Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Weren't You My Neighbor

On Feb. 19, 1968, National Educational Television began airing Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. (NET was replaced by PBS in 1970.) Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was produced by public broadcast station WQED in Pittsburgh. The last original Mister Rogers' Neighborhood aired in 2001, making it PBS' longest-running program ever. It ran for 998 episodes. Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian minister who became a cultural icon and kindly neighbor to generations of American children, died on Feb. 27, 2003 at the age 74.

I can't say that I saw Mr. Roger's Neighborhood much for it's first 12-15 years or so. Sometime in the early '80s, my oldest daughter got addicted to the show and refused to go to day care before the show ended. In the mid-1990s when the second set of children came around, I became quite a fan. There weren't a lot of surprises on the show. Mr. Rogers always came in singing the theme song, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, took of his jacket, put on a sweater and began the show. A video, a trip to the bakery or the music store, a chat with a special guest and sometimes a musical performance -- I can remember seeing Yo Yo Ma in one episode -- and then a trip to the Neighborhood of Make Believe and it was time to feed the fish and wrap things up. Most of episodes ended with Mr. Rogers singing the song It's Such a Good Feeling.

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