DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD
Friendly Rating: Pre-schoolers and their parents
Safety Rating: If it weren’t for the ongoing gender disparity in pre-school programming, the show would be perfect
Quality Rating: A lovely testament to Fred Rogers’ legacy
New series premieres today on PBS Kids, check your local listings for times.
I confess, I never watched much of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I mocked it (can you say “easy target?” I knew you could). But I also appreciated what Fred Rogers had in mind in a gentle, welcoming place for young children where they could learn how to be nice in a loving and kind way.
And what the late Rogers’ company has done in recreating the show in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is lovely and reassuring and all the things that the original show incorporated. And while I don’t want the perfect to become the enemy of the good (because there is a great deal of good here), I do have to grouse at least once that in a world of pre-school television where there are almost no girl lead characters, we’ve got another male leading a show. You’d think PBS would know better.
End of rant.
This is show is just so charming. Daniel Tiger welcomes us to his neighborhood with the trade-mark cardigan and tennis shoes. He breaks the fourth wall, coming to us as the pre-school child that he is. And as fantastical as the world of his neighborhood is, it’s also a very real place where things don’t go right all the time.
For example, the opening episode deals with the concept of disappointment and how to work with it. In the first place, Daniel biffs the frosting on his birthday cake, which is the sort of thing that we all find genuinely annoying. But then he has to face a real disappointment – the cake gets smooshed on the way home from the bakery. That’s something that really actually sucks – not the phoney-baloney nonsense that passes for bad stuff that you normally see on pre-school TV.
Which is why, in spite of it being a very sweet show, you’re not begging for an insulin hit after watching it. Granted, it’s not something your older kids are going to want to watch. But you can watch it with your pre-schoolers without gagging and use the lessons learned to help them deal with things like disappointments.
And that reminds me – one other warning. Because the songs frequently incorporate lessons, they are meant to stick, and that means high ear-worm potential. I was humming the disappointment tune for three days afterwards. And, I grudgingly admit, applying the lesson to my own life.