Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Of all the childhood icons who preceded Kermit the Frog of Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers stands out as the blandest yet most durable representative of good manners. In her deferential article for the New York Times – Please Won’t You Be My Inspiration? – Kristin Hohenadel documents MTV (Music Television) Benjamin Wagner’s memories and experiences with the famous children’s television pioneer. A new film produced for PBS (Public Broadcasting) reveals Mr. Rogers’ impact on a generation.

I remember preferring Captain Kangaroo and his antics with Mr. Green Jeans to the slow methodical pace of Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, but many fans still remember that red sweater – now in the Smithsonian next to Seinfeld’s puffy shirt. Evidently, Mr. Rogers was as he seemed – or at least always in character; when Wagner met him on a Nantucket vacation and he was his actual, not virtual neighbor. Mr. Rogers offered his career wisdom to a then young Wagner, “trying to figure out who he {wanted to be} when he grew up”…

“I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than deep and complex.”

Mr. Rogers probably would not survive on a television show today, maybe becoming a target for ridicule (aka Eddie Murphy’s Mr. Robinson on Saturday Night Live), but he remains the comfortable untarnished icon of yesteryear – like a good old black and white silent film. They’re coming back in popularity, by the way.

Full episodes of Mr. Rogers’ old shows and that familiar tune are still available on the PBS Kids website.

Do you remember Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood?