Mister Rogers Goes Hollywood With Tim Madigan… And MTV?

September 27th, 2013

tim“Mister Rogers & Me” premiered in March 20, 2012. It was a whirlwind of message spreading: tv, radio, newspaper and internet interviews, premiere screenings and parties from New York to Los Angeles.

Lots of smiling faces, lots of talking, but very little sleep, and very, very few moments of calm.

My favorite was one Chris and I shared with author Tim Madigan who flew in from Texas for our Paley Center Hollywood premiere.

Tim’s book, “I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers,” recalls a deep friendship that helped Tim (a “Captain Kangaroo kid”) through a dark time. His “Mister Rogers & Me” segment is also deeply moving, not just for his retelling (and reading) of his experience, but also for Tim’s immense honesty and vulnerability. Rare is the screening in which Tim’s segment doesn’t induce tears, and comments. He’s that kind of guy.

Cut To: Hollywood, March 2012. Tim, Chris, panel moderator (friend, and Pivot TV Correspondent) Jacob Soboroff are sharing a beer just a few doors down from the Paley Center. For a few minutes, it’s just a couple of guys talking about television icons, and shared values. It was a warm, dusky calm amidst our mini-media storm. Tim elevated the already awesome and exciting event with the off-the-record news that he was working on optioning his story.

Two years later, it is so. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, directors of the Oscar-nominated “Little Miss Sunshine,” have signed on to adapt of Tim’s memoir.

And this already awesome and exciting news is even more so: Dayton and Faris not only cut their teeth on MTV music videos for everyone from Oasis and Red Hot Chili Peppers to Beastie Boys and Smashing Pumpkins, their first and most-well known videos were for my hand-down favorite band, R.E.M.

Now remember, I was both excited and anxious when I first met Mister Rogers. Excited that I was basking in the inner light of such an authentic, iconic man. And anxious that he would render judgement on my career amidst the arguably vapid world of music videos. Twelve years, thousands of miles, hundreds of hours of film and a whole lot of thinking later, I’ve come to embrace both the ambiguity of these two worlds — MTV and PBS (and all they represent) — as well as the fact that they’re not so mutually exclusive after all. Depth and simplicity is where you find it, and where you make it.

And so here, now, again, the deep and simple and meaningful connections: Mister Rogers, Tim Madigan, Dayton and Faris, MTV, R.E.M. and me.

Maybe that was Mister Rogers’ genius after all. Maybe that was his greatest gift. In seeing that we are all special, yes; there is no one else in the world like you. But moreover in knowing that we are all neighbors. We are all family. We are all inextricably connected. And that’s awesome, and exciting.

One thought on “Mister Rogers Goes Hollywood With Tim Madigan… And MTV?”

  1. reva merchant says:

    Oh, Ben! This is such good news! When Tim’s movie comes out, hopefully your movie will be watched even more–to show how precious deep & simple really is.

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  • Benjamin Wagner first met “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” creator and star, Fred Rogers, at Rogers’ summer home on Nantucket, Massachusetts. His mother rented the cottage next door, so Mister Rogers really was his neighbor. On the afternoon of their first meeting, “America’s Favorite Neighbor” asked the young journalist about his job as an MTV News producer.  Wagner felt exposed and a tiny-bit embarrassed, a PBS mind in a jump-cut, sound-bit MTV world. Mister Rogers said warml ...
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