Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky thinks Anchor Bay needs to be schooled in how to show proper respect to an American television icon.
"Somehow, learning makes you feel good about yourself."—Fred Rogers
It seems like fun. You get to go on a bus or in the car with Mommy. She drops you off at a new place, and you go inside all by yourself. You meet other kids, and the grown-up in charge plays games with you and teaches you something new, like a letter of the alphabet or why you should eat vegetables. And then you go home.
That was a nice change of pace. Until the next day. What do you mean, I have to go back? What do you mean, I have to go every day, except for weekends? Help!
Fred Rogers to the rescue. When Daniel Tiger, Anna Platypus, and Prince Tuesday go to a new school, they get to hear a song in their honor. Meanwhile, the parents fret (except for King Friday, who is happy to see his son on the path to future statecraft). After the trolley, which is dressed as a schoolbus, returns to the real world, Mister Rogers takes a field trip to see an actual schoolbus. The driver heads out to pick up the kids, and later, Fred has to climb under the bus to try to defuse a bomb set to go off if the speed drops below 50. Just kidding. Nothing bad ever happens to Mister Rogers.
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: Going to School collects two more episodes (from 1979 and 1992) from the Family Communications vault. In the second installment on this disc, "Mister Rogers Talks About Learning," Mister Rogers talks about, um, well, you get the point. Actually, first he spends an awful lot of time showing you how to use batteries. You never know if you need to use a flashlight or a motorized yappy dog in an emergency.
I know what you are thinking: How does this stuff about batteries fit the stated theme of "learning"? It doesn't. Complete non sequitur. But the Make Believe segment does involve a "learning machine" that apparently beams knowledge directly into your brain through a vaguely threatening helmet. Except we never get to see it work. (Mister Rogers hints that we saw it in a previous episode.)
And this lack of thematic coherence and respect for continuity are exactly the problems with this latest Mister Rogers' Neighborhood collection from Anchor Bay and Family Communications. I complained in my last review that we needed complete story arcs (if not complete seasons) of this show made available, and this DVD release makes my point even stronger. It is pretty clear from these two episodes that we are walking in on the ends of a pair of storylines (the building of a new school and an effort to update the school's technology, respectively), and children may find the references to events in previous episodes puzzling. Seeing an entire week's worth of episodes on a one- or two-disc set would have been a much better idea than this apparently random sampling of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. I say again, where are the Mister Rogers boxed sets? Every American child should be raised to the soothing voice of Fred Rogers.
In keeping with the stingy nature of this disc, Anchor Bay offers a smattering of extras with no real rhyme or reason. A truncated segment showing a crayon factory (the beginning and ending snipped off). A couple of games. A brief sing-along, with no karaoke feature to help kids with the words. A cute story about cutting paper into shapes. It seems like whatever Family Communications had sitting around the office went onto this disc.
I hesitate to not recommend a Mister Rogers disc. Any Fred Rogers is better than his absence, so I am inclined to cut Anchor Bay a little slack. Better parents should buy this for their kids rather than the usual kiddie crap that clutters up the DVD shelves these days. But I want it known that choosing these two episodes, taken out of continuity, is a stingy move on the part of Family Communications. My daughter would call this a "sad choice" and suggest a time out for punishment. Fred Rogers would have been more generous with his fans.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Crayon Factory Tour
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