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 V.20 No.32 | August 11 - 17, 2011 
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Idiot Box

Return of the Tiger

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” gets a spinoff

More than a decade after the beloved PBS show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” went off the air, the series is getting a sequel. Fred Rogers passed away in 2003, leaving behind a legacy of nearly 900 (!) TV show episodes spanning five decades. Despite his passing, The Fred Rogers Company has announced the creation of a “multi-platform animated series aimed at preschoolers.” The new show will be called “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and will concentrate on the 4-year-old son of Daniel Striped Tiger, a resident puppet of Mister Rogers’ well-known Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

“Joining the PBS Kids family of series that cover important curricular areas like literacy and science, 'Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood’ fills a critical gap in children's media today: modeling the behaviors and habits that kids need in order to excel in formal learning settingsessentially, learning how to learn,” said Lesli Rotenberg, senior vice president of children’s media at PBS, in a wordy statement that wouldn’t even sound interesting set to music. “It’s important for kids to learn pro-social skills like cooperation and listening, so that when they start school they are able to focus on the material at hand.”

The return (in spirit, anyway) of Fred Rogers’ gentle, highly sensitive style of teaching is certainly welcome, and a promise from producers to bring back familiar trappings like the Neighborhood Trolley car even though today’s kids “are 3 and 4 and have no clue what a trolley is, but they like it” is encouraging. But the premise of the new show raises some uncomfortable questions for those of us who grew up on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Namely, how in the hell did Daniel Tiger have a kid? His most distinguishing characteristic (aside from his snazzy wristwatch) was his crippling shyness. Who did he manage to hook up with and impregnate? I’m assuming Henrietta Pussycat, but maybe that’s just racist of me. Just because they were both cats doesn’t mean they got together and bred. Henrietta was kind of stuck up and vain anywayplus I always assumed X the Owl was her backdoor man.

Daniel did have a suspiciously close relationship with Lady Aberlin, one of the few real, live people in Make-Believe. They spent a lot of time nuzzling noses and saying “ugga mugga,” which sounds a little freaky a few decades on. Perhaps she helped him overcome his social anxiety disorder and he fulfilled her fetish for furries. Hey, it could happen. If nothing else, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” taught me the power of a fertile imagination.

It’s not that I expect the new series to answer these admittedly inappropriate questions. It’ll probably spend most of its time teaching kids how to tie their shoes or not lie or something useful. Kevin Morrison, chief operating officer of The Fred Rogers Company, said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that, thanks to today’s fragmented TV landscape, the new show “is meant to target boys and girls who are 3 or 4 and be of interest to children between 2 and 5, so the focus is much more narrow than the ‘Mister Rogers’ focus.” Still, you can count me among the many adult fans curiously awaiting the premiere of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” in fall of 2012.

 

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