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Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood or Mister Rogers is an American children's television series that was created and hosted by Fred Rogers. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was produced by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA public broadcaster WQED and Rogers' non-profit production company Family Communications, Inc. (named Small World Enterprises prior to 1971). It is the longest running series on PBS. (Sesame Street began a year and a half later.) The series could be seen in reruns on most PBS stations until September 1, 2008, when it was removed by PBS from their daily syndicated schedule, although a number of stations have chosen to continue airing it independently of the PBS feed.

History of the show

The series began in 1962 as Misterogers, a 15-minute program on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The first broadcast of Misterogers' Neighborhood was on the National Educational Television network on February 19, 1968. When NET ceased broadcasting in 1970, the series moved to PBS. The show would be renamed to its more-familiar three word title, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, in 1971. The first series of episodes were produced and aired from 1968 to 1976. The second series of episodes were produced and aired from 1979 to 2001 (modern series).

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was characterized by its quiet simplicity and gentleness. Episodes did not have a plot, and consisted of Rogers speaking directly to the viewer about various issues, taking the viewer on tours of factories, demonstrating experiments, crafts, and music, and interacting with his friends. The half-hour episodes were punctuated by a puppet segment chronicling occurrences in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

At the beginning of each episode, Fred Rogers enters his television studio house, singing "Won't You Be My Neighbor?". He hangs his coat in a closet, puts on a cardigan zipper sweater, and removes his dress shoes to put on sneakers. One of Rogers' sweaters now hangs in the Smithsonian Institution, a testament to the cultural influence of his simple daily ritual.

Starting in 1979, episodes were grouped into week-long series, with each series focused on a particular topic. Rogers' monologues throughout the week explore various facets of the topic, and the ongoing story from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe serves as illustration.

Rogers covered a broad range of topics over the years, and the series did not gloss over issues that other children's programming avoided. In fact, Rogers endeared himself to many when, on March 23, 1970, he dealt with the death of one of his pet goldfish. The series also dealt with competition, divorce, and war. Rogers returned to the topic of anger regularly and focused on peaceful ways of dealing with angry feelings.

Mister Rogers always made a clear distinction between the realistic world of his television neighborhood and the fantasy world of Make-Believe. He often discussed what was going to happen in Make-Believe before the next fantasy segment was shown ("Let's pretend that Prince Tuesday has been having scary dreams..."), and sometimes acted out bits of Make-Believe with models on a table before the camera transitioned to the live-action puppet rendition. The miniature motorized trolley, with its accompanying piano theme music, was the only element that appeared regularly in both the realistic world and Make-Believe: it was used to transport viewers from one realm to the other. Rogers, however, was mentioned from time to time in Make-Believe, particularly by Mr. McFeely, who appeared occasionally in the Make-Believe segments and seemed to form a link between the two worlds.

This reality/fantasy distinction put Rogers' series in sharp contrast with other children's series, such as fellow PBS program Sesame Street, which freely mixed realistic and fantastic elements.

The series was also notable for its use of jazz-inspired music, mostly arranged and performed by Rogers' long-time friend Johnny Costa, until Costa's death in 1996, when he was succeeded by Michael Moricz for the remainder of the series. The music was unique in its simplicity and flow that blended with the series' sketches and features. The music was usually played live during taping. Lyrics and melodies were written and sung by Rogers, who created more than 200 original songs. The final episode of the series aired on August 31, 2001.

When Fred Rogers died in 2003, PBS' website communicated some ways to make children not be scared by Mr. Rogers' passing away by presenting suggestions to parents of what to say to the children about Mr. Rogers and how to approach a child who inquires after him.

Theme song

The song "Won't You Be My Neighbor" was written by Fred Rogers in 1967 and was used as the opening theme for each episode of the show. The ending theme song was titled "It's Such a Good Feeling" and was alternated by Rogers saying either "I'll be back when the day/week is new" or "That we're friends, you can make each day special by just being you."

Rogers sang the song while entering the set and performing his iconic wardrobe change going from a suit jacket and dress shoes to a more casual cardigan sweater and sneakers.

Broadcast history

The first broadcast of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was on the National Educational Television network on February 19 1968; the color NET logo appeared on a model building at the beginning and end of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood from 1969 to 1970. When NET ceased broadcasting, the series moved to PBS. (The former NET model house was "remodeled", first to a small yellow orange sided house, and then into a red apartment building. The roof's lopsided slant from its days as a NET logo remained.)

The final week of original episodes of the "first series", first broadcast starting February 16, 1976, featured Mister Rogers in his workshop, watching scenes of past episodes of his series, which he recorded on videocassettes and kept on the shelf in his workshop. On the Friday episode of that week, he reminded viewers that they, too, can watch many of those old episodes beginning the following week.

As of August 11, 1995, all of the episodes of the first half are no longer shown on television, since there is already an ample supply of the second series in circulation, and since many of the episodes of the first series have become outdated. A few episodes from the first half exist in the Museum of Television & Radio, including the first episode of the series and the first color episode.


When PBS began rerunning the first 460 color episodes of the series in 1976, some of the early color episodes from 1969 and 1970 were re-edited with new voice-overs or footage. For example, in one 1969 episode where Mister Rogers demonstrates the noise-proof ear protectors that airport workers use on the tarmac, the film footage used featured a worker directing a United Airlines jet with its stylised "U" logo—which wasn't introduced until 1974. All of the episodes revised from the first series also included an extra segment following the closing credits, mentioning the episode number and additional companies that provided funding since these episodes originally aired, even though they had not provided funding at the time of original production.

Almost all of the 1979–2001 episodes are in active rotation on PBS. The only exception is the week-long "Conflict" series (episodes #1521–#1525), first aired during the week of November 7-November 11 1983 to coincide with ABC's airing of the television film The Day After, and designed for children to cope with the aftereffects of that film. The series/story arc covered the topics of war, bombs, and an arms race. The "Conflict" series was last aired during the week of April 1-April 5 1996.

In that week of episodes, Corny's factory was making oddly-shaped parts for a project in Southwood. The king originally determined that they were parts for a bomb, so he ordered Corny to make extra "bomb" parts for the Neighborhood of Make Believe. Furthermore, King Friday had most of the human characters of the Neighborhood of Make Believe trained as generals, but forgot to train regular soldiers. In the end, they found out that the parts were for a bridge that the Southwooders were building and the Neighborhood was able to use the parts King Friday had bought to make record players. At the end of the Friday episode, after Mister Rogers sang the Good Feeling song, he sang a lullaby, "Peace and Quiet", wishing his television friends "peace". This was followed by an on-screen display of Isaiah 2:4:

"And they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning forks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war any more."

Beginning September 3, 2007, some PBS affiliates began replacing the show with new programs such as Super Why! and WordWorld. In June 2008, PBS announced that, beginning in the fall of 2008, it would stop transmitting "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" as part of its daily syndication lineup to member stations, instead airing the program only once a week over the weekend.. Beginning on September 1, 2008, the Neighborhood program was replaced by new programming such as Martha Speaks, Sid the Science Kid, and an update of The Electric Company. However, individual member stations have the option of airing the Neighborhood independently of the PBS syndicated feed. There is currently a campaign to urge PBS and all member stations to bring the show back five days a week.


From 1968 to 1976, the sponsor credits were part of the series credits; the ones used in the opening are silent other than the theme, and an announcer or Fred Rogers reads the sponsor credits aloud during the closing credits. From 1976 onward, repeats of episodes from 1969 to 1974 have additional closing sponsor credits over a still of the trolley with the series logo and episode number. From 1979 onward, the sponsor credits were in a separate segment at the start and end of each episode, announced by Fred Rogers. Only the sponsors' names were shown on screen.

Credited sponsors include:

Sponsor Years
Sears-Roebuck Foundation 1968–1976, 1979–1993
NET-affiliated stations 1968–1970
Corporation for Public Broadcasting 1971–1976, 1992–2001
Johnson & Johnson 1975–1976
Ford Foundation 1975–1976
Public Television Stations 1971–1976, 1979–2001


Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Characters on the series include: Mr. McFeely (David Newell) the delivery man, who was named for Fred Rogers' maternal grandfather, Fred McFeely; Neighbor Aber (Chuck Aber); Lady Aberlin (Betty Aberlin); Marilyn Barnett; Chef Brockett (Don Brockett); Tony Chiroldes; Jose Cisneros; Officer Clemmons (François Clemmons); Keith David; Mrs. McFeely (Betsy Nadas); Handy Man Negri (Joe Negri); Sergio Pinto; John Reardon; Audrey Roth; Maggie Stewart; and Bob Trow. Other regular puppeteers included Michael Horton, Lenny Meledandri (1980-2001), and Carole Switala. Music directors for the series included Johnny Costa (1968 - 1996), and Michael Moricz, who took over as music director after Costa's death and served until the end of the series in 2001.

The human characters who appeared in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe were mostly imaginary versions of people who lived in Mr. Rogers' "real" neighborhood. For example, Joe "Handy Man" Negri was a music shop proprietor on Rogers' street. The non-make-believe version of Betty Aberlin was an actress. Audrey Roth was said to be a maid in the real neighborhood, but was royal phone operator "Miss Paulificate" in Make-Believe. Only Mr. McFeely, Mrs. McFeely, and Chef Brockett appeared substantially the same way in both Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Neighborhood of Make-Believe

Here is a list of the puppet and costumed characters appearing in the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" segment:

Thirteen in-series "operas" took place during the course of the series within the Make-Believe segments. Many of them feature American baritone John Reardon as a main character. These operas, and the year of their first airing are:

  • Babysitter Opera (1968)
  • Campsite Opera (1968)
  • Teddy Bear / Whaling Ship Opera (1969)
  • "Pineapples and Tomatoes" (1970)
  • "Monkey's Uncle" (1971)
  • "Snow People and Warm Pussycat" (1972)
  • "Potato Bugs and Cows" (1973)
  • "All in the Laundry" (1974)
  • "Key to Otherland" (1975)
  • "Windstorm in Bubbleland" (1980)
  • "Spoon Mountain" (1982)
  • "A Granddad for Daniel" (1984)
  • "A Star for Kitty" (1986)

Of those 13 operas, only the last 4 still air; the others had their last airings during the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. Additionally, a play, "Josephine The Short-Necked Giraffe", first aired in 1989 as a tribute to the late John Reardon, and still airs today.

Pittsburgh-area native Michael Keaton received his first major acting break as a "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" character in 1975. Keaton played an acrobat in a troup called The Flying Zookeenies that performed for King Friday's birthday. He was also in charge of running the Trolley.


Guests on the series ranged from cellist Yo-Yo Ma to actor and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno of TV's The Incredible Hulk. (In a 2001 piece where celebrities were asked about their heroes, Rogers cited Ma as one of his heroes.) A 1968 visit by electronic music pioneer Bruce Haack resurfaced in the 2004 documentary Haack: King of Techno.

Guests on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood were often surprised to find that although Rogers was just as gentle and patient in life as on television, he was nevertheless a perfectionist who did not allow "shoddy" ad-libbing; he believed that children were thoughtful people who deserved programming as good as anything produced for adults on television.

Rogers appeared as a guest on some other series. On the children's animated cartoon series Arthur, for example, Rogers plays himself as an aardvark like Arthur. Later on, Arthur appears as a guest in hand-puppet form in a 1999 episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Bill Nye, host of a science-themed program, and Rogers also exchanged appearances on each other's series, as did Rogers and Captain Kangaroo. Rogers additionally appeared in an episode of Sesame Street, where he explains to Big Bird that even if one loses a running race such as the one Big Bird had run against his friend "Snuffy", no hard feelings threaten to break the two of them apart. Big Bird himself also appeared in one episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in the Neighborhood of Make Believe.


A Christmas Special aired in 1978. This special had François Clemmons introducing a storyteller and flutist friend to Rogers. They filmed a couple of narrated segments of the stories Francois' friend told. The special also had the Neighborhood of Make-Believe segment which shows how they celebrated Christmas. Even the trolley had a banner on the roof that said "Merry Christmas" on one side, and "Happy Hannukah" on the other. This special was aired every Christmas season until 1982. This special's opening and close have Rogers walking through a real neighborhood while the titles roll rather than the model neighborhood used in the series.

In 1994, Rogers created another one-time special for PBS called Fred Rogers' Heroes which consisted of documentary portraits of four real-life people whose work helped make their communities better. Rogers, uncharacteristically dressed in a suit and tie, hosted in wraparound segments which did not use the "Neighborhood" set.

For a time Rogers produced specials for the parents as a precursor to the subject of the week on the Neighborhood called "Mister Rogers Talks To Parents About (whatever the topic was)". Rogers didn't host those specials, though; other people like Joan Lunden, who hosted the Conflict special, and other news announcers played MC duties in front of a gallery of parents while Rogers answered questions from them. These specials were made to prepare the parents for any questions the children might ask after watching the episodes on that topic of the week.

Legacy outside television

  • Idlewild and Soak Zone, an amusement park near Rogers' hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania has an attraction called "Mister Rogers Neighborhood of Make-Believe" featuring a life-size trolley ride, designed by Rogers.
  • The planetarium show "The Sky Above Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" is a computer animated adaptation of the television show for preschool-aged children.
  • After three years as a traveling exhibit, the Pittsburgh Children's Museum had Welcome to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood installed as a permanent exhibit in 2004.
  • The music of the show was interpreted by an eclectic mix of modern artists for the 2005 album Songs From the Neighborhood: The Music of Mister Rogers. Other artists have paid homage to the show's music, including:
    • "Hank and Fred," a song on Loudon Wainwright III's 2005 album Here Come the Choppers, deals with Fred Rogers' death.
    • "Intermezzo: M. Good v M. Trolley", an attempt by Matthew Good to play the Trolley's trademark music. On the track, he claims that "no human being can play that." It appears on the album Loser Anthems (2001).
  • A reference to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was made in the 1987 computer game Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards when the main character, Larry, flips through the channels on a TV. The words heard are, "'s a beautiful day in the neighbor..."


Fred Rogers and his television series are often parodied for their gentleness and kind demeanor. Notable parodies include:

  • The recurring Saturday Night Live sketch Mister Robinson's Neighborhood, which starred Eddie Murphy in the title role of a considerably grittier version of the series. He hosted the series from a run-down row home in a slum district. Like Rogers, Robinson's speaking manner was similarly stilted, although he constantly had to dodge the law and landlords wanting the rent. On occasion, Gilbert Gottfried appeared as Mr. McFeely.
  • A sketch on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson featured Carson in a sketch as an evil "Mister Rogers" who, like Soupy Sales, wanted children to steal money from their parents in order to give the funding to him, if he still wanted to be their friends. (Soupy Sales received a week's suspension for this similar act on his series.) In addition, he used small dolls to explain what happens when the parents of a child commit adultery or have an affair, resulting in lawsuits and counter-lawsuits against each other. Fred Rogers, in real life, shunned this sketch as a direct insult to his integrity.
  • In another Tonight Show sketch, Carson appears as John Rambo in Mr. Rambo's Neighborhood where he blows up a "communist" Red Snapper fish in his aquarium.
  • A series of 1984 Burger King commercials featured "Mr. Rodney." Most of the commercials ended with the question of why anyone would go to any other burger place, to which he would respond, "even Mr. Rodney doesn't know that." Fred Rogers strongly objected to these commercials fearing that children would mistake the character for him, and they were pulled.
  • A sketch titled "Battle of the PBS Stars Part 1: Boxing" on the sketch comedy series Second City Television featured Mr. Rogers (portrayed by Martin Short) facing Julia Child (portrayed by John Candy) with Howard Cosell (portrayed by Eugene Levy) commentating at ringside. The fight is close until Mr. McFeely surreptitiously hands Rogers the loaded King Friday puppet which Rogers then uses to club Julia Child. Rogers is declared the winner despite the "weapon". Cosell states that it is a dark day in Mr. Rogers' neighborhood.
  • A memorable 1993 sketch on In Living Color featured Jim Carrey as a perverted Mr. Rogers browsing through a video store. In the sketch, Rogers rents porno tapes, makes lewd remarks at the video store clerk (played by Alexandra Wentworth), and beats up a fellow customer (played by Jamie Foxx). Rogers then robs the store, and picks up a hooker who asks if he's the real Mr. Rogers. At that moment, Carrey breaks character and says, "Of course not. But the money's real. Let's go get it on, neighbor."
  • The Flash animation Ultimate Showdown has Mr. Rogers as the winner of the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Brian in Love", Stewie dreams about destroying the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and murdering Fred Rogers. Family Guy spoofed the show again in the episode "No Chris Left Behind" using puppets to further drive in the reference, portraying Stewie as King Friday. Stewie then complained about how a king can live next to the train tracks, yelling, "What is this, Mexico!?"
  • Robin Williams has spoofed Mr. Rogers in stand-up routines, particularly the "Pop goes the weasel" routine ("Let's put Mr. Hamster in the microwave . . . that's severe radiation. Can you say 'severe radiation'?") from Reality... What a Concept.
  • An episode of Hangin' With Mr. Cooper that saw some of the characters spending time in a jail cell featured a pyromaniac whose look and personality was modeled on Mr. Rogers. During their stay in the cell, he changed from shoes to sneakers several times.
  • In Robot Chicken he was parodied as a murderous taskmaster, drowning a member of his crew in an artificial lake on the train track construct. The show was spoofed again in the episode "Celebutard Mountain" with a Japanese version of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, with Mister Rogers himself voiced by Masi Oka. The Japanese kingdom of Make-Believe is destroyed by Godzilla as the emperor commits seppuku.
  • In The Simpsons he was parodied in an episode featuring many members of the PBS station hunting down Homer. A brief glimpse of Mr. Rogers shows him saying "It's a beautiful day... to kick your ass!", referencing his "It's A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" catchphrase. Another episode features Bart and Milhouse discovering a lost tape labeled "Mister Rogers drunk". He is heard saying "What do you mean I can't take off my sweater? I'M HOT!" The episode Lisa's First Word has the family trying to teach Maggie to say her first word. Bart suggests "Get Bent", justifying it as something that Mr Rogers says all the time.
  • Garfield has a recurring television show hosted by Uncle Roy, and is similar to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
  • In the wake of the Lewinsky scandal, MAD magazine featured a parody, "The Special Prosecutor's Official Report on Mister Rogers", in which Ken Starr accused Rogers of various crimes including the violation of U.S. Constitution (by "recognizing the royal sovereignty of King Friday XIII within United States borders"), and compared Mr. McFeely to the Unabomber.
  • In rapper Mase's music video "Welcome Back, Mase begins the video with a sequence similar to the opening of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, including the overhead shot of the house and Mase changing his sweater and shoes.
  • A commercial for Hangin' With Mr. Cooper featured Mr. Cooper (Mark Curry) dressed as Mr. Rogers in a near reproduction of Mr. Rogers' home.


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