PBS documentary on Mister Rogers debuts tonight |

PBS documentary on Mister Rogers debuts tonight

Fred Rogers invitation to young viewers of his long-running 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' show to be his neighbor will be honored April 21 with the fifth annual 'Be My Neighbor Day,' encouraging volunteers to help out in their neighborhoods.

“Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like” will debut at 8 p.m. today on WQED and PBS stations across the country.

Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton will narrate the 50th anniversary tribute to the late Fred Rogers and his beloved children’s program, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Keaton worked on the show as a stagehand in the early 1970s.

Judd Apatow, Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Silverman, John Lithgow and Esperanza Spalding are among the celebrity admirers who will share their memories of the show that debuted Feb. 19, 1968.

Famed musicians Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, who both appeared on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” also are featured. Cast members and Pittsburgh icons Joe Negri (Handyman Negri) and David Newell (Mr. McFeely) share personal stories about Rogers, as does Joanne Rogers, his widow.

“He saw himself as a communicator and not a teacher. In fact, there’s a story I’ll tell you about that how he communicated,” Newell said in an interview with Tribune News Service. “He once was at a child-care center observing children as part of his education. And they had a tradition of parents coming in and showing the children each week what they did for a living, the parents. And one father came in who was a sculptor, and he brought this clay and then put it right down in front of the children and just started to make projects — not telling children what to do but just doing it with such love and passion.

“And Fred always said he sort of modeled what he did from that. He said that attitudes are caught, not taught. And I think that’s what Fred did on the program. He would show children places and topics and let them catch it. He never sort of spelled it out . But that was very unique, I thought. And he was the real thing, I can tell you that. It came from inside. There was a true passion, and we were all glad to be part of that passion.”

Fred Rogers, a Latrobe native, died in 2003.

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