Yesterday Twitch started a marathon of all 886 episodes of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and thousands of people are watching. Completely by coincidence, I am crying at work.
I grew up watching Mr. Rogers on PBS, as well as a ton of other PBS programming, including Arthur, Sesame Street, Masterpiece Theater and Bill Nye The Science Guy. Public broadcasting was a touchstone for my former hippie parents, who had also grown up watching and donating to their local stations. My dad still tells me about watching Doctor Who with my older brother when they aired the show, before I was born. But Mr. Rogers has always held a special place in my heart. Every episode it feels like he’s speaking directly to you. It’s a format that’s perfectly suited to Twitch. He looks right at the camera and talks to you, asks you about your day, behaves like he’s your close friend. What he’s saying is simple: that he loves you, that he believes in you, and that you should spread that positivity to the world. Even watching it now, as a more jaded adult, this message feels sincere.
“PBS has been home to many of the shows we’ve aired marathons from, including Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting, Julia Child’s The French Chef, and Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” Bill Moorier, Head of Twitch Creative, said over email. There’s a lot of people like me who grew up on PBS, and it shows. Right now, while a lot of people are at school or at work, Twitch’s Mr. Rogers stream has about concurrent 9,000 viewers, and it passed 1 million views this morning.
On March 16th, President Donald Trump released a budget blueprint that would cut all funding to public broadcasting. While budgets go through several rounds of drafting before they are approved and public support for PBS is high, Republicans often see funding to public broadcasting as a blight on our federal budget. President George W. Bush attempted to cut funding to public broadcasting every year he was in office, and during the 2012 election, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney floated the idea of cutting funding to PBS. Romney didn’t make it to office, but it seems our current President has similar priorities. Testimonials from Twitch Partners and viewers are airing during their stream of Mr. Rogers, encouraging people to support their local station, and the stream itself has a fundraiser bar where viewers can donate. So far, they’ve raised just under $5,000 for PBS.
Moorier said that he hoped that the Twitch community would, “get a chance to experience the magic Fred Rogers brought to so many children by creating a show that focused on inclusivity, diversity, and positivity, and that their appreciation translates into support for PBS so they can continue to broadcast this kind of content.” For their part, the Twitch community seems to be taking to Mr. Rogers very well. At the end of every episode, as Fred Rogers sings that he’ll see you tomorrow, the chat lights up with, “TOMORROW,” “don’t leave us!” and sad emoticons.
Well if you don’t want him to go anywhere, you should probably donate to PBS. Speaking from experience, sometimes you even get a cool totebag.