Mister Rogers and Daniel Tiger

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:

DanielTiger

Now, Daniel Tiger WAS one of the original characters, but he was an actual puppet, not a cartoon:

daniel-ringtone

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.

  • http://www.bravenewlife.com Brave New Life

    I could not agree more.

    Last night I took my son to Walgreen’s to pick up a prescription. We had to wait 20 minutes, so we walked around and counted all the items with Lightning McQueen on them (his favorite movie). By the time we left, we had counted over 35 different items – and not just the toy aisle. Their was yogurt, cereal, greeting cards – you name it.

    By the time we left, he was crying because he wanted to buy one of the Lightning McQueen toys. Those marketers really know how to shove things down your throat and make kids “need” their stuff. Against all odds, I’m determined to keep my kids head on straight.

  • http://www.senseofthefather.com Jason

    I’ve lost track of how many things from my childhood have been “re-imagined” for today’s kids, and they’re usually an awful miss. My kids have cut their teeth on 3D computer graphics and manic Bikini Bottomsian characters that would send Quick Draw McGraw running for the hills. They have little interest in my stodgy old cartoons that didn’t fill the screen with farts, and I have no interest in seeing some of my cherished childhood friends turned into CGI masterpieces.