Take a quiet interlude on the first evening of 2004 to remember Fred Rogers — that’s Mister Rogers, to us — and the integrity he brought to children’s television.
“Fred Rogers: America’s Favorite Neighbor,” airing 9:30 p.m. ET Thursday on PBS, celebrates the gentle host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” who died last February at 74.
The documentary, parts of which aired previously, details Rogers’ early years in Latrobe, Pa., his start in television with NBC in New York and his work in founding WQED in Pittsburgh, the first community-owned TV station.
The ideas he explored in his first children’s program, “The Children’s Corner,” became part of the venerated “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” He had an uncanny ability to see the world at kid’s eye level.
“I really think it was a gift,” Joanne Rogers, his widow, said in an interview. “He had a gift for being able to see through a child’s eyes.”
David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on the show, recalled how Rogers once trained a camera on an egg timer to demonstrate to children how long a minute feels.
“Who gives a minute away in television? They want to fill it up with sounds,” Newell said.
“We all have only one life to live on Earth,” Rogers once said. “And through television we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways.”
There’s a thought worth keeping in mind for 2004.
Other shows to look out for:
- NBC delivers a timely pre-New Year’s Eve message about drinking and driving in an updated version of a previously aired “Dateline NBC” report. “Sudden Impact” follows the ripple effect of one fatal Massachusetts accident — from the crash scene, to the hospital, to court and through the insurance maze. The program, with Tom Brokaw as anchor and reporter, airs 8 p.m. ET Sunday.
- “The Lives They Lived” takes the measure of both famous and unknown people who died in 2003 and whose lives affected the world. The Discovery Times Channel program, 8 p.m. ET Sunday, is a companion to the New York Times Magazine’s annual tribute issue. Among those remembered are Katherine Hepburn; Johnny Cash; Althea Gibson and laugh-track inventor Charles Douglas.
- American Indian culture and the bond between generations are at the heart of “Dreamkeeper,” a Hallmark Entertainment miniseries airing Sunday and Monday 9 p.m. ET on ABC. A teenager who’s run afoul of a gang (Eddie Spears) is asked to deliver his grandfather (August Schellenberg) to a tribal ceremony in New Mexico. The journey gives the older man the chance to relate legendary tales of love, courage and life and his grandson the chance to help preserve them.
- They’re back, they’re bad and they’re still 40-something. Patsy and Edina (Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley) will be joined on the fifth season of “Absolutely Fabulous” by a promised “ton of celebrity guests,” including Elton John and Minnie Driver. Edina is now a star publicist and Patsy has left the magazine world for the more elevated ranks of celebrity stylists. The new episodes of the British sitcom arrive on Oxygen Network beginning 9 p.m. ET Friday.