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Top 10 Things to Know About Mr. Rogers

VO: Rebecca Brayton

Script written by Michael Wynands

Public figures like this don’t come around too often. Did you know that Mr. Rogers was an ordained minister? Or that he wrote all the music for his show? WatchMojo is counting down the top 10 need to know facts about Mr. Rogers.

Special thanks to our users Daniel Fong, JackMcFord and boxtroll for suggesting this idea! https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Things%20to%20Know%20About%20Mr.%20Rogers

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Transcript
Script written by Michael Wynands

Top 10 Things to Know About Mr. Rogers




Public figures like this don’t come around too often. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for Top 10 Things to Know About Mr. Rogers.



For this list, we’ll be looking at a variety of fun, little known facts about this late, great icon of children’s television, which are sure to make you love him even more.



#10: He Got into Television Because He Was Unimpressed with It


You’d think that anybody who stars in a television show for decades would have a great love for the medium, but as Mr. Rogers once explained that “when I first saw children’s television, I thought it was perfectly horrible”. So how did he wind up becoming a shining light of children’s television? Well, rather than simply complain about the object of his disdain, he decided to do something about it. As he put it to CNN, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there's some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen." And he did just that.





#9: He Was an Ordained Minister


Life could have played out very differently for Fred Rogers. In 1963 he graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and became an ordained minister within the United Presbyterian Church. The next logical step would have been for him to begin preaching, but he’d been working in television since the early 1950s and so even after he was ordained, he continue along the career path he’d started, having already begun to hone his craft in children’s television on the award-winning WQED public television series, “The Children’s Corner”. Though he never wound up leading a congregation, with “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” he found a flock of his own - one that spanned generations.





#8: He Was Equally Loved by Animals


They say that animals make great judges of character, and the way in which our friends in the animal kingdom responded to Fred Rogers’ calm, welcoming and gentle demeanor certainly supports that claim. Perhaps his most famous nonhuman fan was Koko the Gorilla, who was reportedly an avid viewer of his program. In 1998, Koko actually appeared on an episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” as part of a series about looking beyond superficial differences and facing our fears. Koko was thrilled to see Mister Rogers and didn’t hide her affection. And as a committed lover of animals, Mister Rogers was also a vegetarian.





#7: He Was the Victim of Bullying as a Child


Though it might surprise you given his famously slim frame, Mister Rogers was actually chubby when he was young, and this apparently made him the butt of jokes in his own real-life neighborhood growing up. Similarly surprising, considering his career in television as an adult, he was also reportedly very shy, which only exacerbated the bullying. His peers were allegedly so merciless that, according to “Mister Rogers & Me” director Benjamin Wagner, young Fred Rogers would cry when he was alone. This was clearly a formative experience for Rogers who, rather than become embittered, channeled his feelings into positivity and learned to look beyond the surface of others. Talk about an inspiration!





#6: He Did One TV Guest Spot as a Fictional Character


Mr. Rogers was best known for appearing on his own eponymous television series, but he also had a habit of occasionally venturing into other televised neighborhoods and series. The thing is, no matter where he went, he was always the same old soft-spoken, loving and compassionate Fred Rogers - be it on “Sesame Street” or when you encountered him in person. There was one notable exception however. In 1996, he played a character other than himself on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”. He played a Reverend who, in very unneighborly fashion, risks his church for reasons of vanity.





#5: He Wore Sneakers for Production Reasons


Mister Rogers’ fashion sense is a big part of his image and legacy, and we’ll be talking more about this later, but right now… we want to talk about those sweet kicks! Considering his old-timey attire, the sneakers always seemed like an interesting outlier and people couldn’t help but fixate on them, especially since he was always tying and untying them. So why sneakers as opposed to a more conventional and outfit-appropriate pair of dress shoes? It’s simple really… Fred Rogers thought work shoes or dress shoes were too loud for the quiet space he was creating and working in.





#4: He Wrote All the Music for the Show


A big part of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was the soothing music being played in the background. Though it was no secret that Fred Rogers played piano, what not everyone realises is just what a talented musician he really was. He first began playing piano at the tender age of 5, and would go on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Music Composition. He actually got his start in television working on such musical programs as “Your Hit Parade”. He used this passion for music and composition by personally writing, with only a few exceptions, all of the music on his show.





#3: He Reportedly Responded to ALL His Fan Mail


Considering just how many lives Mister Rogers affected with his television series over the decades, you can imagine that he likely received a whole lot of letters. Most celebrities simply don’t have the time to respond to their fans, while others have a stock response that goes out to make fans feel like they have at least been acknowledged. But not Mister Rogers. As part of his daily routine, he allegedly sat down and wrote thoughtful, considerate responses to every single piece of mail he received. Though Fred Rogers is no longer with us, the countless letters out there must be a great comfort to fans and an enduring reminder that he truly cared.





#2: His Mom Knit All of His Sweaters


Though the sneakers were a big part of his image, the sweaters worn by Mr. Rogers in every episode are truly iconic - arguably on par with his catchphrase of “won’t you be my neighbor””. Just taken at face value, these cozy sweaters are adorable and endlessly endearing, but when you add to that the fact they were reportedly made by his mom, well… doesn’t your heart just melt? As he once explained in an interview, until the time of her death, Rogers’ mother would knit and send sweaters to friends and family every Christmas - and those are the ones he wore.





#1: He Helped to Save Public Television


In 1969, Mr. Rogers appeared before Congress to speak out against proposed budget cuts to funding for Public Broadcasting. He gave an impassioned speech about the virtues of public television, painting a vivid picture for skeptical politicians that made it incredibly hard for them to deny its importance. The end result was that, just 2 years later, the budget increased by $11 million. That’s not the only public cause Rogers championed, however! He similarly came to the defense of home VCRs and the home recording of programs in 1979. Why? Because he felt that people should have the opportunity to watch quality programming whenever they could find the time to do it as a family.
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