Series: Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?"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
on September 3, 2012, based on the son of the character Daniel Tiger.
In addition, a Hollywood biopic
about Rogers is in the works.
This show contains examples of:
- Acme Products / Brand X: Since the show aired on non-commercial PBS, and Rogers himself was strongly against consumerism on children's TV, any grocery products featured on the show were of the made-up "Neighborhood" brand (for example, Neighborhood Cat Food◊).
- Aerith and Bob: King Friday and Queen Sarah.
- Subverted in that Queen Sarah's last name was Saturday.
- All-Loving Hero: 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.
- To quote (of all things) Cracked: "A lot of people of a lot of faiths are waiting for the Messiah, but even if one arrives, how are you going to tell the difference between him and Fred Rogers?"
- The Artifact: The red model building once used to show the NET logo; see Vanity Plate.
- As Himself: Many of the human cast or guest stars, notably Betty Aberlin, François Clemmons, John Reardon, Charles R. Aber, and of course Mr. Rogers himself.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Sarah Saturday's coronation as Queen of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe takes place immediately before the royal wedding in episode 1015.
- Be Yourself: Mr. Rogers delivered this Aesop very effectively.
- Big Friendly Dog: Bob Dog.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Prince Tuesday does this occasionally, when his father's decisions don't make sense.
- 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."
- Christmas Special: Christmastime with Mister Rogers (1977)
- Clip Show: A week of 1976 episodes had Mr. Rogers taking viewers through old props and video tapes from the show.
- Cool Old Guy: Towards the end of the show's run, Rogers himself.
- Correspondence Course: X the Owl took one from Owl Correspondence School.
- Cross Over: With Sesame Street in 1981. Did a mutual crossover with real life pal Captain Kangaroo, and also showed up in Arthur.
- Conversely, Big Bird and Arthur appeared in episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
- In later years, LeVar Burton and Bill Nye came over to visit.
- There was even a one episode cross over with The Incredible Hulk.
- Day of the Week Name: King Friday XIII, Queen Sara Saturday, and Prince Tuesday. King Friday's father was named King Thursday.
- Deadpan Snarker: Lady Elaine Fairchilde.
- "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Mr. Rogers composed all music for the series, as he held a degree in music composition and began his TV career as a composer.
- Drop-In Character: Mr. McFeely, the delivery man, who, in a Shout-Out of Crowning Moment of Heartwarming proportions, was named after Rogers' maternal grandfather, the first person to ever tell him that he could make life special just by being himself.
- 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.
- Until some point in 1972, the show had a different closing song, "Tomorrow" (no, not the song from Annie).
- 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!").
- Edutainment Show: Probably the Trope Maker for the genre.
- 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.
- On later episodes, they were included in the Title Sequence.
- 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.
- Everything's Better with Platypi: The Platypus Family.
- Fake Interactivity: A little lighter than usual. He never really required the audience to play along, but he did treat the camera as the viewer.
- Friend to All Children: Fred Rogers, famously so.
- Iconic Outfit:
- The cardigans. His mother made them all.
- One of them is now on display in the Smithsonian. Rogers chose that one because the color looked bad on camera.
- His constant changing of shoes.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness
- Long Runners: Ran from 1968 to 2001.
- 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.
- Mickey Mousing: Tiny little piano bits orchestrate Rogers' movements often, especially when he's talking directly to the audience.
- Morality Chain: If Queen Sarah is around, she'll minimize and help to reverse her husband's periodic lapses in rationality.
- Musical Episode: The series included thirteen original episode-length operas composed by Mr. Rogers, usually featuring professional opera singers John Reardon and François Clemmons. While of course they're all completely accessible to young viewers, Mr. Rogers clearly didn't believe in underestimating his audience.
- Never Say "Die": Subverted over a decade before Sesame Street had to. He dealt with the death of his pet goldfish in 1970.
- Never Work with Children or Animals: Heeded this aphorism, both to make his show more intimate, and because kids and animals are notoriously unreliable.
- Nice Guy: Try to find a better example of this than 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.
- Platonic Life Partners: Henrietta and X
- Playing Gertrude: Betsy Nadas Seamans (Mrs. McFeely) was only 24 years old when she began working on the show.
- Slightly justified, since David Newell (aka Mr. McFeely) was only 28 or 29 when he debuted.
- Punny Name: Donkey Hodie. Get it?
- 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.
- Cornelius S. Pecially?! (corny especially)
- The Resolution Will Not Be Identified: The last episode was treated like any other, with the understanding that the show would live on in reruns. Mr. Rogers did show some pictures of his neighbors, and he shook hands with Mr. McFeely.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Daniel Tiger! D'aaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwww!
- And Henrietta Pussycat.
- And now their super-cute little kids! AWWWWWW!!!
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: King Friday may have a small kingdom but he rules with an iron hand.
- Fortunately, he's usually easily pleased and his subjects seem to know how to get around him pretty easily.
- Safety Worst: One 1981 story arc has King Friday ban all play as a safety measure.
- Sentient Vehicle: The trolley seemed able to converse to some extent with Mr. Rogers and the inhabitants of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, though it only communicated with dings and whistles.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: King Friday again. His revised version of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is particularly impressive:
"Propel, propel, propel your craft
Gently down liquid solution,
Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically,
Existence is but an illusion."
- 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."
- Shout-Out: X and Henrietta, to Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat."
- Significant Monogram: The antagonist in the opera "Windstorm in Bubbleland" is named W. I. Norton Donovan.
- So Proud of You: Mr. Rogers would regularly tell his viewers "I'm proud of you, just the way you are," cited by many as one of the show's Heartwarming Moments. This was even set to music in the song, "I'm Proud of You."
- 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.
- Species Surname: Most of the puppets.
- 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..."
- Super Fun Happy Thing of Doom: From a Neighborhood of Make-Believe segment with an anti-war aesop:
X the Owl
: [has been asked to help assemble a bomb] I don't think we should call them "bombs", though. We should call them "surprise treats
" or something like that. Bombs are scary things and hurting things.
- Syndication Title: Mister Rogers' Neighborhood as Mister Rogers.
- 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?"
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: For all his warmth and friendliness, Mr. Rogers was still Mister Rogers to his young viewers. His grown-up neighbors freely called him "Fred," however.
- 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.
- Tin-Can Telephone: On the original set.
- 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.
- Ursine Aliens: The Purple Panda.
- 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".
- 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.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: "Are you brave and don’t know it? / Are you brave and can’t tell? / Are you brave and just don’t show it / While others know it very well?"
Didn't contain, but was still related to examples of:
- All-Loving Hero: Probably the closest thing to the archetype we have in real life.
- Badass Pacifist: If ever a man was this, it was Mr. Rogers.
- Take a look at this XKCD strip and try to say this is an exaggeration.
- Mr. Rogers once faced down a hostile U.S. Senate committee that was threatening to cut a $10 million government grant for PBS. He simply gave a six-minute speech describing his TV show. The grant was increased to $20 million.
- He was also cited as a key witness in the Supreme Court's decision that home recording technology was fair use. Think about that: The man could persuade the U.S. government to change their minds on a controversial policy issue simply by talking to them. Now that's badass.
- When Burger King had a series of TV commercials featuring a No Celebrities Were Harmed spokesman, "Mister Rodney," promoting their food, Mr. Rogers took issue with his likeness being used for commercialism and politely asked them to cease and desist. Burger King, a massive multi-million dollar corporation, pulled all the ads immediately, and the VP he spoke with later remarked to the press, "Mister Rogers is one guy you don’t want to mess with, as beloved as he is."
- Badass Preacher: Being an Ordained Minister and facing down the US Senate clearly qualifies Mister Rogers for this.
- Berserk Button/Sacred Cow: Making a derogatory comment or a sick joke about Fred Rogers while in the company of certain people can be a very, very bad idea.
- Certain people being almost anyone who grew up watching the show, for example. Considering that the show was on for nearly half a century, that is a lot of people.
- Put it this way: 4chan, the imageboard rampant with Rule 34 and infamously known by many as the cesspool of the internet, will fry you if you post any insult directed at Mr. Rogers.
- Captain Ersatz / Affectionate Parody: Several instances:
- 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).
- In the second season of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures, those two righteous dudes were shocked and totally bummed out to learn that their favourite childhood show, Mr Radish's Condo, is about to be cancelled because kids today don't want his brand of sweetness. Cue Wyld Stallyns trying to make him stay... and making things a lot worse for him. Eventually, Mr Radish decides to change his image completely, ending up as a Totally Radical rocker, which Bill and Ted initially consider to be most excellent... until they realise that maybe this was perhaps a most egregious error in judgement. Thankfully, Rufus shows up with Ted's bratty brother, who points out to Mr. Radish that you should Be Yourself, for your own sake if nothing else. Mr Radish agrees, and changes back into his red sweater.
- The most recent one of these was in a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo in an episode of The Fairly OddParents. How recent? Oh, about about three months before Rogers died. Whoops!
- 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.
- Family Guy: At least two examples:
- 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.
- Pearls Before Swine had a series of strips in which Rat substituted as host for Mr. Rogers. Things quickly became hilariously Darker and Edgier, culminating in an an Arab Spring uprising against King Friday's monarchy which led to a Jihadi takeover of the neighborhood.
- Jimmy Fallon did a parody of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood during the 2012 election making fun of the two presidential candidates as well.
- Mr. Copperfield's Neighborhood. Definitely more Affectionate Parody than Captain Ersatz.
- Tim Russell occasionally did a Mr. Rogers impression on A Prairie Home Companion, depicting Mr. Rogers as a hard partier outside of the show and using him in a memorable Mister Rogers Comfort Audio skit. They later did an episode where they justified the parody by saying that they make fun of all sorts of celebrities.
- An episode of the Super Mario World animated series had a spoof called Mr. Koopa's Neighborhood with King Koopa as the title character.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Fred McFeely Rogers. He's a bit unfortunate, especially considering that he works with kids.
- Excited Kids' Show Host: Mr. Rogers' gentle and peaceful demeanor made him a notable exception to the norm.
- Friend to All Living Things: Koko the sign language gorilla loved 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 Clark Bloopers 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 Has Been an Honor: This is the sentiment which David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely, described pertaining to his final scene with Mr. Rogers, in which the two shook hands.
- 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".
- Jaw Drop: Mr. Rogers and Jeff Erlanger were reunited when Rogers was inducted into the TV Hall of Fame in 1999. Rogers was completely surprised.
- Just Think of the Potential: Fred Rogers felt that it was important that television be used for good.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Lampshaded when he brought on Margaret Hamilton to talk about the differences between fantasy and reality. Also done with Lou Ferrigno.
- New Media Are Evil: Rogers' initial reaction to television. He sought to make it better.
- Pie in the Face: The first thing Mr. Rogers saw on television was a whole routine of this. He was repulsed.
- Real Men Love Jesus: He was an Ordained Presbyterian Minister, see Badass Preacher.
- Sarcasm Failure: Induced this in Cracked, which snarks anything and everything, with no exceptions — but Mister Rogers. When Cracked can't snark at you, and instead writes a tribute to your memory calling you "The Greatest American", well...
- Stupid Statement Dance Mix: One was made by PBS themselves to pay tribute to the ideas in the show. Though in this case, more like a wise statement dance mix.
- Truth in Television: The Mr. Rogers you saw on TV was the real deal. As Randall Munroe put it:
- "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."
- Urban Legends: Mr. Rogers was absolutely not a sniper, child molester, or violent criminal.
- The story about his stolen car being returned to him with a note reading, "Sorry, we didn't know it was yours!" (and, in some versions, after having it detailed) is merely undetermined. It's totally plausible, but then, spreading stories for that reason is where Urban Legends come from in the first place.
- 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.
- The military rumors may have started when fellow soft-spoken PBS star Bob Ross was confused for Mr. Rogers. Ross actually was in the Air Force, as a Drill Sergeant Nasty, no less!
- Voice Clip Song: The Garden Of Your Mind, by the guy who does Symphony Of Science, officially sanctioned by PBS no less.