Mister Rogers & Me
(Rochester, NY) – Soon after Fred Rogers had retired from many years of producing and starring in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Rogers had a chance meeting with his next door neighbor on the island of Nantucket – Benjamin Wagner, a young, up-and-coming producer for MTV. On the afternoon of their first meeting, the children's television icon provided Wagner with some wise advice: "I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than complex," and urged Wagner to "spread the message."
The chance meeting would change Wagner's life. After Rogers' death in 2003, Wagner and his brother, Christofer, set out to meet some of Mister Rogers' real-life "neighbors," aiming to discover more about the man himself, what he meant by "deep and simple," and who still preaches Rogers' message. The result is detailed in the new American Public Television-distributed documentary Mister Rogers & Me, airing Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV.
The brothers' travels led them to Durham, North Carolina, where Rogers' friend, the mystic, activist and author Bo Lozoff, shared three core tenets of a deeper life. In Boston, Campaign For Commercial-Free Childhood founder – and one-time Neighborhood puppeteer – Dr. Susan Linn detailed the dangers of media over-exposure. In Virginia, the two met The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers author Amy Hollingsworth, whose groundbreaking, faith-oriented interview with Rogers informed the origins of his on-camera ministry. The late Meet the Press host Tim Russert shared his tale of meeting Rogers on Nantucket, and discussed how Rogers' values hold up in the nation's capital. NPR's Susan Stamberg – with whom Rogers' produced numerous television specials in the '80s – related her deeply moving experiences with the icon. Back in New York, Arthur author Marc Brown explained how Rogers inspired his beloved children's program. The brothers also visit Nick News host Linda Ellerbee, who illuminated the challenges facing the modern media programmer, and I'm Proud of You author Tim Madigan shares the valuable lesson he learned from his relationship with Rogers: that friendship comes from the least expected sources.
A charming and philosophical documentary, Mister Rogers & Me is an unforgettable remembrance of a television icon.
Pictured: Wagner and Rogers
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