Episodes: 1,005 (half-hour)
February 19, 1968 — September 20, 1976
August 20, 1979 — August 31, 2001
Performers include: Fred Rogers, Chuck Aber, Betty Aberlin, Don Brockett, Joe Negri, David Newell, and Bob Trow.
A simple and quiet series hosted by the gentle Fred Rogers that educates preschool children. Rogers speaks directly to viewers about a variety of topics and feelings.
Each program also includes a visit to the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe,” led by a toy trolley. Rogers always makes certain to indicate that the land is only pretend.
The end of each episode is essentially a mirror image of the opening with Rogers changing back into his street clothes, singing “It’s Such a Good Feeling” and bidding the viewer goodbye.
The final week of programs centered around the arts. Mister Rogers plays with his sand table and shows a video of kids playing in the sand, visits a toy and book store, visits a pottery studio, and makes a final visit to Negri’s Music Shop.
In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, King Friday decides they should have an art show and Lady Elaine quickly appoints herself judge. While visiting the neighbors who are creating their art, Elaine is very critical and hurtful. In the final episode, the neighbors of Make-Believe have figured out that Lady Elaine is still holding a grudge over someone hurting her feelings long ago. But when it is time for Elaine to judge her neighbors’ artwork, she isn’t cruel and instead arrives with a lovingly assembled collage of all her friends.
In the final segment of the last show, Mr. McFeely and Mister Rogers share a video collage of artists in their various fields. At the end of the program, Mister Rogers makes his usual exit as he bids the viewers farewell until next time.
David Newell continued to make appearances across the country as Speedy Deliveryman Mr. McFeely and promoted the sweater charity that was begun in Rogers’ name. Newell and the rest of Family Communications (which produced the show) remain very active in keeping the show and Rogers’ ideas alive.
Rogers decided to retire the program in 2000. The end of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was announced in November 2000 and the final five episodes were taped in December 2000. The last original episode aired on August 31, 2001 but the series continued to be broadcast on PBS stations in reruns for several years.
Speedy Deliveryman Mr. McFeely (David Newell) was named after Rogers’ grandfather. Rogers’ full name is Frederick McFeely Rogers.
Rogers was the composer and lyricist of over 200 songs and the author of numerous books for children and parents. He also received more than 40 honorary degrees from colleges and universities, including Yale University, Hobart and William Smith, Carnegie Mellon University, Boston University, and his alma mater, Rollins College.
Urban legend has it that, in the 1970s, Rogers drove an old Impala. It was stolen from the WQED parking lot one day and Rogers filed a police report. The story was picked up by local newspapers and within 48 hours the car was returned back to the same parking spot. The car had a full tank of gas and a note that read “If we’d known it was yours, we never would have taken it!”
Rogers passed away on February 27, 2003 from stomach cancer at the age of 74. The memorial ceremony was attended by over 2,500 people and included many notable child authors and media celebrities. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma played via video, and violinist Itzhak Perlman and organist Alan Morrison played in person.