Sunday, August 03, 2008

Save Mister Rogers

Yep, I’m still around, folks. Just incredibly busy, and a bit “shaken up“ by the recent earthquake. It sort of puts things in perspective. Remember, you can reach me by leaving a message for me on my YouTube channel, or leaving a message for “sesameguy” on the Muppet Central forums.

Okay everybody, I want you to get out your local TV listings and check and see if “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” is on the air in your area. It is? Okay, now listen very carefully. Set up your video recorder to record every single episode you can over the next few weeks in August. Why should you do this? Because there’s a chance you will never be able to do this again. Take a look at this message from Family Communications, the producers of "Mr. Rogers":

The Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood broadcast schedule will change beginning in September. Rather than being part of PBS national schedule, each local PBS station will choose when to air the Neighborhood series. They might choose to make room in their schedule to air the program daily as they have in the past -- or they may choose a weekend broadcast of one specially selected episode.
“Weekends with Mister Rogers” offers PBS stations one featured episode from each week of Neighborhood programs, for stations to air as part of their Saturday or Sunday children’s lineup.

I don’t know yet if I will lose the Mr. Rogers show in my area, but I am hoping that I don’t. I’ll know for sure near the end of this month, when the September schedules begin to appear. While the “Weekend” show sounds like a good idea, we would miss out on the usual format we’ve grown accustomed to.

Or will we? A concerned parent has started a campaign to keep the daily episodes of “Mr. Rogers” on the air. He’s not alone- others have voiced their concerns and are currently contacting their local stations to keep the daily version of the show running. Read all about it here:

While most grown-ups like me enjoy the show for its nostalgia value, according to the Web site, that’s not what this movement is about:

I’ve just read a blog piece linking to our site that cites nostalgia as the driving force behind our campaign. While we appreciate the link, make no mistake about it… This isn’t about nostalgia. It is not about the fact that Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is a timeless children’s television classic. And it is not even about the fact that the man himself is considered a national treasure. What our campaign is most certainly about is the enduring ability of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to have a unique nurturing influence on the lives of today’s (and tomorrow’s) children. This is needed today as much as ever.
- Brian

I’m all for saving the daily show, but I hope Family Communications is as well. For if the stations decide to keep airing it, they will (I assume) need Family Communications to keep sending it out to them. Will the producers of the show be willing to change their plans on short notice? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I will hope for the best, not only for my sake, but for the sake of all the kids out there who need a gentle neighbor.


FRED ON FILM: There are a few (and I do mean few) episodes of Mister Rogers that have been made available on DVD or VHS. A quick search on Amazon or eBay would reveal some of them, including a good series of them from CBS/Fox Video that was made available back in the 1980s-1990s. There are also video traders who offer a few of the older (pre-1979) episodes for trading. I suggest visiting the Square one forum, N. Aczel’s trade page or the Misterrogers trade page. You’ll find them listed in the links section to your right.


SPEEDY DOCUMENTARY: While Ben Wagner puts the finishing touches on his Mister Rogers documentary, he has been beaten to the finish line by none other than the “Speedy Delivery” man himself, Mr. McFeeley! A documentary has been made about David Newell and the ups and downs of playing Mr. McFeeley through the years. (Please note that if your Internet browser is as old as mine- which isn’t really that old- you may have some troubles opening up the page. Be patient.)

The site offers some stills from the production, but notably does not seem to offer the video for sale. We have to wait and see it at a few selected film festivals. Shucks. Let’s hope this is someday seen on PBS. Although with Mr. Rogers leaving the air, some kids are going to be asking “Who is this Speedy Delivery guy? Does he work for UPS? Why is he dressed that way? Is he from the Civil War or something?”


IN TROLLEY WE TRUST: Ben Wagner recently pointed out on his blog something that I had never noticed before.


INDY 4: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls” has come and gone from the movie theaters, destined (I hope) to be available on home video soon. The short review: It’s great, see it! It keeps the spirit of the other films alive and well. A worthy sequel. If you’d like to read more about the Indiana Jones films, enjoy my blog posting from a while back:


ONE-LINE WILLIE: Kermit Love, the puppet builder who also played Willie the hot dog vendor on “Sesame Street,” recently passed away. By the late 1970s or so, the character of Willie was very rarely seen on the street. But then one day, there was an episode where Oscar the Grouch announced that he was going to run for mayor. When Willie walked by, Oscar showed him his usual courtesy:

OSCAR: Hey Willie! Santa Claus! Whisker Face! I’m running for mayor and you’d better vote for me! Understand?

WILLIE: (With anger) WELL!!!!

That line, “Well,” was, well, it was the only line that Willie had in the several years of Sesame Street that I had been watching! Seriously! His character was just seldom used on the show (as a speaking role), and this one line became practically the only word he had spoken on camera within at least the seven or eight years that I had been watching the show. Pretty amazing. I decided to call him “One-line Willie” after that! I honestly don’t recall him having another line on the show after that. That was his last word to us. But thankfully, he was a small part of a greater good. I’m hoping the old-school fans never forget him. Willie can be seen briefly in the “Old School” DVD collection. There are some cool pictures of him in this post at the Sesame Street Block Party site:


I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY: Besides my Sesame Street and Star Wars obsessions, I’m also interested in older Christian music. That’s the type of music that was pretty common in my home while growing up, and it still rings in my heart. You can hear some of it by visiting the “Old-fashioned Christian radio” site in my links. I’ve picked up info on a singer named Jerome Hines, whose low voice almost rivals that of Darth Vader. But Hines is definitely a good guy, who it seems also sang in several operas besides his religious albums. While searching for data on Hines, I came upon the following Web page from singer Joseph Shore. It features an obituary for Hines, and - well, a link to mp3 files of practically every recording of Hines!

For a Hines collector, that’s quite an awesome find. There are other artists who I wish would have a large collection of their work available for free download. Mr. Hines is no longer with us, but his voice will live on thanks to these recordings. Check out the rest of Mr. Shore’s site for some recordings from other fine singers: