Sesame Street vs. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

Last week Chris and Dan debated which was the best children’s show on PBS. Here, they break down why they argued the way they did in a feature we call No Right Explanation.


Chris: Wow, childhood memories are a funny thing, aren’t they? Looking back on some of my favorite shows ever, it becomes tricky to really capture the magic as I first remember it. In retrospect, we learned two very important things. The first is that picking the “best” show from my childhood doesn’t necessarily mean my “favorite.” The second is that the UK doesn’t have the same childhood I have, and that may be my fault (I think?).

Despite these hiccups, picking from what I knew wasn’t too difficult. Mister Rogers is, without a doubt, my favorite and what I consider the best. Except Kyle said, “I’ll take Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood right before we were about to begin. Okay, then clearly Sesame Street is best.

In actuality, this gave me a handy advantage as I knew exactly what he could have used, and I’m shocked he didn’t use a lot of the most powerful ammunition. As commenters were clever enough to remember (and rightfully so), Fred Rogers, one of the greatest individuals ever to grace this Earth or Thessia, nearly single-handedly saved PBS by standing up to Congress. Just watching the clip will inspire the manliest of tears for something so beautifully said, which makes it very suspicious that Kyle omitted it.

Less suspicious is why Kyle didn’t bring up Mister Rogers being the sole survivor of the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny as I’m nearly certain that he’s either never seen it or chooses to forget about it entirely (it happens to be on my iPod). This, however, doesn’t really mean that he’s necessarily better than anyone else, only that he’s remembered more fondly. And that, the fact that Mister Rogers as one man is remembered more than the collective might of all the Sesame Street Muppets, is an argument that would have been hard for me to fight against.

I’m just very confused with the overall outcome. Well, more conflicted than anything. Mister Rogers is one of my favorite people ever, but I also like to win things. In this case, I almost feel miserable to come out victorious, but I’m sure Mister Rogers would have wanted me to feel special, just the way I am.

To wrap up my section, many apologies to our UK viewers. We didn’t mean to exclude the shows you grew up with, though I do challenge you to combat Mister Rogers once you’ve seen enough. At the very least, if you haven’t seen an episode or two or don’t know anything about the man, I just hope you look up his legacy and get the same warm feeling that I do every time I think back upon him.

And no, I don’t really believe he’s racist. I’m just a very terrible person.


Kyle: So, chalk up another embarrassing moment for me on my Escapist resume. This tends to happen when I eat lots of bad food, Chris is more focused on pissing me off than making a point, and Dan is willing to allow anything.

Chris definitely won this round, but he neglected to really build up Sesame Street for what it was: an institution. While Mr. Rogers is a great bit of nostalgia, it is frozen in time. The Street, as we’ve come to call it, can adapt to the times. It has become health-conscious, ethnically aware, and even has dealt with the subject of death.

You just can’t top that. And while Mr. Rogers did show me how Cheerios are made (and bless him for that, seriously), Sesame Street has turned partially-formed brains into well mannered children who speak properly, can count, and are totally cool with the alternative lifestyle lived by Bert and Ernie. Of course, all that instantly gets thrown out the window once those kids start mucking about on the Internet, and turn into trollish sleazes, but that’s beside the point.

And another thing: as our comments from the episode illustrate, Sesame Street has affected us all on a global scale. Not everyone in the UK, Australia, or Canada even knew who Mr. Rogers was. Meanwhile, the Street has been translated into every damn language on the face of the earth, I’d wager. Sesame Street episodes and movies are available in Estonia, Tajikistan, and other funny sounding countries. It’s just more established.

Put this globalization argument to work, and you’ll see a host of reasons why the Street is superior. The characters are easily adapted for other cultures because of how abstract they are, the situations are more self-contained and therefore can stand on their own from a specific region or time…I could go on, but the point is that the Street means more, and to more people.

But in retrospect, Chris knew damn well that insinuating racial prejudice and the mere mention of Jim Henson would make me commit debate suicide.


Dan: So, the street gang going against the hood. Unfortunately we didn’t do enough forethought on the international point of view on these selections. I have to admit, my relatives who would visit Israel would bring me Hebrew Sesame Street, teaching me both Hebrew and English, but no one ever brought me Hebrew Mr. Rogers. Perhaps they should have, who knows.

So, first point goes to Kyle on bringing up that even in the opening credits, you can learn a real life lesson. For those who know the intro songs to both shows, you know that Sesame Street only repeats a question of how to get to said street. A question that is never answered, by the way. We just find ourselves there, poof. Mr. Rogers, however, takes off his shoes before he enters the house, ties his slippers, and welcomes us. Bam, two lessons and we haven’t even broken a sweat yet.

Chris comes back with the argument that Sesame Street had, and still has, huge actors as guests. I think it counts as community service for them. Mr. Rogers would have blue collar workers as guests, like the mail man and the aforementioned Cheerios factory worker, but no one that kids might have heard of before.

Kyle almost didn’t get this next point because it was hard to compare due to age groups. Sesame Street is marketed towards kids that don’t know shapes or numbers yet, or at least don’t know them well enough to find Sesame Street boring. Mr. Rogers was a bit more high-brow, and because of this, the lessons learned are going to be a bit more advanced. But, in the end I gave it to Kyle because Sesame Street could have a “bigger kids” section, but as far as my memory serves, they don’t.

The next point went to Chris mainly to justify the last point going to Kyle. Chris makes the argument that Sesame Street tries to instill minorities as not some group to be noticed, such as “Hey, there are a lot of ‘insert minority’ here in this show.” Instead, Sesame Street is one of those shows where they try to have every single ethnic group and disability represented. As an adult, that seems stupid, but if you get to the kids early enough, it does help.

Ah, the reverse-spit take. Originally we did have Chris drink afterwards, but he still didn’t win, so it didn’t matter. Hope you all learned something this week. The episode was brought to you by the letter W for winner, and the number 7, cause that’s a magic number.

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Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.