February 22, 2011

Mister Rogers' New Neighborhood


Like many people who grew up watching the show, I was pissed when PBS dropped Mister Rogers' Neighborhood from their daily lineup in 2008. Pissed but unsurprised. Fred Rogers is so un-commercial, un-merchandised, so resolutely calm, he's the diametric opposite of what kid's TV has become.

I've kept waiting for Rogers' shows to turn up on iTunes, but there's only the first DVD's worth, part of one season.

But hey-ho, that may be because they're all on Amazon's Instant Video service. Which, starting today, is free for Amazon Prime members. You can stream 30 seasons of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, 300 episodes in all, ad-free, for free, to your computer, TiVO, Roku, or net-enabled TV. [Amazon Instant Video FAQ]

Which is good, because of the 5,000 films Amazon is offering its Prime members, there are barely a handful of kid-related titles, and they're random-to-weird at best.

And after taking a quick stroll through the Amazon Instant Video neighborhood just now, I don't think it's the kind of place I'll be letting the kid loose in on her own. Like the 2nd pick in the Prime Eligible TV section turns out to be the original BBC version of Skins, the teensexploitation series that MTV just got in trouble for knocking off.


The 2-min. preview of the first episode of the first season introduces us to Tony, who is standing at his window in his y-fronts as the lady across the street gets dressed for him. I didn't catch her name, but I'm pretty sure it was not Lady Elaine Fairchild.


Stream or download Mister Rogers' Neighborhood--and much else--via Amazon Instant Video [amazon]


Hooray! WETA, my local affiliate, still shows Mr. Rogers daily but they only rotate through a handful of "weeks" of the show, and they never show them in the right order. I think I saw the Incredible Hulk episode a dozen times in two years. I love Mr. Rogers for my boys precisely because he is so calm and so non-commercial.

May I recommend Mr. Dressup, the ultra-calm, crafty, fan of make-believe from north of the border? The CBC boutique sells box set DVDs and my 6-year-old and three-year-old both love him! On sale half price right now:

Wow, thanks for the update. Mr. Rogers is classic kids tv, and he was boring when he was current, but we all watched him, and loved him! I definitely think DVDs should be made available of his work. I don't want my kids not knowing the "Will you be my neighbour?" song!

FWIW, the original Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood is available on Hulu.

nice hustle

I screened a few episodes of Rogers for my 4 year old daughter. I actually found it highly inappropriate for a modern viewer. Rogers came around in an era where parents were less attentive and the world was a scarier place for kids. I don't think kids today need yet another person telling them they are special. Everyone tells them that these days. Back then, probably not.

We stumbled on the divorce episode as well and it was really odd. In fact, a lot of the acting and situation are odd and extremely awkward. I'm all for calm time for the kids, but I would rather show my child very little exciting entertainment than more entertainment that is calm. There's plenty of time for soothing experiences off of the TV.

I'm surprised at your assessment of inappropriateness. We started with Season 1, the oldest of the episodes and I found them amazingly relevant to today's world. Fred Rogers was ahead of his time with promoting safety I've noticed. In one of the black and white episodes, so it's clearly a late 60's one, he makes sure to throw away a thin plastic bag and tell the viewers never to play with one because they are dangerous. He proceeds to make something out of a paper bag. Mister Rogers was promoting green thinking before recycling was in fashion.

OH, yesterday we watched an episode featuring an umbrella factory. Mister Rogers made it a point to caution children about how careful people had to be around umbrellas because of all the points and pinching areas and to be careful for yourself and for others. We also watched a week themed Superheroes. He made the huge distinction to children that the whole concept of Superheroes is make-believe and that wearing a cape does not give anyone flying powers.

I hope you plan to screen a few dozen more episodes before dismissing the series. It is wonderful treasure trove of love, artistry, and enlightening our children to a world full of wonder and marvel.

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