After nearly forty years, I still maintain that the greatest moment in the history of television took place on February 6, 1980. That day, in episode #1468 of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers famously visited the set of The Incredible Hulk, devoting nearly an entire episode to the artistry, the science, and the people who made the show come to life. Even in our age of pop culture crossovers, I wonder if anything could top Mister Rogers sitting with a shirtless Lou Ferrigno while he puts on his green makeup, asking, “What do you do when you get angry?”
Like many members of my generation, I looked up to Mister Rogers as if he were an extra parent. 2018 marks a half century since his show debuted, and numerous retrospectives, documentaries, and even a quasi-biopic starring Tom Hanks will celebrate his achievements in the coming months. Moments such as his appearance on Hulk remind me that Fred Rogers’ exploration of “make-believe” not only helped children to grow up, but also cultivated a love of storytelling, planting the seeds for creativity and experimentation. Every week, Mister Rogers challenged his viewers to ask questions, to build their empathy, and to be unafraid of failure.