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TV Notes: Rogers before cameras again at WQED studios

Saturday, August 03, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Since production of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" ceased almost two years ago, some people are under the impression Rogers is retired. That comes as news to the sweater-wearing children's show host.

"Retirement? That's a funny word to me," Rogers said Thursday.

He was back in the WQED studio taping promotional spots for PBS. Some encourage parents to read to kids -- part of a PBS reading initiative -- others are pegged to the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11.

"There may be a lot of images on television around Sept. 11 that could confuse and even frighten children," Rogers said as he recorded one of several different public service announcements. "So one good idea is to try to limit what they see and hear. Of course, what they need to hear most from us adults is that they can talk with us about anything and that we'll do all we can to help keep them safe no matter what goes on in the world."

Sitting on a chair in front of King Friday's castle and X the Owl's tree house, Rogers wasn't at all rusty. Reading his script from a TelePrompTer, Rogers was smooth take after take, with only a rare flub as his tongue got tied.

"I just launched into Russian for some reason," he said.

Wearing a dark suit, Rogers changed ties between promos. At one point there was concern in the studio about an "errant hair." Rogers pulled out his comb, but floor manager Jimmy Seech had a pair of scissors handy.

"That's 12 bucks and a tip!" Seech said to laughs all around.

Other Rogers enterprises include a parenting book that's nearing completion and a workshop for teachers and child-care workers who deal with children with severe behavioral problems. While he was in the studio, Rogers taped wraparound segments for a video to accompany that workshop.

Rogers' Family Communications Inc. was approached by Richard Kaufman, principal pops conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, about turning some of Rogers' famous "Neighborhood" songs into a symphony, including "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" and "It's Such a Good Feeling."

Kaufman and Lee Holdridge completed an arrangement, which will premiere in Dallas sometime next year.

"Richard approached us precisely at the moment we were thinking of doing something like this," said Joe Kennedy, Family Communications Inc. director of operations. "It will be made available to symphonies and pop orchestras to include in their performance libraries."

Channel surfing

Wayne Brady will be the first African American to host the Miss America pageant, airing Sept. 21 on ABC .... When "Hollywood Squares" kicks off its new season Sept. 16 it will have a new set and rotating celebrity guests in the center square beginning with Ellen DeGeneres and continuing later in the season with Alec Baldwin. ... WPXI will rebroadcast "Dateline Pittsburgh: The Fight Against Cancer" today at 2 p.m.

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