Power Rangers and a certain purple dinosaur may get all the hype, but one trusted children's entertainer who has survived decades of noisy TV fads is Fred Rogers, whose quiet, kind neighborhood on PBS has been a perennial haven for youngsters.
New to home video this month (although some retailers may not have them in stock until February) are four episodes of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" at its best:
"Love" comforts kids with the message that even people who care about each other can have arguments sometimes. In "Kindness," Broadway hoofer Tommy Tune helps King Friday learn a lesson in politeness. "Making Music" finds cellist Yo Yo Ma showing how he expresses emotions through his art, and "Circus Fun" offers a backstage look at the Big Top to help assuage fears that many very young children have of clowns and other circus performers.
Each episode features special guests, visits to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, brief how-things-work films, great music and Rogers' trademark one-on-one gentle delivery. All the while, children have their feelings validated, are encouraged, receive acceptance and learn lessons in empathy and caring--without a karate punch in sight.
\o7 * "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" series, CBS/Fox Video, 30 minutes, $9.98.\f7
Charming: Golden Book Video's top-notch "Madeline" series, based on Ludwig Bemelmans' books about the little French schoolgirl, and perfectly complemented by British actor Christopher Plummer's mellifluous narration, has released another charmer--"Madeline at Cooking School," which previously aired on the Family Channel.
In this humorous musical adventure, Madeline and her friends don chef hats to attend "ze greatest cooking school in ze world," where they are taught the intricacies of \o7 bouillabaisse, souffles \f7 and \o7 crepe suzettes.\f7
The real message, however, is kindness, as Madeline ends up sharing the culinary bounty, at the expense of her cooking school diploma, with poor children she sees scavenging for food. Her reward is warm appreciation from her teacher and friends.
Admirably, the videos in this series continue to honor the qualities of Bemelmans' original "Madeline," so beloved by countless fans.
\o7 * Golden Book Video, 25 minutes, $12.95, (800) 236-7123.\f7