Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

I am extremely thankful for my friends on Facebook. They often remind me of news and events that I would otherwise allow to pass by unnoticed. That's what happened today, when one of my friends posted this news article recalling the origins of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood 45 years ago today. This is the kind of anniversary I would have been sorry to have missed.

Thanks to a gift card I received for Christmas a few years ago, I've actually been able to watch that first (national) episode of what was then called Misterogers' Neighborhood via Amazon.com's Instant Video service. While the show was in black-and-white at that time, the format was more or less the same then as it remained until new episodes stopped being made in 2001 (I have still never seen any episode from the pre-national versions of the show that started in 1963, but would welcome the opportunity to do so). A few cast members came and went, as did a few characters from the iconic "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" that was my favorite element of the show in my childhood (I confess that I often ignored the "real world" portions of the show back then, only coming to realize their importance as an adult), and the standard "It's Such a Good Feeling" that closed out all of the episodes made within my lifetime was missing in favor of a song called "Tomorrow" that, until I was able to watch these oldest episodes on Amazon, I'd half-thought that I'd imagined, despite the fact that I knew that I was unlikely to have come up with the entire tune and lyrics all on my own (I must have seen pre-1972 episodes as reruns as some point when I was young, but they'd been left out of the rotation entirely by the time I graduated from college)!

It is undeniably ironic that this program, which featured arguably the most mild-mannered personality ever seen on the small screen, arose out of anger, as Fred Rogers is on record as having "hated" television for the "demeaning" ways in which people were often treated — Rogers specifically talks about "people throwing pies at each other's faces." I shudder to think what he thought about "demeaning behavior" that television portrayed in the years since the 1960s! While I often feel that the Internet itself has way too much anger about it, I cannot help but acknowledge that anger often can lead to positive change, as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood itself attests. Fred Rogers was able to take that anger and be constructive about it. Perhaps many of us on the Internet would do well to take heed of the words of one of Mister Rogers' most well-known songs, "What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel?" I'll close this entry by providing a link to that song (and its lyrics) from the official PBS Kids page, where Mister Rogers' Neighborhood still provides resources to parents and children to this day.

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