Commentary #97: Thoughts on β€œWon’t You Be My Neighbor?”

When Al was on a recent business trip, I made a list of movies I wanted to watch after getting home from work. Having little success in locating many of them through Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, I found Won’t You Be My Neighbor? through Amazon Prime Video.

I’d heard this documentary made you cry, and it’s definitely true. I learned a lot about Mr. Rogers, both the man and the genesis of the television show.

Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom, Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal) is masterful storyteller.

I was a bit worried about the length – A little more than 90 minutes. I wasn’t sure if the “whole story” would be captured in that time frame. Neville, however, proved me wrong.

The interviews were amazing. Neville captured everyone he possibly could – Joanne Rogers, John Rogers, Jim Rogers, Elaine Rogers, Yo-Yo Ma, Francois Clemmons. And Fred Rogers and Koko the gorilla in archival recordings.

The show originally debuted in Canada in 1962. It began in the U.S. in 1966 on the regional Eastern Education Network. Its national debut was on February 19, 1968.

One of the interesting things about the documentary was seeing the origin story. I knew the show covered topics that most children’s programming avoided, but it was fascinating to see archival footage from 1967 and 1968, discussing the Vietnam War and Robert Kennedy’s assassination, among other things.

I started watching Mister Rogers before I could talk. New episodes aired on PBS until 2001, so I remember the “modern era” of the show. I learned about things from how Crayola crayons are made, factories, jobs, books, conflict, death, friendship, family, and more.

This documentary is filled with nostalgia, and one of the best things I’ve seen in 2019. I’m very happy Morgan Neville decided to do this – I hope it was as rewarding for him as it was for me.

Watching this now is the perfect lead-up to the upcoming film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks. I can hardly wait for Thanksgiving week. You’ll find me first in line for tickets.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚