First, a confession. I never really got Mister Rogers, at least while he was performing in his children’s television show. Maybe it’s because I was very young when PBS, in the guise of its predecessor (NET), was still a primordial ooze of Physics professors writing long equations on chalkboards, grainy British programming, and a cooking show where a quirky lady taught viewers how to turn a calf’s foot into aspic.
When Mister Rogers launched in 1966, it took a while to understand that he was something different and, once paired with Sesame Street in late 1969, something better for children to watch than Soupy Sales or Bozo. By then I had outgrown my Mister Rogers moment, so only later did I come to appreciate who Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was and his impact on so many people. Now, after reading Maxwell King’s The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers (Abrams Press, 2018), I have come to understand that we need people like Fred Rogers more than ever.