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Published: Friday, 12/29/2006

'Mister Rogers' firm plans new TV series

Fred Rogers founded Family
Communications Inc.
Fred Rogers founded Family Communications Inc.

PITTSBURGH - Family Communications Inc., the nonprofit media company founded by the late Fred Rogers to produce Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in 1971, is in early development on a new TV series.

Kevin Morrison, hired earlier this year as FCI's chief operating officer to work alongside Chief Executive Officer Bill Isler, said company executives have had conversations with producers of some of the Top 5-rated children's programs on the air. FCI intends to partner with another producer on the new program.

Though there was some initial talk of updating Mr. Rogers' original program, Mr. Morrison said they've mostly discarded the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: The Next Generation approach, fearing no matter how good it might be, it would pale compared to the original.

How the new program might look is still in discussion. Animation, live action, and puppetry are all in the mix.

"Anything's possible," Morrison said. And there's no timetable on when the proposed program will be on the air. "We're taking our time. We want to get it right."

FCI has been in a state of transition since production of the Neighborhood ended in December, 2000, and Rogers' death in February, 2003. FCI continues to promote Mister Rogers' Neighborhood broadcasts on PBS and to develop curriculum and training for child-care workers, but with the hiring of Morrison, the company is positioning itself for greater forward strides.

Morrison, a Yorkshire, England, native who is now a U.S. citizen, came to Pittsburgh from Los Angeles, where he most recently worked as a consultant to TV production companies. He will readily - and cheerfully - acknowledge his background is more in management than hands-on production.

"I don't claim to be a TV producer, but I've had hundreds work for me in my time," Morrison said. "One of the proper jobs somebody in my position does is to enable creative people to do what they do best and stop them from spending too much money and sinking the ship."

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen is the TV editor for the Post-Gazette.

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