in the neighborhood

I grew up in the Mister Rogers generation. I can remember listening to the familiar line “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” while watching Mister Rogers calmly walk in, hang up his suit jacket and change his shoes. I’d see the trolley appear and make its way through the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, including the familiar faces of King Friday and Queen Sara Saturday. It was a wonderful show to grow up with because Mister Rogers managed to make me feel like he was talking to me one-on-one as I sat in his living room. Isn’t that what every kid really wants most: to feel seen and special?

Lizzie’s son, Jude, meeting Daniel Tiger.

Now that I have a little guy, I know I’m going to have to sit through a lot of TV shows and movies for kids in the years to come. I was admittedly apprehensive when I first sorted through the Netflix offerings, but I decided to try Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I knew about this animated show, centered around a preschool age tiger and his family, from some friends. The series draws some characters from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and recreates the opening scene of Mister Rogers with Daniel in the lead. One friend called it “the next generation of Mister Rogers,” which nicely summarizes its emotional appeal to those of us from the Mister Rogers era.

However, the show holds its own aside from its ties to Mister Rogers. It’s age-appropriate without becoming annoying; the lesson of each episode is repeated over and over but in a catchy, appealing tune that is fun to sing and easy to grasp. It presents real-life scenarios in a colorful and creative way: Daniel learns about everything from what to do when you’re mad to how to cope when plans change. A realist to the core, I appreciate that the show addresses negative feelings and experiences. I breathed a sigh of relief when Daniel’s excitement to meet his baby sister was accompanied also by some feelings of jealousy. Yet, there is a sense of positivity and empowerment throughout, because every situation is manageable with the tools presented to Daniel and his friends.

Each episode contains a snippet that is filmed in Pittsburgh with actors who play out scenes demonstrating the episode’s theme. It’s fun to watch for familiar Pittsburgh areas and adds a layer of authenticity to the show’s neighborliness. I’ve been known to watch the show essentially by myself while my toddler plays at my feet. It’s that good! If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself! You’ll thank me later for the entertainment and nostalgia.

For those looking to revisit Mister Rogers, there are several new, not-to-be-missed opportunities. A documentary aptly titled Won’t You Be My Neighbor? opened in theaters in June. Also, Pittsburgh is buzzing about a movie, starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers, that will be titled You Are My Friend and will begin shooting in the fall.

Due to use of local extras, some of our own friends and neighbors may appear on screen, so look out!

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