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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: who was Fred Rogers?


Tom Hanks is set to return to our cinema screens on 6 December in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Marielle Heller's biopic of Fred Rogers, one of America’s best-loved TV presenters. 

Rogers may have been a huge star in the States, but he was less well-known on this side of the pond. So before you go and see this highly anticipated film, it's well worth swotting up on the man and his career. Here are just a few facts to get you started...

1. He and his show are national treasures

Fred Rogers is best-known for his family TV show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Running from 1968–2001 on PBS, it was mostly aimed at young children. However, it was watched and admired by people of all ages.

In 2012, an animated show called Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood began airing on PBS Kids. Based on Rogers' original programme, it saw popular children's character Daniel Tiger step into the role of presenter. For the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood last year, Michael Keaton (Batman, Birdman, Beetlejuice) hosted a special show to celebrate Fred, entitled Mister Rogers: It's You I Like.  

2. The show tackled important subjects

Though the programme was aimed at young children, it regularly covered topics and themes designed to educate. The show was famous for talking about subjects such as death, moving house, going to a new school, divorce and war, while competing family programmes refrained from such issues. Rogers would also often talk about emotions and how to deal with these feelings, which was praised by parents.

The show certainly wasn't always serious, though, and featured more playful segments that incorporated puppetry, crafts and music.  

3. It was radical

As well as tackling the above themes, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood raised awareness of other important issues.

One regular character on the show was Officer Clemmons. Played by François Clemmons, he was one of the first recurring African-American characters to be seen on a kids' TV programme. The depiction was always positive, with Office Clemmons being a liked and respected authority figure. At the time, having such a character was considered radical.

4. What you saw was what you got

Unlike other children's TV presenters, Rogers wasn’t keen on playing a character of himself or blurring the lines between fantasy and reality for his young, impressionable viewers.

He believed that "kids can spot a phoney a mile away", so was always his honest self, even if it meant showing his vulnerable side.

5. He inspired others

Fred Rogers passed away in 2003, a month before his 75th birthday. But he's continued to inspire people, even after his death. TV show Blue's Clues, for example, helped children to cope with upsetting news events, such as 9/11, the Vietnam War and the assassination of Robert Kennedy. And Rogers' words are also still used to provide comfort on social media following tragedies such as school shootings in America.  

There’s plenty more reasons why Fred Rogers remains a national treasure. He won numerous awards, had the sweetest love story by marrying his college sweetheart, and is in the Television Hall of Fame.  

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is at Cineworld cinemas from 6 December, and is set to be an emotional, touching drama that will make you realise just how wonderful a person Mister Rogers was and why the world was lucky to have him.