This one might have slipped past the non-parents out there (and even some of the parents) but I happened to stumble across the news that PBS was bringing back Mister Rogers. "Aw, how nice," I thought, remembering fondly all of the silly puppets and grandfatherly Mr. Rogers, who along with Captain Kangaroo (and Bugs Bunny and Big Bird) provided most of the TV memories of my childhood.
But reading along in the article, I saw that they weren’t going to have a new actor play Mr. Rogers. Instead, it looks like we’ll be getting another CGI children’s show with anthropomorphic animals. Take a look at the new ‘lead,’ Daniel Tiger:
Now, Daniel Tiger WAS one of the original characters, but he was an actual puppet, not a cartoon:
Why does this matter? Call me paranoid, or overly obsessed with the ramming of consumerism down our throats non-stop, but why even imply that somehow this new series will be associated with the old "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood" unless the purpose is to fire up parents’ nostalgia (so they’ll let kids watch) and then pump the kids heads full of cute songs and cute critters who will be conveniently available in $14.99 4 inch tall versions at Toys R Us? Who wants to bet there will be action figures and lunchboxes and t-shirts with Daniel Tiger plastered all over them? Do we need more babbling animals on children’s TV? Could we please show them a human grownup once in a while? This is a larger part of the reason we cancelled cable (although we do still let our kids watch certain children’s shows on Netflix… it’s hard to put that genie back in the bottle).
Fred Rogers was a passionate advocate for children’s television, and I suspect the commercialization of children’s television would have horrified him. Considering he died eight years ago, he probably even saw enough to be disturbed. But somehow, I think seeing his calm, imaginative-but-clearly-play-time show turned into some weird CGI fantasy with talking animals would have disappointed him. It sure disappoints me.