Monday, May 22, 2017

Anniversaries: "Whether we're a preschooler or a young teen, a graduating college senior or a retired person, we human beings all want to know that we're acceptable, that our being alive somehow makes a difference in the lives of others.”

Fifty years ago today, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood came to public television.

The Writer's Almanac explains,
It was on this day in 1967 that a show featuring a kindly man in a cardigan and blue sneakers debuted on public television and introduced millions of schoolchildren to the concepts of peace, patience, and diversity. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood would go on to become the longest-running children’s program on television. 
The show was the brainchild of a Protestant minister and puppeteer named Fred Rogers, who believed children needed a show that placed an emphasis on values, tolerance, self-control, and self-esteem. 
Rogers started as a puppeteer on a show called The Children’s Corner in Pittsburgh, then moved the show to Toronto for a few years, and then back again. Rogers created indelible characters like Henrietta Pussycat, who lived in a small yellow and orange schoolhouse, and X the Owl, who lived in an old oak tree in what became known to millions of children as “The Neighborhood.” 
Rogers began each show by entering a door into his fictional home, hanging up his jacket, putting on one of his many cardigans, and trading his dress shoes for blue sneakers. He sang songs, led children on field trips to factories and restaurants, and even did crafts and played music. He spoke directly into the camera and often dealt with serious subjects like war, divorce, death, and competition. Rogers said: “The world is not always a kind place. That’s something all children learn for themselves, whether we want them to or not, but it’s something they really need our help to understand.” 
Fred Rogers’s mother knitted all of the cardigans he wore on the show. One of them is hanging, right now, in the Smithsonian Museum. On his continued popularity with children, Fred Rogers said: “One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self. I also believe that kids can spot a phony a mile away.” 
Rogers died in 2003. In 2007-08 PBS phased the show out out of its daily syndicated feed, though some stations continue to broadcast the old shows.

An animated, next-generation update of the program, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, debuted in 2012, and since then the number of stations carrying the original has doubled.

On May 11, the internet gaming platform Twitch began the ultimate binge-watch to support public broadcasting: an 18-day back-to-back run of all 886 episodes of the half-hour show. It continues through May 29.

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