Tuesday, August 19, 2008

what do you do with the mad that you feel?

Well, today I made a phone call, sent an email and wrote a post card. But unless my local pbs affiliate makes a drastic change to the fall scheduling line-up, I'm still going to be mad.

I just learned that PBS will no longer be sending member stations the daily syndicate of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood episodes, but simply one episode a week, for broadcast on Saturday mornings.

Then I discovered that individual stations could choose to get the daily episodes beforehand, or purchase them separately (I'm not completely clear on the protocol) and air them as they were intended: five days a week.

Surely my local station would take this option. Surely, in their commitment to quality programming and "viewers like me", they would choose to continue to dedicate the time, storage, cost and commitment involved to a longstanding gem like Mister Rogers instead of yet another short-lived animated disaster.

It seems like every fall, PBS parades out a few new shows, some of which stick around a while, but none like Mister Rogers.

When I spoke to someone in Member Services at OPB, she asked, "you do know that new episodes haven't been made in over fifteen years, right?"

"But," I countered, "new children are born every day!"

Giving Mr. Rogers the axe (and please, no patronizing reminders about how he'll still be aired on Saturday mornings, we all know that's where they put shows on pbs to die and by next year, he'll disappear completely) is like, well, like telling your Grandma to take her pecan pie and handmade quilts and stick it, you'd rather eat twizzlers with some chippie you met on the myspace. Which is to say, of course Mister Rogers is outdated, and thank goodness!

So you think I'm a sap who hates change, eh? I'm not opposed to all modernization, sometimes they surprise us with a worthwhile new program. And, my great disappointment regarding this terrible development is not steeped in nostalgia alone. Sure, I grew up watching Fred and the gang (did you know I even met Mr. McFeely a few years ago, had my picture taken with him and have a singed photo?), and yes, I recall with enormous fondness the eleven thirty time slot, during which my girl and I would snuggle up on the floor for a sweet half hour before lunch. But I currently value the presence of Mister Rogers in the life of my boy. I recognize the benefit the exposure to such a well-designed, gentle program has on any child who watches.

My personal warm fuzzies don't obscure the truth of Fred Rogers: he provides a safe place for children, where feelings are valid and important, where people are treated with respect, and conflicts are resolved peaceably, where grammar is correct and children are spoken to like they are intelligent and curious and capable (which they are!), and there are never last resorts for attention involving fart jokes and flashing lights. Maybe the fashions are dated. Maybe the guests are less relevant now (Yo Yo Ma instead of, say, Hannah Montana?). Maybe somebody thinks modern children aren't interested in how people make books (or balloons or shoes or toilets).

What will be offered in place of this kind grandfather of children's programming? How can they possibly take something so well loved and expected, so a part of our national public television culture, and kill it off with nary a vote or an apology or a carefully crafted eulogy? Did they think no one would care? I care. And I hope you do, too.

I urge you to call your local station. Send them a letter. Drop a postcard in the mail to PBS headquarters. It might not make a difference. But it's worth it to try.

save mister rogers

You've Got To Do It

© 1969 Fred M. Rogers

You can make belive it happens,
Or pretend that something's true.
You can wish or hope or contemplate
A thing you'd like to do.
But until you start to do it,
You will never see it through.
'Cause the make-believe pretending
Just won't do it for you

You've got to do it.
Every little bit
You've got to do it, do it, do it, do it
And when you're through,
You can know who did,
For you did it, you did it, you did it.

If you want to ride a bicycle
And ride it straight and tall.
You can't simply sit and look at it
"Cause it won't move at all.
But it's you who have to try it.
And it's you who have to fall (sometimes)
If you want to ride a bicycle
And ride it straight and tall.

You've got to do it.
Every little bit
You've got to do it, do it, do it, do it
And when you're through,
You can know who did,
For you did it, you did it, you did it.


Brian said...

Hi April. Thanks for your link to the campaign. I hope we are making a difference!

"New children are born every day!" -- You are *so* right. And they don't see that the drapes and the haircuts are out of style. They only see someone who cares about them.

(And to further counter the person you spoke with... MRN did not cease production until 2001, so it's only been 7 years. Not that it matters.)

Lisa said...

I wrote to both the PBS headquarters and OPB yesterday, via the internet. Thanks for the heads up. We will miss our daily Mister Rogers, too, if they really do proceed as planned and go to Saturday and Sunday only.

Angelina said...

OK, I'm not a big fan of Mister Rogers. I grew up watching him too but he always made me feel a little uncomfortable and it may very well be that his world is so gentle and mine was not. The quietness of his show made me feel itchy like he came from an unreal planet.

I am a huge fan of Sesame Street and would feel the same way about SS (I know they keep making them and I don't know what the new ones are like, possibly total crap) if the old episodes became lost. I felt more comfortable with sesame street because it was a little more raucous with cookie monster's cookie obsession, and Oscar grumbling, and big bird clumbsily messing everything up. I think the principles in the show were the same but the cast of characters were ones I could relate to more than Mister Rogers and his careful sweater changing.

However, having said all that, I wouldn't want anyone to be without Mr. R who loves him and I hope you can get our local program to air it daily again.

Linda said...

I'm very sad about it. It's not that it was Fred Rogers or the show itself that was so important, it was the *type* of thing they were doing. Something slower, more mellow, gentle, kind, thoughtful, magical. Where else is there that in children's programming today?