Rogers hosts this children's television program that teaches children the important issues of life, such as being friendly, sharing, etc. Also features an imaginary world with puppets living in a medieval-type kingdom.

star 7.84
263 votes
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The Magic School Bus

#44 - The Magic School Bus

A classroom taught by Ms. Valerie Frizzle is always fun and exciting. The colorful teacher owns a Magic School Bus which can transform into different things like a spaceship, a battery, or even an alligator! These things can help Ms. Frizzle with visual teaching methods as she reveals information about anything in science. The students include Carlos, Phoebe, Keesha, Dorothy Ann, Tim, Ralphie, Arnold, and Wanda. Originally, The Magic School Bus aired on PBS. But when production ceased after four years, The Magic School Bus's run on PBS ended with it.

star 7.78
388 votes
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The Dust Bowl

#45 - The Dust Bowl

THE DUST BOWL, a film by Ken Burns, chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the frenzied wheat boom of the "Great Plow-Up," followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation. Vivid interviews with twenty-six survivors of those hard times, combined with dramatic photographs and seldom seen movie footage, bring to life stories of incredible human suffering and equally incredible human perseverance. It is also a morality tale about our relationship to the land that sustains us—a lesson we ignore at our peril.

star 7.48
185 votes
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Ask This Old House

#46 - Ask This Old House

The crew at This Old House take on some pretty big projects, which means they can only work on one or two houses a year. But homeowners have a virtual truckload of questions on smaller projects, and the TOH crew is ready to answer. Ask This Old House solves the steady stream of home improvement problems faced by viewers - and the crew even makes house calls!

star 7.31
219 votes
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Dinosaur Train

#47 - Dinosaur Train

Friendly dinosaurs climb aboard a train to visit different times throughout the prehistoric age, learning about dinosaurs and having fun adventures.

star 7.29
377 votes
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Clifford the Big Red Dog

#48 - Clifford the Big Red Dog

Clifford the Big Red Dog is a fun show aimed towards younger audiences. Clifford, a 20 foot tall red dog, plays with his dog friends, Cleo and T-Bone, and has great adventures with them. Clifford's best friend, however, is Emily Elizabeth Howard, his owner. Emily has friends of her own and all the characters live peacefully on Birdwell Island. Each Clifford the Big Red Dog episode consists of two stories, linked by a "Speckle Story," a story read to Clifford by Emily Elizabeth about the adventures of a dog named Speckle. At the end of each episode is a "big idea" presented by Clifford, followed by a short promotional spot for one of the characters on Clifford. Please note that some online guides list two big ideas for each episode. The "big idea" listed in this guide will always be only the one that actually airs at the end of the episode itself. Also included is a short segment featuring a real kid with his/her dog. However, most, if not all, PBS stations no longer show this s

star 7.24
179 votes
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Mercy Street

#49 - Mercy Street

Based on real events, Mercy Street takes viewers beyond the battlefield and into the lives of a distinctive cast of characters — doctors, nurses, contraband laborers and Southern loyalists — realizing the chaotic world of Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia, and the Mansion House Hospital in the early years of the Civil War.

star 7.22
343 votes
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Arthur

#50 - Arthur

Arthur Read, the spectacular bespectacled aardvark, stars in this children's series about growing up. Typical childhood problems such as bratty siblings, schoolyard bullies and classroom cliques are addressed by this popular program which has been running for 20 years on PBS. Developed from Marc Brown's beloved books, Arthur reminds us all of how it feels to be 8 years old. Just like your average kid, Arthur overcomes the dreaded obstacles of third-grade life, such as his tough teacher Mr. Ratburn, bullies, and mountains of homework. At home, Arthur must also face the pint-sized terror known as his sister Dora Winifred, or D.W. for short. Everything between these two is a struggle; such as who gets control of the television remote, or who can play their Crazy Bus CD. Arthur often relies on his best friend Buster Baxter, a rabbit.

star 7.22
456 votes
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