PBS’ New Fred Rogers Doc Is A Good Starting Point For Audiences Unfamiliar With Rogers’ Life, Career

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

Almost one year from now, iconic television figure Fred Rogers will have his life story told….sort of….in a new biopic from Big Beach Films and Tristar Pictures.  The movie will star legendary screen actor Tom Hanks in Rogers’ signature red cardigan sweater and sneakers.  Of course while this seems all good and fine, everybody knows that far too often, biopics are overly embellished with some falsehoods.  Keeping that in mind, so many more accurate documentations of Rogers’ life and career have already been released that have proven far more worth audiences’ time.  One of the most recent of those more worthwhile presentations is PBS’ latest Fred Rogers doc, It’s You I Like.  Having originally aired on PBS stations nationwide March 8, the hour-long program will be released on DVD Oct. 2.  Not to be confused with Universal Pictures’ equally popular big-screen Fred Rogers doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor, this program is not the first toe be released from PBS, but is still an enjoyable look at Rogers’ life and career.  That is due in no small part to the story at the center of the doc.  This will be discussed shortly.  The program’s transitions, by connection, are just as important to examine as the story.  They will be discussed a little bit later.  The footage, pictures and interviews used to help tell the story round out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the whole of It’s You I Like.  All things considered, they make It’s You I Like another welcome look at Fred Rogers’ life and career.

PBS’ latest profile of Fred Rogers, It’s You I Like, is another welcome look at the life and career of one of television’s most iconic figures.  The network’s first profile of Rogers since 2011’s Mister Rogers & Me, it is a good companion to that profile.  That is due in part to the program’s central story, which discusses what made – and makes – him so respected and beloved to this very day. It presents – as with so many other previously released docs – a man who was genuine in how he addressed tough topics, such as death, divorce and even where babies come from and who was just as genuine off camera as he was on camera.  Audiences also learn through the program that apparently, Mister Rogers had quite a sense of humor, and not in a bad way, either.  The story is told partially through interviews with celebrities, such as John Lithgow, Judd Apatow and Sarah Silverman, as they discuss Mister Rogers’ influence on them as they watch vintage clips of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Veteran actor Michael Keaton, who got his start in show business on the long-running series, serves as the program’s host, and adds his own stories of life on set and of Fred Rogers, the man behind the camera.  The whole thing uses music, fittingly, as the foundation for the presentation.  The focus on music here is fitting because, as noted at one point in the program, it is noted that Rogers earned a degree in music composition in college.  Again, this is not the first time that this has been noted in a documentary on Rogers’ life and career, but maybe not everyone knew this.  To that end, it is a good addition to the program, as it explains why there is such a heavy emphasis on music throughout this story.  Considering all of this in mind, many audiences will find the story at the center of It’s You I Like familiar.  For those who might be less familiar with Rogers’ life and career, it is a good brief, but concise introduction.  To that end, this presentation will appeal, at least in terms of its story, more to audiences less familiar with Rogers’ life and career than those who have seen the other Fred Rogers docs that have been released already.  Staying on that note of the story’s familiarity, the story’s transitions are just as important to its presentation as the story itself.

The story’s transitions are of note because they are so smooth.  What is really of note is that Rogers’ beloved “picture-picture” is largely the source of those transitions.  At many points, the story will go from the final scene of one chapter to a slow zoom out of the picture frame and back in at the end of Keaton’s segments.  At other times, the transitions are more basic, going from the final moment of a given chapter to a fade or a smooth cut back to the old set of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Regardless of the transitions, it can be said that each one keeps the story progressing so smoothly from one segment to the next, ensuring that viewers will never be lost.  Getting back to the doc’s story, this means that, again, audiences less familiar with Mister Rogers’ life and career are that much more apt to remain engaged and entertained throughout the program.  When the two elements are coupled, they show even more why those noted audiences will enjoy this presentation as their first exposure to the man who was more than just a television figure, but one of America’s most important figures on and off camera.  Having noted all of this, the actual material used to tell the documentary’s story rounds out the most important elements of It’s You I Like.

The material used to tell the story of It’s Your I Like is as familiar as the story itself for most audiences, and just as fresh, again, for those less familiar with his story.  Audiences are presented here with footage and pictures of Mister Rogers on the set of his show, as well as interviews with various celebrities to tell the story.  The footage includes moments, such as Rogers joking with fellow cast mates David Newell (Mr. McFeely), Francois Clemmons (Officer Clemmons) and crew members as well as footage of Rogers interviewing stars, such as Yo-Yo Ma (and his son), Wynton Marsalis and Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz) at various points throughout.  The pictures featured across the program were taken from the days when the show was still running.  There are candid pictures featuring Rogers and the show’s cast and crew, a picture of Mister Rogers with the one and only Big Bird (from Sesame Street) included in the discussion of Big Bird crossing over into the “Land of Make Believe” and even pictures of Rogers in his youth.  Between those pictures and others, audiences get a wonderfully rich picture of the show from its birth to its end.  Meanwhile the interviews with Rogers’ widow and the previously noted celebrities serve to illustrate even more the legacy and impact of the man who was Mister Rogers.  When those interviews, pictures and footage all come together to tell the story of a man who truly did like everyone, the end result is a documentary that those just starting to learn about Mister Rogers will enjoy.

PBS’ latest Fred Rogers documentary It’s You I Like is a good introduction to the life and legacy of Mister Rogers for those who might not be so familiar with Rogers’ life and career. That is due in part to a story that for other viewers, proves relatively familiar.  It touches briefly on Rogers’ accomplishments and efforts, giving a concise overview why he is still such a revered figure, even in death.  The story’s transitions ensure audiences’ engagement just as much as the story itself, as do the collective interviews, footage and pictures used to help tell the story.  Each element is important in its own right to the whole of the presentation.  All things considered, they make It’s You I Like a doc that fans unfamiliar with Fred Rogers’ life and career will like as much as he liked everyone.  It will be available on DVD Oct. 2, and can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/pbs

 

 

 

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