PBS has renewed "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" for a 25-episode second season. Planning for the new season has been in the works for some time -- the official renewal, long expected, was a formality -- and new episodes are likely to air this fall.
The series, a next-generation animated show for preschoolers, debuted in September 2012 and follows the children of the characters from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe on the PBS classic "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
Each episode of "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," produced by South Side-based The Fred Rogers Company in conjunction with New York-based Out of the Blue Enterprises, includes two 11-minute animated stories and one or two short live-action segments.
The live-action segments are filmed in Pittsburgh, and in season two the segments at the end of each episode will be more reminiscent of Mister Rogers' visits in the real world.
"We will have a set group of kids who will recur," explained Paul Siefken, vice president of broadcast and digital media for The Fred Rogers Company. "When you see one of the children going out to visit the Benedum to see 'The Nutcracker' ... they get the opportunity to meet with some of the behind-the-scenes people to find out more about how something works. ... It's exciting for us to be able to go a little further with the interstitials and have the children play more of the role Fred played in the original series, meeting people and asking them questions."
Animated stories in the new season will explore what it means to be a big helper, dealing with change and making mistakes. There's also a script in development based on Fred Rogers' quote to "look for the helpers" in times of distress, which gained new life on social media sites after the Newtown Elementary School shooting in 2012.
"We're working on figuring out the right tone of the episode," Mr. Siefken said. "We think it's important to give kids a chance to see grown-ups are there to help them in good times and bad."
Season two will also include new games on the show's website, http://pbskids.org/daniel/, and those will continue to be built by the South Side's Schell Games, which debuted a new game ("Make Believe") on the site this week. A third digital release of music -- on iTunes and Amazon -- is expected next week to coincide with "Daniel's Big Feelings Week" of new episodes airing Monday through Friday. And the first two DVDs of episodes are available Feb. 25.
When production on season two is complete, there will be 65 total episodes of "DTN." A PBS publicist said it's too soon to know whether there will be additional episodes ordered. Mr. Siefken said 65 episodes is considered an optimal number in the kids TV business because it allows a series to avoid repeats through a full quarter of the year, meaning each episode airs just four times annually. But he expects there will be additional "DTN" episodes produced because it helps keep a property refreshed.
"PBS understands the importance of having new episodes to keep enthusiasm for your series going and exploring new topics, so we'd expect to do more episodes," he said. "We would expect to do fewer episodes in successive seasons. Typically what I've seen come from PBS is 10 [new] episodes a year so you have a week of new episodes in the fall and spring, but we obviously haven't even begun to talk about that yet."
The Fred Rogers Company plans to bring a costumed Daniel Tiger character to Pittsburgh for the first time March 22 as part of Be My Neighbor Day, which follows Good Neighbor Day on Fred Rogers' March 20 birth date.
Be My Neighbor Day will feature opportunities at four local YMCAs for children to meet first responders, design and create place mats that will be delivered to homebound seniors and put together care packages for sixth-graders taking tests. Details are at bemyneighborday.org.
A portion of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: email@example.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.