David Kamp on the book ‘Sunny Days’,’ Sesame Street ‘and’ Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood ‘- CBS Pittsburgh
(CBS Local) – “Sesame Street” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” are two indelible shows that have played a significant role in shaping decades of American children and culture. Author David Kamp delves into the transformation of these shows and other shows like “The Electric Company”, “Free to Be… You and Me” and “Schoolhouse Rock” in his new book “Sunny Days: The Children’s Television Revolution That Changed America. “
CBS Local DJ Sixsmith spoke with Kamp about the book, the birth of “Sesame Street” and why Fred Rogers resonated with millions of Americans.
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“It occurred to me that I had grown up at a particular time,” Kamp said. “These shows were new and I never thought about them until I was an adult, but together they weren’t a list of children’s TV shows, they were a social movement. They were trying to establish a new vision of American childhood. They were enlightened, more carefree and more fun.
Kamp remembers the very first episode of “Sesame Street” on November 10, 1969.
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“One thing he did that was unique and it wasn’t even a primary focus at the time, was that he introduced diversity and multiculturalism to the American public,” Kamp said. “When Sesame Street aired in 1969, it was the blackest show on television at the time. You have to remember that black people were not frequent guest actors and stars on television. For Sesame Street, having Gordon and Susan five days a week was a drastic change and if you were a black kid watching perfect, for the first time you could see a version of yourself on screen. If you are a white child watching at home, you are learning about black culture. “
Before there was “Sesame Street,” there was a TV show shot in Pittsburgh with a man named Fred Rogers that would go on for decades. “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was on the air from 1968 to 2001, and American children and parents fell in love with Rogers. Kamp says it was a show like no other.
“The rigor with which it was prepared. A lot of people think that Fred Rogers was that perfectly nice man. He was actually an extremely intelligent man and one thing he took really seriously was child psychology, which was when he was relative in the 1960s. He prepared every episode of this program with Dr. Margaret McFarland, who was a child psychologist. Things on this show were not planned at random and were deliberate. “
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Kamp’s book is available now wherever the books are sold.