Hey Arnold was a important show during its original airing. Nickelodeon had hit the jackpot mix of weird humor, lovable characters, and emotional episodes. I am excited that work is going forward on the second movie and the narrative and growth of the characters can continue. Down the line I will likely write several essays on the philosophy of Hey Arnold, but before that let’s discuss the canceled Helga Pataki focused spin-off, The Pataki’s.
In a cast filled with ultimately sad characters, it is always the Pataki’s who are decidedly called the most tragic of family units. With stern and distant Big Bob, Miriam constantly mellowed out on her “smoothies”, and the emotional fragile but attention spoiled Olga. They came together to form a home environment that makes Helga’s behavior make a lot more sense in terms of her repressed emotional sensitivity and attachment to the person she has remembers as being one of the earliest acts of kindness directed towards her.
But what if Helga and her family were allowed to take the spotlight? Learn to act more in the interest of the other members around them? That was suppose to be the plot of The Pataki’s. This was planned to be a darker show compared to the original Hey Arnold and was slotted for Nickelodeon’s Nick-at-Nite programing block. In the year 2000 ‘Hey Arnold’ creator Craig Bartlett was approached by Nickelodeon with writing a pilot for ‘The Pataki’s’.
Planned to follow the release of the Hey Arnold: The Jungle Movie, Arnold’s character would move away and the show would have a 15 year old Helga Pataki writing letters to Arnold about her day to day life. There would be a level of affection in the letters as Helga and Arnold had come to terms with how Helga felt about him, causing them to either have dated and broken up because Arnold moved or were engaged in a long distance relationship (at the time of the show’s inception it was not decided which).
That development would be present for all of the Pataki family members. Miriam would finally be identified as an alcoholic (something only alluded to before by her constant consumption of “smoothies”) and would start attending AA meetings. Big Bob would finally have grander success as he goes from selling beepers, to selling cellphones and while getting more stern and stubborn with time, he attempts acts of sincerity and support. And the preferred child Olga has come home from college and decides on being a actress but is left doing extremly small “off-off-off broadway” shows, she even loses favor with her parents in the pilot that was written.
Featuring teenage versions of the other Hey Arnold characters, it would have been the next step of the story…
A step too dark to Nickelodeon. Despite asking for a more adult Hey Arnold world, they disliked the direction of Bartlett’s script. MTV was approached next and turned it down as it was too similar to the show Daria. So the project was dropped and Hey Arnold would go on to air for another 4 years.
So would ‘The Pataki’s’ have been great? A amazing focus on a difficult family? It will likely never be truly known, but with the upcoming revival of the ‘Hey Arnold’ franchise, maybe Helga and her family will get their growth after all.