|Premiering on PBS in 1968, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was the sweet and placid yin to Sesame Street’s hyperkinetic yang. While Sesame Street (which actually premiered a year later) taught letters and numbers, Mister Rogers showed kids the world of imagination, taught them how to deal with life’s problems (anger, jealousy, divorce, losing a pet), and told them they were special.
Kindly and soft-spoken, Fred Rogers was the neighbor everyone wanted. The program had a homey feel, with Mr. Rogers opening each show with his signature song, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” while changing from suit to sweater (many of which were knitted by his mother) and from dress shoes to sneakers.
Guests from around the neighborhood showed up to help teach the day’s lesson, and every show featured a visit to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, where King Friday, Queen Sara, Prince Tuesday, Lady Elaine, X the Owl, Henrietta Pussycat, and Daniel Tiger helped each other and their human friends with problems and concerns. Mister Rogers would also take the home viewers along on field trips, visiting factories to see how things were made.
New episodes were created each year and put into rotation with older ones until Mr. Rogers finally hung up his cardigan for good in late 2000. Even without new episodes, however, the show's place on kiddie TV is secure. With sweet songs penned by longtime collaborator John Costa and the naturally good-natured charm of its host, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood continues to win over the hearts of young fans, creating a landmark children’s program that will be with us for years to come.