"In a little toy neighborhood, a tiny trolley rolls past a house at the end of a street.
Welcome to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
In the annals of children's TV, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood ranks among the longest-lasting and beloved shows. Upon its conclusion, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was the longest-running series in PBS history (a record eclipsed by Sesame Street in 2003).
Host Fred Rogers (known to millions as simply "Mister Rogers") used his gentle charm and mannerisms to communicate with his audience of children.
Topics centered on nearly every inconceivable matter of concern to children, ranging from everyday fears related to going to sleep, getting immunizations and disappointment about not getting one's way to losing a loved one to death and physical handicaps.
Rogers used simple songs and, on nearly every show, segments from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe (NOM) to make his point. A scale-model trolley was often (but not always) used to segue into the Make-Believe segments, said neighborhood being inhabited by puppet characters including King Friday XIII, Lady Elaine Fairchild and Daniel Striped Tiger.
Many shows also featured visits from cast members – most often Mr. McFeely (tagline: "Speedy Delivery"), Robert Trow, Joe Negri and Chef Brockett (the local baker). Many times, Rogers also visited the neighborhood shops of both the regulars and guests. Each show began and ended with a camera panning over a scale neighborhood (said to represent the town where Rogers lived).
While today's longer-running PBS Kids shows reinvent themselves every five years, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood achieved, throughout its 31 seasons, that rarest of elements: consistency. It is a legacy that can all be traced through every aspect of Fred Rogers' television career.
Some of the characters in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, both real and imagined, had appeared in two of Fred Rogers' earlier programs, The Children's Corner for Pittsburgh's WQED in 1954 and the CBC's Misterogers in 1963. It was for Misterogers that Fred first appeared on-camera.
Rogers returned to WQED in Pittsburgh to begin writing and hosting Mister Rogers' Neighborhood May 22, 1967. Several other public television stations from Chicago to Boston carried the show on a trial basis that year.
Beginning February 19, 1968, the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood program that we know today, began airing nationwide on National Educational Television (NET), the predecessor to PBS. This was also the year David Newell, returned from Europe, began work for Rogers. He was in charge of the production as well as the neighborhood's Speedy Delivery service.
(AN ASIDE: Rogers wanted to call the delivery man Mr. McCurdy after the man at the Sears-Roebuck Foundation, whose support launched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. But the people at Sears-Roebuck called Rogers and said "Mr. McCurdy" was too self-serving. Thus Rogers went to his roots to rename Newell's deliveryman. "McFeely" was Rogers' middle name and the last name of his maternal grandfather.)
Shows were produced as a daily strip from 1968 to 1976, at which time production was suspended. Counting black-and-white episodes, 590 shows were produced in that span.
Production resumed at the beginning of the remote video age in 1979. Rogers went on location more, supervising videos of how people make things (a precursor to the TVO series Here's How!). Other characters would be introduced in the subsequent two decades. In all, 305 new programs were taped from 1979 through 2001. Of that volume, the most notable shows came in 1991, with Rogers focusing on calming children's fears during the first U.S. war with Iraq.
PBS gradually narrowed the window for the 460 "pre-79" episodes with each new season from 1980 onward. When the number of "post-75" episodes was enough to cover entire years, the classic shows were retired, last airing on PBS in the summer of 1995. Despite the production stoppage and the subsequent passing of Fred Rogers on February 27, 2003, PBS continues to repeat Mister Roger's Neighborhood in all its original glory–an accomplishment unique among all PBS Kids shows.
- Genre(s): Comedy, Kids
- Show Type: Ended
- Season 99 premiere date: Feb 19, 1968
- Episode Length: 30
- Air Time: 08:00 PM
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