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This article is about the Season 13 episode. You may be looking for the Season 24 episode of the same name.
"The Great MacGrady"
Season/Series: 13
Number in season: 1
Original Airdate: United States October 19, 2009[1]
Canada May 7, 2010[3]
United Kingdom March 1, 2010 [2]
Written by: Peter K. Hirsch
Leah Ryan
Storyboard by: Zhigang Wang
"D.W.'s Furry Freak-out"
"The Silent Treatment"
Read transcript

"The Great MacGrady" is the first episode in the thirteenth season of Arthur. It is a two-part episode.

In 2014, it was adapted into a short story also titled "The Great MacGrady" in the activity booklet "When Someone You Know Has Cancer."

In 2021, an updated version of the episode was released.


When Mrs. MacGrady is diagnosed with cancer, Arthur and his friends behave differently to the news - Arthur and D.W. rush to her side with heaps of chicken soup and stuffed animals, Muffy tries to pretend that nothing in her life has changed, and Francine is so upset that she can't even bring herself to visit Mrs. MacGrady.


Everyone loves Mrs. MacGrady, the school's cook for the cafeteria, with her warm friendly ways and her excellent cooking. Until one day, while Buster is making predictions for that day's lunch menu in his school lunch almanac, he and his friends observe that she did not come to school, and her nephew, Skip Bitterman is the substitute chef. Skip is completely devoid of any culinary skills; the lunches became so appalling that the students cannot even eat them. After about a week without Mrs. MacGrady, Mr. Ratburn reveals the shocking news that she is on leave because she has cancer.

The students all react differently to the news: Muffy does not entirely grasp the situation and stays optimistic while she shops for her father's birthday presents. Francine, who lost her grandfather to cancer, starts acting out in various ways, including intentionally losing a soccer game because it won't make Mrs. MacGrady feel any better. Arthur and D.W. pay Mrs. MacGrady a visit, bringing some homemade chicken soup and learning a bit about the illness from her. They promise to visit her every day with further gifts.

At Mr. Crosswire's birthday, Muffy laments about Francine being too sad to help her shop for a proper gift. Her father explains that Francine is just upset about Mrs. MacGrady's illness and encourages her to visit Mrs. MacGrady and maybe bring her a care package.

Francine stays home after having a nightmare that Mrs. MacGrady will never return to work. After school she is visited by Binky and Buster, who are planning to bring gifts to Mrs. MacGrady. Francine declines, but before they leave Binky tries to cheer her up by giving her Lance Armstrong's email address, which he got during the Elwood City Bike-A-Thon. He tells her about Lance's struggles with cancer and eventual recovery, and encourages her to reach out to him. Francine reluctantly does so, but to her and her friends' surprise he writes back and offers to meet with her when he visits Elwood City the following week. Muffy, who is planning on visiting Mrs. MacGrady, offers to bring Francine along so she can share the news, but Francine again refuses to visit.

Muffy arrives just as Arthur and D.W. deliver more gifts to Mrs. MacGrady, including more jars of soup and a giant stuffed bear. Muffy compliments Mrs. MacGrady's bandana, only to learn Mrs. MacGrady is wearing it as she has lost her hair from the Chemotherapy treatment. After Arthur and D.W. leave, Muffy takes a moment to talk with Mrs. MacGrady, who assures her that she intends to get better.

Lance arrives in Elwood City and goes for a bike ride with Francine, and talks to her about how he got through his cancer diagnosis through medicine and the support of his friends. Francine gets the idea to hold a "Pedal for a Cure" bike race to raise money for cancer research. She gets the help of her friends to promote it. Muffy encourages her to tell Mrs. MacGrady about it, but Francine still shows reluctance to see her.

Muffy returns to Mrs. MacGrady's house just as her sister Martha is taking her to the doctor's office. Noticing the state of the house, she offers to clean the dishes while they are gone but has trouble doing so. When Arthur and D.W. arrive with more gifts, they pitch in and clean up the entire house, leaving a note for Mrs. MacGrady when she returns assuring her that they are her "support team."

The "Pedal for a Cure" is a huge success, with a massive turnout. At the finish line, Francine is greeted by Mrs. MacGrady and apologizes for not visiting her previously. Mrs. MacGrady assures her she understands, remarking it can be frightening to see someone you care about when they are sick.

After more than a month of Skip Bitterman's terrible foods, Buster and the rest of the students almost start a revolt. Their uprising is thwarted by the return of Mrs. MacGrady, who is not quite cancer-free yet but is healthy enough to return to work. Buster corrects his school lunch almanac with a prediction that the food will be unknown, but will taste great.








This episode was pulled from the rerun rotation in the United States following the Lance Armstrong doping case. The last national airing of this episode on PBS was on August 20, 2012, four days before Armstrong was charged.[4] Local airings remained possible afterward, but only if a local PBS station opted to air Arthur reruns on an independent rotation as opposed to the national one (which is no longer the case on any known PBS stations as of the 2020s).

Despite its removal from television broadcast, it remains available on most streaming platforms and digital download stores, like Google Play Store, Microsoft Store, YouTube Premium, and iTunes Australia. In late 2021, it was removed from iTunes and Amazon. It is the only episode to be missing from iTunes (from the seasons offered on that service), and is one of only two half-hours in the entire series to not be available on Amazon (the other being "It's a No-Brainer/The Shore Thing" from Season 5). One can still stream this episode on Amazon or re-download it from the iTunes store if they purchased the episode before its removal.

Ultimately, the episode was revised, substituting all references to Lance Armstrong with Uncle Slam, an in-universe professional wrestler. The new version was released in 2021 as part of Season 24. Some TV providers erroneously list airings of the Season 24 version as the Season 13 episode.

The exact reason for these restrictions has never been officially stated. Given the fact that the new revised episode is essentially the same plot as the original (except for the Armstrong references), it can be inferred that the real-world controversy surrounding Armstrong is what led PBS to demote the episode. In addition, "Binky vs. Binky/Operation: D.W.!" and "Room to Ride/The Frensky Family Fiasco" have also been eliminated from the national broadcast schedule on PBS, due to their references to Armstrong. However, these episodes remain available on iTunes and Amazon as of 2022.

For an unknown reason, starting in May 2022, the episode is now available on the Arthur website and PBS Kids video app.


  • The episode was co-written by Leah Ryan, who based the story on her own cancer diagnosis. It is also the final episode written by Ryan, who passed away from leukemia on June 12, 2008. The episode is dedicated "In memory of Leah Ryan."
    • As a nod to Ryan, Mrs. MacGrady's first name is given as "Leah," after she was previously referred to as "Sarah" in Seasons 1–12.
  • In the beginning of the intro, a look-alike of Mrs. Powers is seen walking in the hallway.
  • Surgical masks are designed to protect the patient rather than the doctor[5], so D.W. is right to wear a mask, though she does it for the wrong reason.
  • When Francine travels to the rainforest, the first arrow on the map is roughly in the area of southern New York state. 8499 km (5281 miles) is a realistic estimate for the journey from New York to the Amazon basin.

Episode connections

Cultural references

  • Bailey gives Mr. Crosswire Endgame by Samuel Beckett. It is an absurdist play set in a postapocalyptic world.
  • Mrs. MacGrady calling the kids spartakids refers to Spartacus, who led a slave revolt in the first century B.C.


  • In the soccer game, Francine plays goalie, although she is the star forward of the team.
  • When D.W. is shoving the supposedly stuffed polar bear toy, Chilly Billy, through the doorway and drops him on the floor, he winces and closes his eyes as though he were alive.
  • For a brief moment near the beginning of the second half of the episode, Marina is seen at a lunch table in the background.
    • This is the second time that she appears due to an error, the other time also being in Season 13, in "MacFrensky."

Production notes

  • In Francine's dream, Mrs. MacGrady was going to walk into light at the end of the hallway.[6] This was decided to be "too much" for kids, so a green wall was placed over the light effects.[7]
  • In an activity booklet from WGBH and LiveSTRONG, the story from this episode is included. In this adaptation, Lance Armstrong is omitted and the story is revised with Harry Mills as a cancer survivor.[8]


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