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Trivia / Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

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  • Acting for Two: There's been at least one case where Bob Dog and Robert Troll were on screen at the same time, both of which were played by Bob Trow.
  • Actor-Inspired Element: Betty Aberlin was very involved with her scenes, giving Rogers feedback and suggestions for them.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!:
    • For some reason, Mister Rogers is famous for saying, "Can you say ____?" The line appears in several parodies but aside from asking his viewers to say "pentagon" in an early episode (Death of a Goldfish, 1101), he almost never said it on the show, and in fact thought the phrase would be an insult to the intelligence of even his very young audience. He did ask his viewers "Can you _____ now?" at least once, though.
      • He did say it again in Episode 1021 from 1969, when Trolley rolls up, and he points to the writing on it and says "Can you say 'Neighborhood Trolley'? Good!" So there is some precedent (though he doesn't say it every other line, as the parodies would have you believe).
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    • This trope also applies to the show's theme song. Many people remember the opening line as "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood", when it's actually "It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood". (Granted, it's not too difficult to hear it as "the neighborhood" due to Rogers' Pennsylvania soft drawl.)
  • Contractual Purity:
    • This was reason that Rogers didn't let Betty Aberlin star in Night of the Living Dead, a film by his protege George A. Romero, who had actually directed a segment for the show. Note that his personal protectiveness did not extent to the film itself, when Romero screened it to his mentor, the sweet, harmless Pennsylvania minister was delighted with his protege's gory, nihilistic horror film and told Romero it was great fun.
    • Rogers also discouraged François Clemmons from going out to gay bars or being open about his sexuality, although he was personally very affirming of gay people. Clemmons (who's now publicly out) has said in interviews that he doesn't bear any ill will for this or think it diminishes Mr. Rogers' message of acceptance at all; societal attitudes toward homosexuality were much different in The '60s and being openly gay could have been a serious risk to Clemmons' career or even personal safety, and it unquestionably would've made the show a target during its more fragile early years (when Fred had to fight for PBS funding to start with!) and might well have put Fred in a position of being forced by pressure to fire Clemmons.
  • The Danza: Rogers was, by all indications, really fond of this trope. Examples include Bob Trow as Robert Troll and Bob Dog, Joe Negri as Handyman Negri, Keith David as Keith the Handyman, Don Brockett as Chef Brockett, Audrey Roth as Audrey Paulifficate, Maggie Stewart as Mayor Maggie, Betty Aberlin as Lady Aberlin....
    • One episode reveals Mr. McFeely's first name as David, which is the first name of the actor playing Mr. McFeely, David Newell. Similarly, when Mrs. McFeely became an onscreen character in 1972, she was given the first name Betsy, which is the first name of the actress who plays her, Betsy Nadas.
    • A bit of a sideways one, Fred Rogers' middle name was McFeely.
  • Edited for Syndication: When the episodes from the first run (1968-1976) were rerun after their initial air dates, a new stinger was added to the end of each of them signifying what episode code number they were and thanking any new sponsors that were originally not around during their first airings. Many of the episodes have also gone through several Vanity Plates throughout their run; for example, early color episodes originally had the NET vanity plate, but they now have the 1970 PBS logonote . Likewise, almost all the episodes from the early 70s to 1979 still have the 1989 PBS logo from past reruns, and most of the episodes from 1979 onward having the 1999 PBS Kids logos, except a few episodes which have the 1993 and 1996 PBS Kids idents.
    • For the 2018 rebroadcasts, episodes were fitted with borders, in order to account for PBS's aspect ratio having changed since the show went off the air. For a time, though, some stations have cropped the image for broadcast by zooming in.
  • He Also Did:
    • Michael Keaton and George A. Romero both had behind-the-scenes jobs on the show early in their careers.
    • Rogers himself had one acting role that wasn't As Himself: Reverend Thomas in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
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    • Rogers put Neighborhood on hiatus in 1976 so he could work on some projects for an older audience, including Old Friends...New Friends, an interview show that ran for two years on PBS.
  • In Memoriam:
    • Episode 1610 ("Josephine the Short-Necked Giraffe") features a dedication to John Reardon, who passed away in April 1988.
    • Episodes 1711 through 1715 ("Mister Rogers Talks about Sharing") are dedicated to longtime musical director Johnny Costa:
      Family Communications Inc.
      dedicates this week
      of programs to
      John Costa
      who shared his friendship
      and musical genius with
      us for many years
    • The last episodes recorded by Bob Trow (who played himself, Robert Troll, Bob Dog, AND Harriet Elizabeth Cow) and "Chef" Don Brockett before their deaths were dedicated to their memories; Brockett's last episode was Episode 1686 in August 1995 and Trow's last episode was Episode 1740 in February 1999.
    • Episode 1605 featured a dedication to Margaret B. McFarland, a child psychologist and one of the psychological consultants on the show until her death in September 1988 at the age of 83.
  • Irony as She Is Cast: Joe Negri freely admitted that he wasn't very handy in Real Life. Rogers told him not to worry, since it was the Neighborhood of Make Believe, so he was just pretending to be a handyman.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: The "Conflict" episodes have effectively fallen into this, with the only surviving copies being YouTube postings of old VHS recordings. In fact, they weren't even shown for the 2017 Twitch marathon, which further cements them into this category. Four more random episodes from various weeks were also skipped in the Twitch marathon, though presumably because of either wiping note  or the masters simply no longer existing for any other reason.
    • Heck, nearly every episode before the second run (so anything before 1979) was pretty much in this category until the Twitch marathon. Only a very small amount of episodes were possible to watch via Amazon Prime from the first run, and most of them were simply "highlight" episodes such as the death of the goldfish. The black and white episodes took the cake, however, as the last time they had ever been seen on television was on August 21, 1970. Aside from the first week of shows which was also available on Amazon Prime, the Neighborhood Archive was the only place to see any snippets, and they were limited to screenshots. It was known that the episodes did exist in an archive safe and sound, but the fact that they hadn't been viewable by the public for that long is still something quite remarkable. Thank goodness for the Twitch stream, or they may have never found a good home.
    • Also, due to the show's No Export for You status outside the US, this is how people from outside the US got to sample episodes of the show prior to the official Twitch stream after hearing about it from various sources.
  • Missing Episode:
    • "Conflict", aired in 1983, concerned the Land of Make-Believe going into a panic after King Friday becomes convinced that Corny the Beaver is building a nuclear arsenal. At the time, this was a very relevant plot; after all, it was The '80s, one of the most tense periods of the Cold War (not to mention the fact that The Day After had aired a few months prior). The five episodes from this week last aired the week of April 1-5, 1996, partially due to controversy and partially due to not being quite as current anymore.
    • While not as well-known as the Conflict episodes, a few weeks of the early color episodes were also removed from the rotation early on (before the first run was phased out entirely by 1995). These include 1036-1040, 1051-1055, 1056-1060, and 1071-1075. The actual reasons for these being removed are not officially known (some suspect that they simply never got around to rerunning these after some time), there has been some speculation, such as how 1071-1075 features Bob Dog having a cage put over his head to prevent bad behavior. Again, though, none of it has been confirmed.
    • Sadly, this status holds true for the lesser-known predecessors The Children's Corner (which aired on WQED in 1954-61) and Misterogers (which aired on CBC in 1961-64, then on commercial Pittsburgh station WTAE in 1964-66, then on the Eastern Educational Network in 1966-68 as Misterogers' Neighborhood). The Neighborhood Archive has so far only documented two episodes of The Children's Corner and one episode of the EEN run, although plot summaries of all the CBC/WTAE/EEN episodes are known. Four episodes from the CBC run are held at the Paley Center for Media in New York and Los Angeles and the three documented episodes seem to be in circulation if the screenshots are any indication.
  • Name's the Same: Princess Zelda in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe should not be confused with the other Princess Zelda.
  • Never Work with Children or Animals: Heeded this aphorism, both to make his show more intimate, and because kids and animals are notoriously unreliable. Although once can argue that he learnt this through experience- since he did have animals and kids on earlier episodes of the show (one episode has a group of preschool kids visit his studio. Another episode featured Robert Trow's basset hound. While they went fine, it was clear that Mr. Rogers had to constantly improvise in those episodes to keep them going). There was the occasional exception, however; an entire week during the 80s was centered on pets and even had him keeping after Bob Trow's golden retriever Barney over the course of two episodes, and episode 1507 involved him visiting a group of kids to play some games with at the start of the episode (though here, it was clear they had been given much more direction than in the past, since they overall seemed more controlled and reserved).
  • No Export for You: Oddly enough, despite being wildly popular in his native U.S., the show was never broadcast outside of America, though many Canadians were able to watch the show due to the widespread availability of PBS on cable. However knowledge of the show was exported by expatriates and through Popcultural Osmosis via references by shows that do get exportednote . The Twitch marathon stream is practically the first time anyone outside the US and Canada is officially getting to watch the show.
  • Old Shame: Given how it was Mr. Rogers himself that requested the Conflict episodes be not repeated again (well, depending on what your source of information is; there has never been any straight answer given by the company), one wonders if Fred suddenly regretted writing and filming it the way he did, or realizing if the episodes could be taken out of context, only after production for the week's episodes wrapped.
    • Likewise, selling off the rights to some of the older songs. Fred has expressed his regret in several interviews.
  • The Pete Best: On his first show, The Children's Corner, which debuted on local Pittsburgh TV in 1954, Rogers was more of a behind-the-scenes guy whose main role was performing the show's puppets, while an actress/comedian/singer named Josie Carey was the host. Carey did various other local children's shows in Pennsylvania and South Carolina after The Children's Corner ended in 1961. A few of the songs she wrote with Rogers ended up getting used in the early years of Neighborhood, most notably the closing song "Tomorrow".
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Episode 0022 had Coach Saunders lip-syncing to Chicken Fat, which was written by Meredith Wilson and performed by Robert Preston under commission by JFK. Impressively, they used the long version of the song.
  • 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.
    • Averted, however, with the end of the show's first run. The single week of episodes produced in 1976, though not a Grand Finale by any stretch, still spent a lot of time paying tribute to past episodes and stated numerous times that the older episodes would be reran starting with the following week. This included spending time in the garage showing tapes of and props from past episodes.
  • Series Hiatus: The show went on a three-year production hiatus starting from 1976 and lasting through to 1979 before the show was Un-Cancelled. During this period, only repeats were shown of the series proper, but two holiday specials (a Christmas special and a springtime special) were made and aired on PBS.
  • Talking to Himself: Fred Rogers voiced most of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe puppets, including King Friday XIII, Queen Sara Saturday, Cornflake S. Pecially, Henrietta Pussycat, X the Owl, Lady Elaine Fairchild, and Daniel Striped Tiger, many of whom had conversations with each other that involved Rogers supplying all of the relevant voices.
  • Technology Marches On:
    • Surprisingly not quite as prevalent as one would think, even though the show ran for a bit more than thirty years. One easy to spot case, however, is that Picture Picture for all of the show's first run used actual film to show films. Beginning with the second run, however, he used VHS tapes to show them; had the show run any longer, there is no doubt he likely would have been using DVDs in due time.
    • In the episode where Mister Rogers goes out and buys a TV set, one thing that immediately dates the episode (aside from the aesthetic of the TVs quite clearly coming from the 70s): "Can this TV do color?"
    • In a later episode, Mister Rogers demonstrates how to access the Neighborhood website on a bulky desktop computer with dial-up internet, which practically screams The '90s.
  • Un-Cancelled: The series was initially set to end production in 1976, but later got another renewal in 1979 with somewhat of a Retool.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: Of course you can generally tell what decade an episode was made in, but one particularly bad case is that in 1529 (an episode made in 1984), Mister Rogers walks down the cereal aisle in a grocery store, and one of the things that can be seen is... Pac-Man cereal. Really.
  • Urban Legend of Zelda: Not shockingly, given the show's prominence in pop culture and how many kids grew up watching it at some point, stories about the show and its host circulated for years.
    • 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 myths 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.
    • Also, he didn't wear those long-sleeved sweaters to cover his tattoos, because he never had any tattoos.
    • One myth 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. (Given his cheeky grin during the video in question, plus the below rumors about his not-squeaky-clean private sense of humor, you have to wonder whether Rogers knew exactly what he was getting away with.)
    • 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! Additionally, the appearance of the militaristic-sounding Chicken Fat song (which Coach Saunders lip-synced to) in Episode 22, an early black-and-white episode of the show which last repeated in 1970, could've also played a part in creating the confusion.
    • Rogers' friends and family claim that he did have a somewhat coarse sense of humor, playing pranks, swearing and occasionally telling dirty jokes (in private, of course). But the occasional myths that he experienced an on-set meltdown where he cursed out children and crew members are, needless to say, untrue.

  • What Could Have Been:
    • When Sesame Street's Big Bird appeared on the show, Rogers' original script called for his performer, Caroll Spinney, to remove his costume and discuss the inner-workings of the Big Bird puppet. Spinney objected, however, because he didn't believe in ruining the illusion of Big Bird for the children, having been advised not to by Jim Henson. Big Bird ended up appearing as himself in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
    • As a compromise, the same episode had Rogers donning a giraffe costume and telling the viewers, "When you see big make-believe creatures in parades or in plays or on television, you can know that the people inside are just pretending to be something else."
    • According to Betty Aberlin (yes, THE Lady Aberlin) during the Twitch marathon, Rogers himself didn't originally want to talk about divorce on the show, feeling it was too difficult to talk about with his target audience. However, since Betty was a child of divorcees herself, and due to a number of other parents believing it to be too important a topic to hide even from the young ones, he eventually decided to go for it, which led to the week-long "Divorce" arc. Many agree this worked out for the better (often considered one of the show's most important moments), and it was a case of good timing too since the series was made when the nationwide divorce rate had reached an all-time high.
    • Also according to her, one of the ideas proposed before the show ended was Passing the Torch to Chuck Aber as a potential new show host (which may in part explain his A Day in the Limelight moment somewhat late in the show's run) in a spinoff to keep the show's legacy alive. For some reason though, this idea never came to see the light of day.
  • The Wiki Rule: Not quite a proper Wiki as such, but the fan-made website Neighborhood Archive collects an impressive amount of trivia about the show.


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