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Mister Rogers' Neighborhood or Mister Rogers is an Americanmarker children's television series that was created and hosted by Fred Rogers. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was produced by Pittsburghmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, USA public broadcaster WQEDmarker and Rogers' non-profit production company Family Communications, Inc. (named Small World Enterprises prior to 1971). It is the second longest running series on PBS, after Sesame Street. The series could be seen in reruns on most PBS stations until September 1, 2008, when it was removed by PBS from their daily syndicated schedule along with Reading Rainbow, Boohbah, and Teletubbies. A number of stations have chosen to continue airing it independently of the PBS feed.

History of the show

The series began in 1962 as Mister Rogers, a 15-minute program on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The first broadcast of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was on the National Educational Television network on February 19, 1968. When NET ceased broadcasting in 1970, the series moved to PBS. The show would be renamed to its more-familiar three-word title, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, in 1971. The first series of episodes was produced and aired from February 19, 1968 to February 20, 1976. The second series of episodes was produced and aired from August 20, 1979 to August 31, 2001 (modern series). The studio is based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania where there is now a Fred Rogers Studio in honor of Fred himself.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was characterized by its quiet simplicity and gentleness. Episodes did not have a plot, and consisted of Rogers speaking directly to the viewer about various issues, taking the viewer on tours of factories, demonstrating experiments, crafts, and music, and interacting with his friends. The half-hour episodes were punctuated by a puppet segment chronicling occurrences in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

At the beginning of each episode, Fred Rogers enters his television studio house, singing "Won't You Be My Neighbor?". He hangs his coat in a closet, puts on a cardigan zipper sweater, and removes his dress shoes to put on sneakers. One of Rogers' sweaters now hangs in the Smithsonian Institutionmarker, a testament to the cultural influence of his simple daily ritual.

Starting in 1979, episodes were grouped into week-long series, with each series focused on a particular topic. Rogers' monologues throughout the week explore various facets of the topic, and the ongoing story from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe serves as illustration.

Rogers covered a broad range of topics over the years, and the series did not shy away from issues that other children's programming avoided. In fact, Rogers endeared himself to many when, on March 23, 1970, he dealt with the death of one of his pet goldfish. The series also dealt with competition, divorce, and war. Rogers returned to the topic of anger regularly and focused on peaceful ways of dealing with angry feelings.

Mister Rogers always made a clear distinction between the realistic world of his television neighborhood and the fantasy world of Make-Believe. He often discussed what was going to happen in Make-Believe before the next fantasy segment was shown ("Let's pretend that Prince Tuesday has been having scary dreams..."), and sometimes acted out bits of Make-Believe with models on a table before the camera transitioned to the live-action puppet rendition. The miniature motorized trolley, with its accompanying piano theme music, was the only element that appeared regularly in both the realistic world and Make-Believe: it was used to transport viewers from one realm to the other. Rogers, however, was mentioned from time to time in Make-Believe, particularly by Mr. McFeely, who appeared occasionally in the Make-Believe segments and seemed to form a link between the two worlds.

This reality/fantasy distinction put Rogers' series in sharp contrast with other children's series, such as fellow PBS program Sesame Street, which freely mixed realistic and fantastic elements.

The series was also notable for its use of jazz-inspired music, mostly arranged and performed by Rogers' long-time friend Johnny Costa, until Costa's death in 1996, when he was succeeded by Michael Moricz for the remainder of the series. The music was unique in its simplicity and flow that blended with the series' sketches and features. The music was usually played live during taping. Lyrics and melodies were written and sung by Rogers, who created more than 200 original songs. The final episode of the series aired on August 31, 2001.

When Fred Rogers died in 2003, PBS' website communicated some ways to help children deal with Mr. Rogers' dying by presenting suggestions to parents of what to say to the children about Mr. Rogers and how to approach a child who inquires after him.

Beginning September 3, 2007, some PBS affiliates began replacing the show with new programs such as Super Why! and WordWorld. In June 2008, PBS announced that, beginning in the fall of 2008, it would stop transmitting "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" as part of its daily syndication lineup to member stations, instead airing the program only once a week over the weekend.. Beginning on September 1, 2008, the Neighborhood program was replaced by new programming such as Martha Speaks, Sid the Science Kid, and an update of The Electric Company. However, individual member stations have the option of airing the Neighborhood independently of the PBS syndicated feed, with series home WQEDmarker in particular continuing to air the series daily. There is currently a campaign to urge PBS and all member stations to bring the show back five days a week.

Theme song

The song "Won't You Be My Neighbor" was written by Fred Rogers in 1967 and was used as the opening theme for each episode of the show. The ending theme song was titled "It's Such a Good Feeling" and was alternated by Rogers saying either "I'll be back when the day/week is new" or "That we're friends, you can make each day special by just being you." Rogers sang the opening song while entering the set and performing his iconic wardrobe change going from a suit jacket and dress shoes to a more casual cardigan sweater and sneakers, and sang the closing song when he changed back.

Broadcast history

The first broadcast of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was on the National Educational Television network on February 19, 1968; the color NET logo appeared on a model building at the beginning and end of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood from 1969 to 1970. When NET ceased broadcasting, the series moved to PBS, even though episodes as late at 1971 were still copyrighted to - and produced for - NET.

The former NET model house was "remodeled", first to a small yellow-orange sided house, and then into a red apartment building. The roof's lopsided slant from its days as a NET logo remained. When the pre-70 episodes were rerun in 1976, the NET ident that followed the closing credits and showing of the NET model house was replaced with an additional segment showing underwriters (see "Funding"). The showing of the NET model house itself was left intact on these reruns as late as the 1980s.

The final week of original episodes of the "first series", first broadcast starting February 16, 1976, featured Mister Rogers in his workshop, watching scenes of past episodes of his series, which he recorded on videocassettes and kept on the shelf in his workshop. On the Friday episode of that week, he reminded viewers that they, too, can watch many of those old episodes beginning the following week.

As of August 11, 1995, the episodes from the first series were no longer shown on television, since there was an ample supply of the second series in circulation, and since many of the first series episodes had become outdated. A few episodes from the first half exist in the Museum of Television & Radio, including the first episode of the series and the first color episode. A complete collection of episodes, including more than 900 videotapes and scripts from the show along with other promotional materials produced by Rogers or his Family Communications Inc. production company, exists in the University of Pittsburgh'smarker Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Archives located in the Elizabeth Nesbitt Room in the university's School of Information Sciencesmarker Building.

Reruns

When PBS began rerunning the first 460 color episodes of the series in 1976, some of the early color episodes from 1969 and 1970 were re-edited with new voice-overs or footage. For example, in one 1969 episode where Mister Rogers demonstrates the noise-proof ear protectors that airport workers use on the tarmac, the film footage used featured a worker directing a United Airlines jet with its stylised "U" logo—which wasn't introduced until 1974. All of the episodes revised from the first series also included an extra segment following the closing credits, mentioning the episode number and additional companies that provided funding since these episodes originally aired, even though they had not provided funding at the time of original production.

Almost all of the 1979–2001 episodes are in active rotation on PBS. The only exception is the week-long "Conflict" series (episodes #1521–#1525), first aired during the week of November 7–11, 1983 to coincide with ABC's airing of the television film The Day After, and designed for children to cope with the aftereffects of that film. The series/story arc covered the topics of war, bombs, and an arms race. The "Conflict" series was last aired during the week of April 1–5, 1996.

Only a few episodes of the series have been released to DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment. All of the pre-1979 episodes, including those that broadcasted in black and white have still yet to see a DVD release.

Funding

From 1968 to 1976, the sponsor credits were part of the series credits; the ones used in the opening are silent other than the theme, and an announcer or Fred Rogers reads the sponsor credits aloud during the closing credits. From 1976 onward, repeats of episodes from 1969 to 1976 have additional closing sponsor credits over a still of the trolley with the series logo and episode number. From 1979 onward, the sponsor credits were in a separate segment at the start and end of each episode, announced by Fred Rogers. Only the sponsors' names were shown on screen.

Credited sponsors include:

Sponsor Years
Sears-Roebuck Foundation 1968–1976, 1979–1993
NET-affiliated stations 1968–1970
Corporation for Public Broadcasting 1971–1976, 1992–2001
Johnson & Johnsonmarker 1975–1976
Ford Foundation 1975–1976
Public Television Stations 1971–1976, 1979–2001


Characters

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Characters on the series include: Mr. McFeely (David Newell) the delivery man, who was named for Fred Rogers' maternal grandfather, Fred McFeely; Neighbor Aber (Chuck Aber); Lady Aberlin (Betty Aberlin); Marilyn Barnett; Chef Brockett (Don Brockett); Tony Chiroldes; Jose Cisneros; Officer Clemmons (François Clemmons); Keith David; Mrs. McFeely (Betsy Nadas); Handy Man Negri (Joe Negri); Sergio Pinto; John Reardon; Audrey Roth; Maggie Stewart; Bob Trow; and in early episodes Emily the Poetry Lady (Emily Jacobson). Other regular puppeteers included Michael Horton, Lenny Meledandri (1980-2001), and Carole Switala. Music directors for the series included Johnny Costa (1968 - 1996), and Michael Moricz, who took over as music director after Costa's death and served until the end of the series in 2001. Musicians who played the background music along with Johnny Costa for Mr Roger's Neighborhood included Carl McVicker Jr. - Bass and Bobby Rawsthorne - Drums. (source - http://etd.library.pitt.edu/ETD/available/etd-04252007-112723/unrestricted/Pena_ETD2007_FINAL.pdf & http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062588/fullcredits)

The human characters who appeared in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe were mostly imaginary versions of people who lived in Mr. Rogers' "real" neighborhood. For example, Joe "Handy Man" Negri was a music shop proprietor on Rogers' street. The non-make-believe version of Betty Aberlin was an actress. Audrey Roth operated a janitorial service in the real neighborhood, but was royal phone operator "Miss Paulificate" in Make-Believe. Only Mr. McFeely, Mrs. McFeely, and Chef Brockett appeared substantially the same way in both Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Neighborhood of Make-Believe

Here is a list of the puppet and costumed characters appearing in the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" segment:



Thirteen in-series "operas" took place during the course of the series within the Make-Believe segments. Many of them feature American baritone John Reardon as a main character. These operas, and the year of their first airing are:

  • Babysitter Opera (1968)
  • Campsite Opera (1968)
  • Teddy Bear / Whaling Ship Opera (1969)
  • "Pineapples and Tomatoes" (1970)
  • "Monkey's Uncle" (1971)
  • "Snow People and Warm Pussycat" (1972)
  • "Potato Bugs and Cows" (1973)
  • "All in the Laundry" (1974)
  • "Key to Otherland" (1975)
  • "Windstorm in Bubbleland" (1980)
  • "Spoon Mountain" (1982)
  • "A Granddad for Daniel" (1984)
  • "A Star for Kitty" (1986)
  • "Josephine the Short-Necked Giraffe" (1989)


Of those 13 operas, only the last 4 still air; the others had their last airings during the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. Additionally, a play, "Josephine The Short-Necked Giraffe", first aired in 1989 as a tribute to the late John Reardon, and still airs today.

Pittsburgh-area native Michael Keaton received his first major acting break as a "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" character in 1975. Keaton played an acrobat in a troup called The Flying Zookeenies that performed for King Friday's birthday. He was also in charge of running the Trolley.

Guests

Guests on the series ranged from cellist Yo-Yo Ma to actor and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno of TV's The Incredible Hulk. (In a 2001 piece where celebrities were asked about their heroes, Rogers cited Ma as one of his heroes.) A 1968 visit by electronic music pioneer Bruce Haack resurfaced in the 2004 documentary Haack: King of Techno.

Guests on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood were often surprised to find that although Rogers was just as gentle and patient in life as on television, he was nevertheless a perfectionist who did not allow "shoddy" ad-libbing; he believed that children were thoughtful people who deserved programming as good as anything produced for adults on television.

Rogers appeared as a guest on some other series. On the children's animated cartoon series Arthur, for example, Rogers plays himself as an aardvark like Arthur. Later on, Arthur appears as a guest in hand-puppet form in a 1999 episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Bill Nye, host of a science-themed program, and Rogers also exchanged appearances on each other's series, as did Rogers and Captain Kangaroo. Rogers additionally appeared in an episode of Sesame Street, where he explains to Big Bird that even if one loses a running race such as the one Big Bird had run against his friend "Snuffy", no hard feelings threaten to break the two of them apart. Big Bird himself also appeared in one episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in the Neighborhood of Make Believe.

Specials

A Christmas Special aired in 1978. This special had François Clemmons introducing a storyteller and flutist friend to Rogers. They filmed a couple of narrated segments of the stories François' friend told. The special also had the Neighborhood of Make-Believe segment which shows how they celebrated Christmas. Even the trolley had a banner on the roof that said "Merry Christmas" on one side, and "Happy Hannukah" on the other. This special was aired every Christmas season until 1982. This special's opening and close have Rogers walking through a real neighborhood while the titles roll rather than the model neighborhood used in the series.

In 1994, Rogers created another one-time special for PBS called Fred Rogers' Heroes which consisted of documentary portraits of four real-life people whose work helped make their communities better. Rogers, uncharacteristically dressed in a suit and tie, hosted in wraparound segments which did not use the "Neighborhood" set.

For a time Rogers produced specials for the parents as a precursor to the subject of the week on the Neighborhood called "Mister Rogers Talks To Parents About (whatever the topic was)". Rogers didn't host those specials, though; other people like Joan Lunden, who hosted the Conflict special, and other news announcers played MC duties in front of a gallery of parents while Rogers answered questions from them. These specials were made to prepare the parents for any questions the children might ask after watching the episodes on that topic of the week.

Legacy outside television

  • Idlewild and Soak Zonemarker, an amusement park near Rogers' hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvaniamarker has an attraction called "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood of Make-Believe" featuring a life-size trolley ride, designed by Rogers.
  • The planetarium show "The Sky Above Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" is a computer-animated adaptation of the television show for preschool-aged children.
  • Following Fred Rogers' death in 2003, the Monroeville Mallmarker built an indoor playground for children shorter than 46" (116.84 cm) to play on. The playground, which is located in front of Macy's, replaced the water fountain as part of the mall's renovation project.
  • After three years as a traveling exhibit, the Pittsburgh Children's Museum had Welcome to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood installed as a permanent exhibit in 2004.
  • The Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Archives at the University of Pittsburgh'smarker School of Information Sciencesmarker is an academic resource and collection that contains correspondence, scripts, props, puppets, fan mail, 911 videotapes (3 episodes are missing, presumed wiped.), and scholarly articles that show the cultural impact of Fred Rogers' work.
  • The music of the show was interpreted by an eclectic mix of modern artists for the 2005 album Songs From the Neighborhood: The Music of Mister Rogers.


References

External links




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