The first season of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was produced in black and white. The program moved to a color presentation in the second season, which aired in 1969, and was shot in color for every season moving forward.
Twitch, a streaming service that is usually focused on games, is currently showing 886 episodes of the show in one long marathon. I popped over to watch for a moment, more out of curiosity than nostalgia, and became fascinated by the look of the early episodes.
Mr. Rogers’ attempts to connect to the viewer also feel surprisingly modern, despite those first shows being 49 years old.
“In a lot of ways, Mister Rogers may have been the first ‘streamer’ that many of us ever watched,” the Twitch blog post stated. “He’d always speak directly to his viewers in a welcoming, familiar way, and when you entered his neighborhood you immediately felt like a part of the community.”
The show is also gentle and welcoming in a way that already seemed refreshing when I began watching as a child in the ‘80s, and the marathon already feels like a respite from the relentless pace of the current news cycle. If things are bad right now, Mr. Rogers is unapologetically good. Go ahead and check it out, watch an episode or two. I guarantee you’ll feel a bit calmer before you know it.
This isn’t the first time Twitch has done this sort of thing, and the service is wisely curating these marathons based on what seem to be two simple rules:
- The shows have to feature someone talking to the audience
- The shows have to be positive
One of the previous marathons was The French Chef, a show that featured the ebullient personality of Julia Child.
“As the original TV chef, Julia Child laid the groundwork for all food show hosts today,” the Twitch blog wrote at the time. “By inviting viewers into her home and addressing them with a friendly and forgiving attitude, she inspired generations of cooks to take risks in the kitchen.”
Child had an oversized personality, a distinctive voice, a respect for cooking that never fell into false reverence and a deep love of sharing her passion with the world. She spoke to you, she made mistakes and she enjoyed what she did. It was another great fit for Twitch.
And of course this whole thing began with Twitch’s marathon of the king of ASMR, Bob Ross, in 2015. An event that Ars Technica called “the most beautiful thing the Internet has ever created.”
The Joy of Painting and The Joy of Cooking were similar in that they took something many people assumed was hard to do and invited everyone in.
The Twitch marathons of these shows — and now Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood — are so delightful because Twitch’s presentation feels sincere with just the tiniest splash of irony. We’re not enjoying these shows in order to mock them, we’re enjoying them because they’re enjoyable.
Each of these marathons has felt more like a place to relax than a publicity stunt, and that’s why they’re so successful.
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