Monday, August 28, 2017

Getting Schooled: Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1963)

He has been parodied by no less than Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live, and his legacy lives on today with an animated PBS series that we've previously covered. Fred Rogers was every kid's neighbor, the nice guy next door who never had a cross word for anyone.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood's origins actually include a Canadian puppet show, The Children's Corner, for which Rogers was one of the puppeteers. He brought some of the puppets with him back to WQED in Pittsburgh, and the Neighborhood started as a regional entity in 1963 before going national on NET (now PBS) in 1968, one year before Sesame Street hit the air. Counting the time it spent as a regional only series, the show ran for an amazing 38 years before ending in 2001.

Rogers' format was simple. Soft casual conversation directed at the viewer, who was invited, if you will, into Rogers' home. There would be the journey into the Kingdom of Make Believe, home to King Friday and Daniel Spotted Tiger and their friends. That particular segment led to the development of the current Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, which bowed in 2012.

In the early 80's, Eddie Murphy turned the show on its ear with a series of skits on Saturday Night Live that took viewers to Mister Robinson's Neighborhood. I have to see if some of that is available for use over at The Land of Whatever down the road. I have to believe that the character of Ned Flanders on The Simpsons was also modeled after Rogers, not so much as a parody, but a left-handed homage.

Occasionally, Rogers welcomed guests onto the show. Case in point, actress and Maxwell House pitchwoman Margaret Hamilton in 1975.

Now, I don't know if Rogers ever hosted a talk show. PBS missed the boat by not offering him one.

Rating: A.

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