I am surrounded by television all the time. There are seven televisions on round the clock above my desk. Thankfully, the sound is usually off, which actually improves some of the programs. But that flickering glow is a constant in my life. Even at home, more often than not, we'll flip on the TV, and it becomes background noise for whatever we're doing. And I am one of those people who can spend too much time just flipping through the channels with the remote without actually watching anything. There are a couple of shows I do try to watch, but not many.
When we were getting ready for this broadcast, it made me think back to what I watched as a child. "Combat!," starring Vic Morrow was a huge thing for me, and I remember weekly crises at our house because "The Untouchables," my father's favorite, overlapped with "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."
And those were the days when there was one and only one TV in the house. But I never watched Mister Rogers. I knew who he was, but by the time he first went on the air, I was already too old. He was too uncool. We would joke about him, and later Eddie Murphy would do hysterical parodies on Saturday Night Live.
But Mister Rogers continued on with the puppets, and the trolley, and the soft voice, and the songs. And just talking about this broadcast around the office, whether people watched him or not, it's clear that everyone knows who he is.
In this day of rats being dumped on people or contestants holding knives on other contestants on the reality shows, Mister Rogers seems pretty quaint.
Now it's interesting, I mentioned this subject in the email the other day, and one person wrote in outraged that Nightline was going to profile Mister Rogers. This person somehow felt that he was beneath Nightline. But I have to say that, aside from the fact that he has been a part of the lives of tens of millions of children, and their children, and their grandchildren, what he has to say about the state of television, and its responsibility toward society, is more relevant now than ever before. But more than that, the broadcast is just a whole lot of fun.
We've introduced you to a number of people on this broadcast that you probably didn't know before. Eva Cassidy, Nkosi Johnson, that crazy guy at M.I.T. who went fishing for paramecium. But tonight we're going to re-introduce you to an old friend, who I realized I really didn't know.
Now I'm pretty cynical, but when I screened the program yesterday, I walked out of the edit room thinking that by not watching his program, I had missed something.
Leroy Sievers is the Executive Producer of Nightline.