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"Arthur – It's Only Rock 'n' Roll"
Original Airdate: United States September 1, 2002[1][2]
United Kingdom January 3, 2003[3]
Written by: Kathy Waugh
Storyboard by: Gerry Capelle
Helene Cossette
Nadja Cozic
Elie Klimos
Sylvie Lafrance
Jeremy O'Neill
Zhigang Wang
Harry Rasmussen
Ivan Tankushev
"Special: Arthur's Perfect Christmas"
"Special: D.W. and the Beastly Birthday"
Read transcript

"Arthur – It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" is an hour-long special of Arthur that aired on September 1, 2002, and served as the premiere of Season 7, which started a month and one week later.


When the prospect of an Elwood City concert by a popular boy band drives everyone else into a frenzy, a disgusted Francine decides to counter with an "anti-cute" band of her own called U Stink. But things don't go quite the way she had planned. The Backstreet Boys—Kevin, AJ, Howie D., Brian, and Nick—guest star as animated versions of themselves.[1]


After watching the music video of "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys, Francine tells Muffy that they are sellouts, and decides to start her own band. After auditioning 14 people, the only good musician she could find is Mrs. MacGrady, who plays the keyboard. Mrs. MacGrady encourages Francine not to give up and suggests that she recruit the other musicians herself.

Francine speaks to Binky, who is a good clarinet player, and Molly, the only person Binky knows who can play guitar. When they are told they'll get whatever they want as snacks, they agree to join the band.

Arthur and Buster (who were rejected by Francine earlier), decide to start their own band, "We Stink."

During their first practice, it becomes obvious that Francine can't sing and play the drums at the same time, so Fern is recruited as their lead singer.

The next day at school, Principal Haney asks Francine if she and her band could play the PTA fundraiser, and she says yes, though they don't have a name yet.

During practice, a man in the apartment building next door criticizes them, which inspires Francine to call the band U Stink.

After the concert, U Stink becomes wildly popular throughout Elwood City, and Francine gets an interview with the local cable access channel.

Francine later tells Fern that she refused to play the annual book sale at the library. Fern doesn't get why Francine did that, but Francine tells her that the fame is getting out of hand and that nobody asked Fern anyway; U Stink is Francine's band.

Fern says that it isn't selling out to be popular, and this leads Francine to quit the band; she is replaced with a drum machine.

Meanwhile, Arthur and Buster's band practice doesn't go well, and U Stink is having trouble writing new songs without Francine. Then, Muffy calls and offers to be their manager, which Fern accepts.

When Fern and Francine fight, Mrs. MacGrady suggests to Fern that she should try to get Francine back.

Muffy has the group shoot a music video, and that doesn't do so well. Despite this, she mails the VHS anyway to the Backstreet Boys and even has a fantasy about Nick Carter watching the music video.

U Stink plays a gig at D.W.'s preschool, which flops due to a lack of original material.

Meanwhile, Francine asks to join Arthur, Buster and George's band, and after she does, the band eventually breaks up.

Meanwhile, Muffy doesn't hear back from the Backstreet Boys. Determined to meet Nick Carter, she comes up with a plan for when she's at the Backstreet Boys concert, which is being sponsored by Crosswire Motors. She gets a roadie to make sure that Nick can stay behind. When the band members go into an elevator, the roadie says there is a limit of four boys per elevator, and gets Nick to go into a different elevator. Muffy goes into the elevator with Nick. However, things don't go exactly as planned, and they both end up getting stuck in the elevator, all because Muffy hit the wrong button. This delays the concert, as the rest of the Backstreet Boys refuse to begin the show without Nick. A.J. asks if anybody checked the elevator. Mr. Crosswire calls the emergency phone in the elevator and talks to Muffy. She tells him that U Stink is in the audience, and he asks for U Stink to come up on stage and perform their hit song.

Unfortunately, the remaining members of U Stink aren't prepared to perform its first big gig, so they try to convince Francine to rejoin the band. To their surprise, she accepts, but she is very nervous to be up in front of a huge crowd. Brian gives her a pep talk, and she begins the song. However, Fern is also very nervous and sings very softly. But once Kevin comes out and start singing, Fern regains her confidence. When the rest of the Backstreet Boys come onto the stage, the concert turns out well for all the fans in attendance.

The U Stink members other than Fern and Francine want to quit. Fern says she and Francine will need new members, and Francine suggests George and Buster.

Muffy is feeling depressed; she has lost U Stink, and she is disillusioned with Nick, who wasn't interested in the offer she made to have U Stink tour with The Backstreet Boys. Francine tells The Backstreet Boys that she thinks they are very good musicians, and she hopes they don't forget that music is more important than commercialization. Howie comes to the window of Muffy's limo, and hands her one of her films that she had left in the elevator. He says that it looks professional, and adds that, perhaps someday, Muffy could be the band's manager. Muffy is elated to hear this, and now considers Howie to be her favorite member of The Backstreet Boys.








  • At the end of this special, the Backstreet Boys sing the opening theme, Believe in Yourself.
  • This marks the first time the PBS Kids Fishbowl logo makes an appearance on Arthur, and 1 of the 2 home media releases to have it. The other home media release that uses it is the 2005 DVD release of Arthur's Tooth.
  • At the beginning of this episode, the Backstreet Boys are seen in real life, but then they are animated throughout the remainder of the special.
  • This is noted to be the first time that Aaron Grunfeld voices Tommy Tibble, but Jonathan Koensgen was credited as the voice of Tommy.
  • This is the first time that Jason Szwimer voices D.W. The first time he voiced D.W. in a regular episode was in "Cast Away." However, in the 2002 print of the special, the previous voice actor of D.W., Oliver Grainger, is still heard during the website promo after the credits and the bonus footage of the Backstreet Boys.
  • This is the last episode where Patricia Rodriguez voices Catherine.
  • Despite his name being in the title, Arthur only plays a minor role in this special.
  • The 2022 airing keeps the original Cinar and WGBH logos while the re runs of the first 8 seasons and Arthur's Perfect Christmas do not because they have the 2008 Cookie Jar logo.
  • Post's Alpha-Bits Cereal sponsored this special.
  • The members of the band BINKY are seen several times throughout the episode. Since they are holograms, this is just the animators recycling character models for the many crowd scenes that needed them.
  • Emily and Liam both make cameo appearances when Marie-Hélène holds their hands.
  • Brian and Howie are rabbits and Kevin, A.J., and Nick are aardvarks.
  • Reruns of this special are very rare. It was aired nationally for the first time in nearly two decades during the Arthur Mega Marathon on PBS Kids in 2022, as part of a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the series as well as the final season.
  • "Nothing But the Music" was written by Paul Jacobs and Sarah Durkee, a husband and wife songwriting team who are known for writing and sometimes singing songs for fellow PBS Kids shows Sesame Street and Between the Lions, the latter of which is also owned by GBH.
  • This is the last special to be produced and aired in the 4:3 aspect ratio.

Episode connections

  • D.W. dismisses Crazy Bus entirely, saying "Crazy Bus is for babies! I know a MILLION better songs!". This is a reference to Joe Fallon leaving the show after Season 4. He wrote and sang Crazy Bus.
  • U Stink, and We Stink do not reunite but are referred to a few more times. In "D.W. Beats All," Arthur mentions the band names. In "Breezy Listening Blues," Francine plays "Nothing But the Music" in the ice cream shop and Arthur and Buster sing the We Stink song. In "The Great MacGrady" Francine mentions having been in a rock band with Mrs. MacGrady.
  • Francine is still unable to sing and play the drums at the same time. This was previously a major plot point in "To Beat or Not to Beat" and also previously addressed in "Citizen Frensky."
  • This is the second time Fern and Francine have major conflict with each other, the first time being the events in "Draw!".
  • During George's audition, he sings the first two lines of "Jacob Katzenellenbogan." This song would officially debut a month later in the 100th episode special, "Elwood City Turns 100!"

Cultural references

  • The special is named after the Rolling Stones song (and album) It's Only Rock 'n Roll.
  • The fantasy sequence Muffy describes to Francine about her getting a hit song, an album, a music video, and endorsements is a parody of pop singer Britney Spears, and the soft drinks poured at the end of the fantasy sequence is a reference to her deal with Pepsi at the time of this special.
  • When asking Francine what music her band plays, Mr. Haney mentions Barry Manilow as one of his favorite musical acts.
  • There are three Beatles references in this episode:
  • When We Stink splits, George suggests continuing as a duo like Sonny & Cher.
  • The S.S. Gigantic is a take-off on the Titanic. It has been long-rumored that "Gigantic" was the original name of the Titanic's sister ship, the HMHS Britannic.
    • The pose that Nick and Muffy make on the S. S. Gigantic is an imitation of the same pose that Jack and Rose make in the Titanic film.
  • Muffy the Vampire Slayer is a spoof of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • In the song "Nothing But the Music," People Magazine is referenced.


  • An animation error occurs after U Stink finishes performing at the PTA fundraiser.  Luke can be seen from behind in the front row of the audience, and for about one second, his skin color changes from gray to yellow.  This occurs right as Mr. Haney says, "Please people, stay calm!"
  • Throughout the special, characters constantly refer to the Backstreet Boys as a "rock" band. In reality, they are a pop boy band.
  • Mrs. McGrady calls Fern a Libra meaning her birthday is from September 23 to October 22. In "Dad's Dessert Dilemma," her birthday is said to be shortly after February 15. One or both could have been wrong.
  • While Nick is holding Muffy on the S. S. Gigantic, he has an extra ear on his right side. This is the part where Muffy is singing "And I've got a hunch!"
  • There is an editing error as Francine is speaking with her father in their apartment. When Francine exclaims, "no way!" the audio of her voice ends abruptly, and the scene briefly cuts to the Tibbles riding away on their bikes.

Home Video release

The special was released on VHS and DVD on October 1, 2002. It also featured behind-the-scenes footage of the Backstreet Boys performing and an exclusive look at how the animation is made.


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Modelsheets and Storyboards


Muffy's Backstreet News - promotional PDF

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  1. 1.0 1.1 KET - Arthur: It's Only Rock 'n' Roll. Kentucky Educational Television. Archived from the original on March 12, 2015.
  2. Arthur . Backstreet . AOL Chat Transcript. PBS Kids (August 29, 2002). Archived from the original on March 18, 2018.
  3. BBC One London - 3 January 2003 - BBC Genome. BBC (2003-01-03). Archived from the original on October 17, 2014.