Mister Rogers' Goodbye: Fred M. Rogers is leaving the neighborhood, after finishing production this month of the last five of nearly 1,000 episodes of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
The 30-minute television show for children has aired on Public Broadcasting Service stations since 1968, three years after it was first produced in Pittsburgh.
Mr. Rogers, 72, will now focus on developing two Web sites connected with the show, writing books, and creating a planetarium program at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, according to Hedda Sharapan, a spokeswoman at Family Communications Inc., the Pittsburgh- based production company founded by Mr. Rogers, who is its chairman and chief executive officer.
PBS will broadcast reruns of the show.
"It's conceivable they'll never end on public broadcasting," said Peggy Charren, the founder of Action for Children's Television. "Every three years, a new set of children is aged 2 to 5, and their concerns don't change, no matter how hair styles and skirt lengths do," she said.
The show has always addressed young children's universal concerns, such as fears about slipping down the bathtub drain or parents going out in the evening and not coming back.
Over the years, though, Mr. Rogers broadened the scope of the show as he perceived changes in society. "He noticed that the disabled child was just about invisible on television," Ms. Charren said. "He had as a guest a child with a brace all the way up his leg. He demonstrated how the brace straightened the leg."
In recent years, the program adjusted to societal changes even more. "Between shows 500 and 1,000, what he did was look at what was missing from television and what was happening in the lives of children," Ms. Charren said.
That led to addressing subjects as varied as divorce and classical music—the latter featuring a visit to the cellist Yo Yo Ma. "In a piece equally delicious for adults as children, he asked, 'how did you happen to learn to play the cello?' And then had him play a classical piece," Ms. Charren recalled.
That segment revealed the respect Mr. Rogers has for children. "What a rare producer it is who thinks of preschoolers and Bach in one breath," said Ms. Charren.
— Andrew Trotter [email protected]
Vol. 20, Issue 12, Page 5