It’s been a while since my last trip to the neighborhood, but even watching a youtube clip really can send you back. I really like Todd VanDerWerff’s discussion of Mr. Rogers neighborhood in this article which touches on the idea that the show may have literally been one of a kind. As a big fan of preschool television, I can see how the pacing of Mr. Rogers differs so drastically from today’s most popular shows, but as VanDerWerff hints at, it may not be possible to bring that element of the neighborhood to preschoolers today. The unique presence of Fred Rogers himself seems to be the real barrier—it is not something that a producer can simply cast or conjure up (I have yet to watch the new “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” which is indeed an experiment to channel Mr. Rogers’ energy). While many of us, in our fast-paced, communication rich world, simply can’t bear silence and calm conversation, the magic of Mr. Rogers seems to have been his natural calm, quiet, and directness. He was never (seemingly) reading from a script or blindly singing a song, he was truly happy to see “you.”
This summer I was speaking with someone at work who had worked for and met Fred Rogers. Indeed, the Mr. Rogers on television was not a work of fiction. What did he do when he met her, an employee of the Mr. Rogers Neighborhood new website team? He said thank you—thank you for being you.
Addition [2/3/13 03:25pm]: I just watched Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood. While it does not include quite the direct connection that Mr. Rogers himself made with his audience, it does include variations of him well-known songs and approaches similar topics and themes. I really enjoyed the familiar nods to Mr. Rogers himself, but I wonder how much children who surely don’t know these references enjoy the new program. I do think the nods to classic Mr. Rogers may encourage increased parental co-viewing.