Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was a syndicated children's program that ran for over thirty years, making it one of the longest-running programs on PBS. In the show, Fred Rogers took his viewers on virtual tours with him to demonstrate experiments and music, interacting with his friends on the show along the way. Each half-hour segment also included a puppet show called the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe."Rogers' show had its earliest incarnation in 1954 as The Children's Corner, a local program airing on station WQED in his native Pittsburgh. Rogers then took his talents to Canada in 1963 with a CBC TV program called Misterogers, with Ernie Coombs as Rogers' understudy. After three years, Rogers decided to return to the U.S. while Coombs stayed to eventually became his boss' Canadian TV icon counterpart, Mr Dressup. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood debuted on National Educational Television (NET) in 1968; two years later, NET became PBS and Rogers' show continued through 2001. The show would inspire an entire generation of children, and, alongside Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow, anchored PBS' children's programming throughout the '80s and '90s. Reruns of the show are still broadcast occasionally, even after Rogers' death in 2003.An animated spin-off called Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood began airing as part of PBS Kids in September 3, 2012, based on the son of the character Daniel Tiger.In addition, a Hollywood biopic about Rogers is in the works as well.
Catch Phrase: Mr. Rogers closed each show with these heartwarming words: "You make each day a special day. You know how; by just your being you. There's only one person in this whole world like you. And people can like you exactly as you are."
Ironically, however, the character was actually supposed to be named Mr. McCurdy, after the show's benefactor. But the Sears-Roebuck Foundation, one of the show's funders, called the producers and told them that they objected to the idea.
Queen Sara Saturday was named after Rogers' wife, Sara Joanne Rogers, nee Byrd.
Early Installment Weirdness: Despite the premise of the show changing very little throughout the years, there are some pretty big differences in its early episodes.
In the first episode, Mister Rogers' house is completely different (with a different non-blinking traffic light), and Rogers himself changes into a button-up shirt as opposed to a zip-up cardigan sweater.
The first three seasons have the title displayed as "MisteRogers' Neighborhood", with the more familiar title only used after 1971.
Later color episodes have the house with yellow interiors as opposed to the more familiar blue. The model neighborhood also got a redesign at the same time, with more intricate buildings and a slight change in layout.
Mister Rogers would thank Picture Picture after showing a film or even slides, which it would then respond with "You're Welcome" on its screen. In the show's earliest years, it would also show the word "Hello" or "Hi" when not in use, as opposed to a painting.
It was never made explicit, but originally the Land of Make-Believe was spoken of as if it were just as real as Mister's Rogers own house, with people talking about visiting friends there, doing errands, etc.
Friday episodes from 1971-72 also had a special closing song called "The Weekend Song"; a slight modification of its first verse would then become the coda of the familiar closing version of "It's Such A Good Feeling".
"Good Feeling", in turn, was originally sung at other points in the show, without the "Weekend Song" verse ("I'll be back..."), and with slightly different lyrics ("I think I'll grow 12 inches today!").
Episode Code Number: The first season had its episodes numbered 1 to 130. When the show started broadcasting in color the next season, the numbering jumped ahead to 1001, and stayed on this track for the rest of the run.
When the show went on hiatus in 1976, the numbers were added at the end of older episodes.
Every Episode Ending: Mister Rogers sang "It's Such A Good Feeling" at the end of every episode (except for some of the operas) from 1972-2001. On earlier episodes, he closed the show with the "Tomorrow" song.
Meaningful Name: Prince Tuesday was named for the day of the week upon which he was born.
McFeelies: The "Adventures in Friendship" DVD contains a red cardigan sweater cover with a zipper.
Medium Awareness: Since he believed that children should know the difference between real and pretend, Mr. Rogers was up front about the fact that his "house" was a TV studio, showing how the puppets worked, and occasionally even letting viewers see behind the scenes.
The Messiah: Mr. Rogers. Pretty much this in real life, too. He was an ordained Presbyterian minister, but he never once mentioned it on his show. He never wore it as a hat or on his sleeve; he just continued to practice his life in that quiet little way he always had. Certain fundamentalist preachers hated him because, apparently not getting the "kindest man who ever lived" memo, they would ask him to denounce homosexuals. Mr. Rogers's response? He'd pat the target on the shoulder and say, "God loves you just as you are." Rogers even belonged to a "More Light" congregation in Pittsburgh, a part of the Presbyterian Church dedicated to welcoming LGBT persons to full participation in the church.
Mickey Mousing: Tiny little piano bits orchestrate Rogers' movements often, especially when he's talking directly to the audience.
Subverted again in a 1981 episode, where Prince Tuesday has run away from home. Ana Platypus says that she was worried that he might have been dead.
Nice Guy: Try to find a better example of this then Mr. Rogers. Just try.
No Fourth Wall: Besides the constant interaction with the viewer, the fact that Fred's "TV house" was a mere set in a studio was made obvious. For example, one episode had Fred walk out of the living room and into the bare studio to introduce viewers to the live band accompanying the show: music director and pianist Johnny Costa, bassist Carl McVicker, Jr., and drummer-percussionist Bobby Rawsthorne.
Numerological Motif: There are subtle references to the number 143, a number Fred Rogers believed was specially significant because 1, 4, and 3 are the numbers of letters in the words "I love you."
Our Trolls Are Different: In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, they're named Robert and speak a playful gibberish "troll-talk."
Picked Last: Both Mr. Rogers and King Friday both went through this.
The Piano Player: Music director Johnny Costa showed up on camera from time to time to play some of Fred's tunes. Offscreen, he provided the show's underscore, playing sophisticated jazz improvisations live during taping.
Also, King Friday XIII. (Think about it.) This doubles as a Meaningful Name, since the character was originally created to amuse a child who had been disturbed by superstitions about a certain calendar date.
Though that's nothing compared to his other favorite song:
"Scintillate, scintillate diminutive stellar orb. How inexplicable to me seems this stupendous problem of your existence. Elevated at such at an immeasurable distance, in an apparently perpendicular direction from this terrestrial planet which we occupy. Resembling in thy dazzling and unapproachable effulgence, a gem of purest carbon, set solitaire in a university of space."
An outer-space visitor to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe was given the name Yo-YoLaBelle, after two famous musicians.
The town seen at the beginning of every episode is modeled after Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where Rogers was born and raised.
Significant Monogram: The antagonist in the opera "Windstorm in Bubbleland" is named W. I. Norton Donovan.
Special Guest: Several rather big names from the world of art and music made appearances over the show's run. Wynton Marsalis, Yo Yo Ma, Van Cliburn, Ella Jenkins, Ezra Jack Keats, Eric Carle, Andrew Wyeth, Margaret Hamilton, Michael Keaton, Lou Ferrigno, Big Bird...
Yo Yo Ma in particular appeared so frequently he could almost be called a recurrer.
Ma and Rogers were actually close friends, with Rogers even citing the former as one of his heroes.
Notably, the Neighborhood's Special Guests were just as likely to be ordinary people as well-known celebrities.
Spinoff Babies: In 2012, PBS Kids began airing Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, a series focusing on the pre-school aged offspring of characters from the original series, with the adorable son of Daniel Striped-Tiger as the lead.
Spoonerism: Occasionally showed up in the title theme: "It's a neighbourly day in this beautywood..."
Suspiciously Similar Song: Some songs used in the early days were co-written with Josie Carey, dating back to their time working together on The Children's Corner. Rogers and Carey sold the copyrights to these songs (foolishly, by Rogers' own admission), and mostly stopped using them in order to avoid paying royalties, as Rogers said that he could come up with new ones that were just as good. Indeed, some of the newer songs have very similar lyrics - for example, "I Like You As You Are" gave way to "It's You I Like".
That Makes Me Feel Angry: Invoked a lot. Justified, as Mr. Rogers was intentionally teaching his viewers that it was OK to deal with their emotions. The concept was even addressed in song, one example being "What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel?"
Time Skip: Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood also qualifies as this, since it will feature the original Neighborhood of Make Believe characters as the new main characters' parents.
There also seems to have been a Time Skip between the 1968-76 and 1979-2001 runs, because Prince Tuesday and Ana Platypus were aged up from toddlers to preschool level. However, Daniel Striped Tiger was also featured as their classmate in spite of not having apparently aged, so it could also be seen as a Continuity Reboot.
Transcontinental Equivalent: Mr Dressup in Canada, although the show was somewhat both broader and more down to earth with the clownish costumes he used and it didn't have the equivalent of the Land of Make-Believe, the puppet characters largely came to him.
Tuckerization: Queen Sara was named for Mr. Rogers's wife. Miss Paulifficate was named for his children, Paul, Elizabeth ("Iffy"), and Kate.
Unlimited Wardrobe: Henrietta Pussycat had more costumes than some of the human characters.
Vanity Plate: From 1968 to 1969, When PBS was still called NET, a house featuring its logo was used in the model city in the opening and end credits. It was remodeled twice after that, which explains why the roof has an odd slant to it.
Verbal Tic: Meow meow Henrietta Pussycat again meow meow meow.
Also, Dr. Bill Platypus' usage of the word "bill" in place of "very". For example, "That's bill, bill, bill good".
Let's not forget Bob Dog!
And how.. hooowww... HOOOWWWWWLLLLL!!!
Very Special Episode: He did a week-long series in 1983, "Conflict" (#1521-1525), as supplemental material with The Day After, to help kids cope with the themes of the miniseries.
First, on an episode of Muppet Babies; in one daydream, Fozzie walked into a not-quite replica of Mr. Rogers' house, whilst singing "It's a beautiful day in my neighborhood!" in a way that didn't bear any resemblance to the actual theme song (probably to avoid a lawsuit).
Eddie Murphy was featured in a series of Saturday Night Live skits, "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood," in which he copied Mr. Rogers' speaking style but discussed antisocial behavior in a gritty urban setting. ("You know any other words that start with X, boys and girls? How about... Ex-con?") Fortunately, Mr. Rogers recognized Murphy's affection and took them in good fun.
In the episode "No Chris Left Behind," Stewie pretends that he is King Friday XIII, complaining about the castle's too-close proximity to the Trolley tracks.
"Brian in Love" features a blackout gag features a frame-for-frame re-creation of the show's opening segment, and Rogers bantering with the audience before attempting to transition into the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" segment; Stewie rides out on the Trolley, announcing that he had used his gun to destroy the neighborhood. Rogers investigates and finds the entire neighborhood in flames and its inabitants either dead, or fleeing in horror and screaming over their injuries (Henrietta Pussycat: "Meow, meow, skin graft!"). Rogers begs for his life but Stewie shows no mercy, shooting him with a laser gun. Stewie awakens at this point and his mother, Lois, comforting him ... until "Lois" pulls off a mask to reveal himself as Mr. Rogers. Rogers is about to shoot Stewie, until Stewie wakes up for real. Apparently, even Seth McFarlane regrets this segment ever airing.
In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer responds to a PBS pledge drive only to get the free goodies. When he attempts to get out of paying up his promised donation, several PBS characters are sent to 'persuade' him.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Averted; a blooper reel has a bleeped "sh—" in a segment where Mr. Rogers attempts to set up a tent in the back yard, only for it to fall over unexpectedly. (The segment never aired on the PBS series, but was featured several times on various Dick ClarkBloopers programs.)
A very early episode features Mister Rogers and some neighbors singing the children's song "Where Is Thumbkin?". During the "where is Tall Man?" verse, Rogers responds to that question by extending his middle finger to the camera in the same manner as Flipping the Bird. A still image of this became viral after the episode was released online; technically this was taken out of context, but some have surmised based on the expression on Rogers' face that he knew exactly what he was doing.
Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Urban Legends notwithstanding, Fred Rogers maintained his reputation as a downright all-around good guy on and off screen, even in the midst of the cutthroat television industry.
It's the Best Whatever, Ever!: Noted actor Tim Robbins, who presented Mr. Rogers his Lifetime Achievement Award at the 24th Daytime Emmy Awards (in 1997), described him as "the best neighbor any of us has ever had".
"Mr. Rogers projected an air of genuine, unwavering, almost saintly pure-hearted decency. But when you look deeper, at the person behind the image ... that's exactly what you find there, too. He's exactly what he appears to be."
Music director Johnny Costa did serve in the military during World War II. That's the extent of the military careers of anyone connected with the show.
The child molester accusation came about partially because he never had children on his show. The truth was that Mr. Rogers believed that his show would be better served if he addressed the viewer directly. There's also an aphorism in show business: "Never work with animals or children".
Also, he didn't wear those long-sleeved sweaters to cover his tattoos, because he never had any tattoos.
One urban legend that ended up being slightly true (but even then, just barely.) There's a photo of him apparently "giving the finger" to the camera that's been circulating. The photo is real in the sense that it wasn't faked or manipulated; however, it's taken out of context. What he was doing was singing the old nursery rhyme where you count off your fingers in turn to the tune of "Frère Jacques." The photo was a screencap of when they were singing "Where is tall-man?" Here's the video proof.