August 15th, 2008
While I guess I’m behind the times a bit, I have just learned of your decision to remove “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” from your broadcast lineup. Imagine my surprise at my discovering this within hours (quite literally) of purchasing a digital television tuner specifically, and only for, receipt of your continued broadcast of this program.
My three and a half year old daughter is in the early throes of infatuation with the extraordinary person who was Mister Rogers, a man who left a legacy of one of the most carefully collected, collated and constructed works of art created specifically to cradle a child’s fragile, budding sensitivity and ethical consciousness.
Mister Rogers is not flashy, frisky, funky or “fantastic.” Mister Rogers is slow moving, awkward, simple, low-rent, and even a little bit peculiar and disquieting at times. So is life. In fact, it’s about the last place on television where real life may actually still be found.
I would urge you, please, to think of the tireless devotion of this gentle soul and to the time he granted every single child who watched, and watches, his show — regardless of the programs’s seeming “out of step” with our increasingly-histrionic and shrill times (or, maybe also just seeming understandably uninspired and unchanging as a programming decision in yours and PBS’s yearly planning schedules.) Many public television stations, counter to PBS’s decision to pull Mister Rogers as a daily program, are going to keep the show in circulation, but I am sad to see that WTTW is not planning to be one of them.
I am an artist and writer and I genuinely believe I would not be doing what I am today if it wasn’t for Mister Rogers. While other programs try to constantly produce new “content” to feed a capricious consumer appetite, Fred Rogers calmly made concentrated, timeless art for my generation and the ones that have followed — which is what any artist tries to do, regardless of how the fashions of sweaters change.
While I realize that programming decisions are difficult and complicated and that a panoply of issues and concerns must be addressed when deciding what to keep and what to invest in, I would ask you, please, to reconsider your decision — if even to contemplate keeping the program in a time slot where parents such as myself might record it for their child’s viewing at a later time in the day. Perhaps a specific fund drive could be considered to meet the costs of broadcast before a final axe is thrown? I would be more than pleased to make a sizable donation if such a thing would help to start such an initiative at all.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I grew up with Mister Rogers, and, like a lot of kids in the 1960s and 1970s, he helped fill in for the dad I didn’t have during those turbulent decades. For other kids, who maybe still had both parents, I imagine he might have made up for a dad who was frequently at work, or who simply wasn’t available, either physically or emotionally. Most importantly, however, now that I’m a father myself, the guidance that Mister Rogers has shown both in temperament and in goodness I realize has been absolutely priceless to my own sense of parenting.
Beyond me, though, there’s a good chance that someone working at WTTW grew up with Mister Rogers — or maybe it was even you, reading this. What’s most important, however, is that television grew up with Mister Rogers.
My many thanks for your consideration, and my regards and best wishes,
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