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January 31, 2013 11:30 PM   Subscribe

Is Mister Rogers' Neighborhood The Greatest TV Show Ever?
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me (48 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related:

If you can get through this profile of Fred Rogers without getting misty-eyed, you are dead inside and probably a sociopath.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:51 PM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


YES

Thanks for making my evening a sniffle fest, Rev. Every time I read about Mr. Rogers it always ends in (happy) tears.
posted by AaronRaphael at 11:53 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the main link is a video of Mr Rogers being interviewed by Joan Rivers and he brings out King Friday the 13th (!) to sing Row Row Row Your Boat. Then he sings it how they learned it in "kingly school" and the last line in that version EXPLAINS EVERYTHING!!!

Mind. Blown.
posted by Eumachia L F at 12:22 AM on February 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


Not what he's known for, but without Fred Rogers, we wouldn't have zombies, as popularized in the The Night of the Living Dead. An interview with George Romero about Mr Rogers.
posted by eye of newt at 12:27 AM on February 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Thank you for posting this.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:44 AM on February 1, 2013


Because I don't have the childhood associations Americans have, Mr Rogers posts usually leave me a bit cold. That Joan Rivers interview was something else though.

No wheelchair ramp at Mr Rogers house, sadly. His disabled visitors all have to stay in the garden.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:06 AM on February 1, 2013


No wheelchair ramp at Mr Rogers house, sadly. His disabled visitors all have to stay in the garden.

You might like Something Special. It's produced by CBeebies, and is very much in that spirit: it treats all children as special, takes care that the child guests are diverse in race and gender, and also has a high proportion of them have some kind of disability - cerebral palsy, Down's, that kind of thing - but, most of all, it doesn't actually make an issue of it. Justin Fletcher, the presenter, never mentions their disability; he just introduces the audience to 'my friends' and then they go off together and do something, sending the silent but unmissable message that a kid with a disability is a normal person.

Justin Fletcher got an MBE for his services to television, and it's well deserved.
posted by Kit W at 1:50 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


eye of newt's link is short but awesome.
posted by JHarris at 2:23 AM on February 1, 2013


One of the highlights of going to Carnegie Mellon for college was actually living in Mr. Rogers's neighborhood. The opening shot of the hills and apartments was hilarious in retrospect, because it is exactly what the area around WQED (which my dorm was adjacent to) looks like.

I don't have my own Mr. Rogers story, but a friend of mine from college has the best one. When she was a freshman, she lived in a university-owned apartment. On the day she moved in, Mr. Rogers came down to the apartment, and said, "Hi, I'm Fred Rogers. Do you need help moving in?"

She managed to whisper that yes, she'd like help, and so Mr. Rogers (who was 69 at the time) helped unload her belongings and carry them to her freshman dorm.

He died after I had moved away, and I have always been a little sad that I never bumped into him.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:22 AM on February 1, 2013 [23 favorites]


There's an urban legend that says someone stole Mr. Rogers' Oldsmobile one day from a street in Pittsburgh, and the car re-appeared the next day with a note saying, "Sorry, we didn't know it was yours."

Snopes says the story is likely apocryphal, but officially lists it as "undetermined. Becuae if it isn't true, it should be.
posted by tommyD at 3:31 AM on February 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


Thank you for sharing this.
posted by treyka at 3:44 AM on February 1, 2013


I'm too old to have first hand experience of Something Special (I hear Justin is something of a pinup to SAHMs) but CBBC also has a presenter with a missing arm. There was a controversy about 'but how do we explain this to children then?' to which the BBC responded 'Just say she's got a missing arm and move on, ffs'.
posted by mippy at 4:10 AM on February 1, 2013


There was a controversy about 'but how do we explain this to children then?' to which the BBC responded 'Just say she's got a missing arm and move on, ffs'.

I read something similar about the kids' cartoon show Caillou - the show was based on a series of picture books about a baby, so the main character didn't have hair. But on the show, Caillou is about four - but still doesn't have hair.

I read something about adults fretting about his baldness - is this a kid with cancer? Alopecia? How do we explain this to our kids?.....but kids' reactions to it was pretty much just, "eh, whatever, he just doesn't have hair."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:15 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


> How do we explain this to our kids?.....but kids' reactions to it was pretty much just, "eh, whatever, he just doesn't have hair."

The parents are probably flashing back to their own childhood trauma of being exposed to Charlie Brown, whose appearance was never explained. These are emotional scars they wish to spare their children.
posted by ardgedee at 4:20 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actually, Schulz once said that Charlie Brown's hairstyle was meant to be a crew cut with a bit of a longer curl at the front.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:24 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mister Rogers was the opposite of great. He was humble. He was good.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:30 AM on February 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


What if... Mr Rogers came to a session of Congress and spoke to them about how families are being effected by their behaviour and then spoke about togetherness, helping others and doing the right thing. What if....
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:33 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, lets imagine..... Imagine... Imagine... dreamy harp music accompanies fade into clip
posted by dr_dank at 4:40 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


seanmpuckett, ask and you shall receive: Mr. Rogers testifies before a US Senate Subcommittee.

Near 5:30 he teaches the senators about how good it feels to keep anger under control.

What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong...
And nothing you do seems very right?

What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?

It's great to be able to stop
When you've planned a thing that's wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And to know that the feeling is mine.

posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:50 AM on February 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


I drive past WQED Studios a few times a week and it looks so unlike what you'd think the home of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood should look like. It's this somewhat scary imposing block of rain-stained brutalist concrete
posted by octothorpe at 5:14 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's probably the fault of its proximity to CMU.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:33 AM on February 1, 2013


If you go to the studio where the Neighborhood of Make Believe was shot today, it's been repurposed, because floor space isn't cheap and they have other things to do besides preserve artifacts of a show that quit production twelve (great god, has it been that long!?) years ago. However, there is still one patch of the old magic there. This makes me simultaneously sad and happy, something like what the witnesses of the Christmas Truce must have felt: Once, this happened, even though it shouldn't have and no one who wasn't there will ever believe it, but I know it was real, because I was there.

(Photos borrowed from here. Because sharing is awesome and all that.)
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:27 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would have no problem with Mister Rogers Neighborhood being named the greatest television show of all time. I would not have thought of it if you asked me to produce my own list, but as I stack other contenders for that title up against it, they seem deeply lacking in comparison.

1f2frfbf: However, there is still one patch of the old magic there.

Ye gods, that square must be preserved. If any employee of that studio decides to cover it up, I... well let's just say Fred Rogers would not be proud of the curses I would rain down upon that individual.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:31 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would postulate that Picture Picture laid the groundwork for How It's Made so many years later.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:03 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel summed up Mr. Rogers very nicely in this comment from 2007.
posted by TedW at 7:16 AM on February 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you go to the studio where the Neighborhood of Make Believe was shot today, it's been repurposed

Proof that Voldemort lives - who else could possibly have painted over the Neighborhood of Make Believe's floor??

Thanks for the post, that article made me all verklempt. I live just a few blocks away from the seminary where Mister Rogers studied, and like to think about him whenever I walk past. It's such a good feeling ...
posted by DingoMutt at 7:18 AM on February 1, 2013


Octothorpe, don't forget the dinosaur dressed as Mister Rogers in front of WQED! I always get a kick out of pointing it out to visitors. For those of you who haven't seen it before, here are links to two pictures of the Mister Rogers dinosaur:
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/4942830
http://www.flickr.com/photos/elston/34705135/ (not in front of WQED, but better angle)
posted by jasonhong at 7:19 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I read something similar about the kids' cartoon show Caillou

I have quite a bit to say about Caillou, but seeing as this is Mr. Roger's Neighborhood we're in right now, I'm just going to suggest that Caillou's Mom maybe getting some new slacks and out of those 'Mom Jeans' might be a welcome change for her.
posted by mikelieman at 7:19 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I took my kids to the local kids' museum this weekend and, unbeknownst to me, Mr "Speedy Delivery" McFeely was doing a meet-and-greet. He's still kicking!

It was heartwarming that some kids were actually interested in meeting him, although I don't know how much of that was the kid and how much were the Gen-X parents. But I'm glad he's still around. Now, if Lady Aberlin was there.....
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:27 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do y'all know Daniel Tiger got his own show? All the puppets have a new computer animated PBS show. I don't know if it's good or not, but they made Lady Elaine non-terrifyingly hideous, so that's a start.

Mikelieman, being bald is the least of Caillou's problems. His whiny whiny annoying problems.
posted by artychoke at 8:04 AM on February 1, 2013


Because Mister Rogers is such a busy man, however, he could not write the chapter himself, and he asked a woman who worked for him to write it instead. She worked very hard at writing the chapter, until one day she showed what she had written to Mister Rogers, who read it and crossed it all out and wrote a sentence addressed directly to the doctors who would be reading it: "You were a child once, too."

Real dick move if you think about it out of context.

I'm just so busy, please spend your week writing this chapter I will later take credit for.
No no, this is all garbage. Lets do one sentence..
posted by flyblackbox at 8:16 AM on February 1, 2013


I've been going through some of the other Mr. Rogers-themed threads in the archive, and this has all suddenly shaken loose a memory -

I've said before that it was reading Lord of the Rings and Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower that helped keep me from totally flipping my shit in the weeks following 9/11. But I have just remembered now that sometime in that first couple weeks, when I could only get two channels because I still had analog TV and the networks who'd used the twin towers for their antennae hadn't found another one yet, that I ended up watching the kids' shows on PBS simply because they weren't showing that endless round of news. And one of the shows was a Mr. Rogers episode.

And I don't remember which song it was - but whatever song he had in that episode, I just totally and utterly lost it. I was barely holding together in the face of a complete stew of emotional turmoil at that point - some personal issues were going on, on top of the whole world-coming-down-around-our-ears New York was going through, and Mr. Rogers - well, no, he wasn't telling me that everything was gonna get better (which I wasn't ready to believe yet), he was taking the much more important first step of telling me that that sadness, that turmoil, was a natural response to what was going on, and that it was okay to feel it.

I blubbered in my apartment for 20 minutes. And I don't completely remember whether I sent it - my memories of those couple weeks are really disjointed - but I wrote Mr. Rogers my first fan letter, thanking him.

I really hope I sent it. But even if I didn't send it on pen and paper, or in email, some part of me believes that the passage to the Land of Make-Believe in my brain was able to extract it and get it to King Friday, somehow.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on February 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


shit, now I'm crying at my desk
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


PBS is a national treasure.
posted by schmod at 8:27 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Near 5:30 he teaches the senators about how good it feels to keep anger under control.

You know, just reading the words to that song makes me cry. Every time. It's like Mr. Rogers had this ability to speak directly to me, to that difficult-to-define center of me that is still in so many ways a child, frightened and uncomprehending of the world around me.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:49 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


flyblackbox: Real dick move if you think about it out of context.

I'm just so busy, please spend your week writing this chapter I will later take credit for.
No no, this is all garbage. Lets do one sentence.


The memory of Fred Rogers doesn't need me defending it, and I know you said out of context, but still, what else is he going to do? He's not going to sign his name to something that isn't the best it can possibly be, and maybe he wouldn't have been able to distill it down to that sentence (which is apparently how the rewritten chapter begins, not the entirety of it) without seeing everything that that this person wrote and how wrong it felt. Sometimes you can't know what you want until you see something you definitely don't want first.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:14 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not only is David Newell, AKA Mr. McFeely, still kicking, he's a busy, busy man with a very good documentary about him.

Which reminds me, I need to sit down and write him a nice thank you letter. It's the neighborly thing to do.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:20 AM on February 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Do y'all know Daniel Tiger got his own show? All the puppets have a new computer animated PBS show. I don't know if it's good or not, but they made Lady Elaine non-terrifyingly hideous, so that's a start.

Our local PBS station only shows Mr. Rogers at some ungodly hour on Saturday morning, so all we really have is Daniel Tiger.

And you know, my girl loves the heck out of that show.
I mean, any other show is on (Sesame Street, SuperWhy, whatever), she'll play, run through the room and take the occasional glance, but if that show is on:
"Daddy! Daniel Tiger!" and she is enraptured.

Sure, it's certainly not Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, and it's definitely more slick than the older show, but it seems to present the same basic messages and that can't be all bad for his legacy.
posted by madajb at 9:23 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amazon streaming has a ton of the Neighborhood episodes. My daughter loves the trolley like I did.

Is the program really such a relic of a bygone era that it has no place in television today?
posted by dr_dank at 9:57 AM on February 1, 2013


I just can't get through that link DirtyOldTown posted. The second paragraph got me and then I started remembering Mr. Rogers talking in front of congress or whatever and now I
m just crying and I don't entirely know why. What a beautiful person and now that I have three wonderful little children in my life this is the kind of person I want to be like. I miss him so much.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 9:59 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


When that Tom Junod article on Mr. Rogers came out in Esquire, I was stationed in Germany. One day in the mess hall (sorry, the dining facility) -- a large-ish cafeteria sort of place, full of professional military men (and a few women) of varying rank, age, background and experience -- one of the guys around the table was reading the article and read us one of the anecdotes. One of the other guys said, in that classic way of the 25-year-old contrarian hipster-would-be, "Man, fuck Mr. Rogers!"

You know that scene in bad movies where the entire large room goes dead silent, even though it is not physically possible for everyone to have heard what someone just said? I stopped looking askance at those scenes, because I swear every pair of eyes was glaring at that young lieutenant. He muttered an apology and left. No one said a word until he was gone.

He was reassigned about a year later, and at his unofficial departure party at a bar, he mentioned that no one had said anything about it, at least not to him, in even a joking way (the Army is a lot like a fraternity -- if you commit a faux pas, you will hear about it basically forever). Our response was unanimous: Mr. Rogers wouldn't want us to give you shit for it.
posted by Etrigan at 10:20 AM on February 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


dr_dank: Is the program really such a relic of a bygone era that it has no place in television today?

It barely had a place in television when it was on the air.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:27 AM on February 1, 2013


My five people invited for dinner; Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Buster Keaton, John Stewart, & FRED ROGERS!
posted by QueerAngel28 at 11:42 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I recently became aware of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood via a college friend's facebook status. She mentioned that the show was turning her two year old into a "brat" who loudly declared that she was mad about things, and several other parents chimed in "Thanks for the tip! I'll make sure my kid doesn't watch it!"

I was so disappointed in her, in our general parenting culture, when I went to watch the show online. It's very much in the spirit of Fred Rogers' work, teaching that emotions are okay and that even children can be in control of them. It was a prescient reminder for me that we still need people like Fred, people to carry on his very important work. And that children get it, even when adults very much don't.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:50 PM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


He had occasional interesting guests - I remember seeing among others Yoyo Ma, Winton Marsalis, and I think he had the three Marsalis brothers on together at least once. He was himself a talented jazz pianist, but on the show he would play that tiny toy piano sitting on the floor with his knees above his shoulders, and he would jam with these amazing pros and sound really good! Of course they loved him and you could tell how much they enjoyed being there.


He went on outings too, one time he said, "today we are going to go down into a deep mine shaft", and there he was at the mouth of a deep mine shaft, and the host was a guy in a uniform, and he had an electric truck they were going to use to drive down into the mine. Fred held up a trumpet and said "I brought a trumpet, I always wanted to blow a trumpet in a mine shaft, would it be alright if I played while we ride down into the mine?" and of course the driver said sure. So the camera is stationary, and we go out watching the surreal spectacle of Fred Rogers receding into the darkness riding a little electric cart toodling away on a trumpet.
Now thats great TV.
posted by Abinadab at 3:58 PM on February 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Was there some question?

"That sounds like needless hyperbole, like a link-baiting statement designed to prompt angry arguments in the comments section. Yet a large part of me means it..."

I like to think there was a time when unabashed admiration and being in earnest about enjoying something you love was not anticipated as being met with cynicism and rebuke.

I don't know that it's tied to a specific time or place. But it's clear that some people can shamelessly embrace an unmixed good and talk about it.
Mr. Rogers unquestionably.
(But too, here's Jimmy Carter for example "I think my mother exemplifies the finest aspects of what American motherhood should be" - straightforward delivers that line. Wrote a book about how great his mom was.)

Mr. Rogers was serious about goodness.

Goodness gets some respect but seriousness seems to be a cardinal sin for some reason in some instances. I don't know why. Limiting one's vulnerability perhaps?
If that's the case it's sad. Because I think it's that openness that makes him unassailable. That willingness to talk and relate his emotions and be open to validating others'.
He's utterly fearless. You can see it.

The only guy I can think of that comes close to Mr Rogers' implacable presence in a cardigan (without the goodness) is Tom Hardy's character in Lawless. And he needed to carry shotgun.
(King Friday: "I'm going to see that there are no further accidents here. I now make a new rule: there will be no more 'play' in this neighborhood of Make Believe."
Mr. Rogers: Yeah, I hear what you're sayin', King Friday, and we go back a long ways, so I'm not gonna make a big deal out of this. But uh, I'm Fred Rogers, and I don't lay down for nobody. I never have, I never will. I'm just doing what any man around here would do if he had the same strength of character. )
posted by Smedleyman at 6:30 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh hey. An exception to Betteridge's Law.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:52 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was a controversy about 'but how do we explain this to children then?' to which the BBC responded 'Just say she's got a missing arm and move on, ffs'.

That's certainly my intention. I really like that they're working to include people who don't fit the standard template. My son is white, male, able-bodied and handsome (yes, mother's pride on that last one, but honestly, he is), which is to say that everything on the outside of him is going to smooth his path in this world. And I'm happy for him, because of course every parent wants their child to have a nice life and I do hope people will treat him well. But not everyone is that lucky, and the sooner and more gently and more normally he can learn this, the better for everyone. Besides that, it's not just tokenism; Cerri Burnell is an excellent presenter and would be excellent whether she had seven arms or none at all. She has exactly the screen presence you need for children: charismatic and sparky and kind. She got the job because she's good at it.


Mr Rogers is interesting if you didn't grow up with him; he's lovely, but he's also almost intimidating because he's so impervious. It seems like every single sentence he says is a variation of 'It's you I like,' and nothing anyone else says or does moves him away from that. He makes everything slow down to his pace and work on his terms. In his quiet way, he has more force of personality than I've ever seen, and it's almost frightening because it's just so much more forceful, so different, from most people - 'uncanny' is probably the best word for it. Most humans are influenced by other people's moods and behaviour, and a man who doesn't seem to be is, well, a bit uncanny.

Which is not meant to be a condemnation of him, because he really seems to be a wonderful person. And actually, I got through some difficult moments this weekend by pretending to be Mr Rogers (inside my head; in my actual behaviour I was just polite and friendly); it's rather empowering. But I wonder, if you first saw him as a child, whether he has that effect, or whether he just seems to be a kind of hyper-adult, a concentration of the greater power and competence that adults always seem to have when you're little?
posted by Kit W at 1:39 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


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