BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.: With Fred Rogers’ legacy back in the spotlight, PBS wants viewers to remember public TV was the longtime home of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” PBS stations will air the acclaimed documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” as part of the “Independent Lens” showcase. The film has earned over $20 million in its eight weeks in theaters, a blockbuster by documentary standards.
Rogers’ “powerful” approach to kid’s programming is an ongoing influence at PBS, Paula Kerger, president and CEO of the Public Broadcasting Service, said during the Television Critics Association summer meeting. One direct link is the animated series “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” from creator Angela Santomero and the Fred Rogers Co.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the “Mister Rogers” TV debut.
An airdate for “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” wasn’t announced.
Meanwhile, Betty White, who was absent from the panel discussion at a TV critics meeting Tuesday, sees no point in slowing down at age 96, as long as her phone keeps ringing with offers to work. The actress known for her roles in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls” is marking her 80th year in show business with a PBS special that looks at her life and career.
Moore, Georgia Engel and Gavin MacLeod are among those sharing insights in “Betty White: First Lady of Television,” which debuts Aug. 21.
Moore’s appearance in the special was the last interview she did before her death last year, said Steve Boettcher, the special’s co-director and producer.
The special shows White at work, at home and interacting with friends. She is the lone living star from “The Golden Girls.”
“Betty wanted to be here in the worst way,” Boettcher said. “She sends her best and she’s doing great.”
Tap dancer Arthur Duncan credits White with launching his career by featuring him on her daily talk show in the mid-1950s.
The show received letters complaining about Duncan’s presence as a black performer.
White’s response was to use Duncan every chance she could. He later went on to “The Lawrence Welk Show,” becoming the first black regular on a TV variety show.
“She was probably one of the nicest, grandest, greatest people I’ve had the chance to meet in my life,” said Duncan, now 84. “Whenever she walked into a room, it lit up.”