It’s not uncommon for cancelled series to continue living through spinoffs, but sometimes these never see the light of day, as happened with a Hey Arnold! spinoff titled The Patakis. Created by Craig Bartlett in the late 1980s, Arnold was later developed as an animated series and Hey Arnold! debuted on Nickelodeon in 1996. The series followed a fourth grader named Arnold, who lived with his grandparents in an inner-city boarding house, and his daily adventures in the city along with his friends and other not-so-friendly characters.
Hey Arnold! came to an end in 2004 after five seasons and spawned two films: Hey Arnold!: The Movie, released in 2002, and Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie, a TV movie released in 2017 that brought closure to Arnold’s story. Although Arnold was the lead character of the series, others made a big impression and became fan-favorites, such as Helga Pataki, the bully who was secretly in love with Arnold. In fact, Bartlett had plans to continue the series with a spinoff focused on Helga and her family, and it was darker than Hey Arnold!.
Back in 2000, Bartlett wrote a pilot script with Michelle Lamoreaux for a Hey Arnold! spinoff titled The Patakis. The idea was to focus on a 15-year-old Helga and her family, similarly to Rugrats’ spinoff All Grown Up!. It was intended to air on Nick at Nite, but after Nickelodeon read the pilot script, they decided it was “too dark” and passed on it. The Patakis was later offered to MTV, which at the time was airing more adult-oriented animated shows like Beavis and Butt-Head, but they also passed on it as they found it to be similar to Daria’s concept.
Bartlett has revealed some details on The Patakis in different interviews, giving a broad idea of what the series would have been like. First off, the series wouldn’t have included Arnold as he had moved away – this in order to make Helga the star of the series. Helga would have been 15 years old and at some point between the two series, she finally confessed her feelings to Arnold, and they actually dated, but went through some “stormy times”. She still would have been an avid writer, even writing letters to Arnold every night but not mailing them. As for her family, it would have still been a mess. Olga would have moved back home and looked to pursue an acting career, with her parents disapproving of her choice. Big Bob would have continued to be a successful businessman and owner of Big Bob’s Beepers. As for Miriam, she would have finally sought help to treat her alcoholism.
Because the series didn’t make it past the pilot script, details like the inclusion of other characters from Hey Arnold! – such as Phoebe, Gerald, Harold, and Lila – are unknown, but Bartlett did confirm that lesser known characters like Dr. Bliss (Helga’s psychologist in the episode “Helga on the Couch”) and Nick Vermicelli (Bob’s informal business advisor) would have appeared. “Darker” doesn’t necessarily mean “worse”, and The Patakis sounds like it could have been a very interesting series to watch, with a different perspective on not only Helga and her family, but Arnold as well – surely, it would have had to address their relationship at some point, as well as the relationship of Helga with other characters, like her best friend Phoebe.