Tuned In: New Tiger joins 'Neighborhood'

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PBS’s “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” produced in part by the South Side-based Fred Rogers Company, begins its second season Monday with back-to-back episodes (11 and 11:30 a.m., WQED-TV) that expand the show’s cast and universe as preschooler Daniel Tiger becomes a big brother.

Series creator Angela Santomero, who scripted the second half-hour with writer Becky Friedman, said the notion of adding a baby sister came from moms who watch the show with their children and wrote in asking about the possibility of an episode that acknowledged the challenges of new siblings on older brothers and sisters.

“The Fred Rogers Company has so much in their curriculum on how to deal with transitions, so we wondered what we could do,” Ms. Santomero said by phone from the New York offices of Out of the Blue Enterprises, which producers “DTN” with the Fred Rogers Company.

Initially there were conversations about which character on the show should get a new sibling, but Ms. Santomero was firmly in favor of making Daniel the new big brother.

“Our research shows whenever anything happens to Daniel, kids are much more empathetic because they love him so much,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine it happening to anybody other than Daniel.”

The new baby, who arrives in the second of the two new episodes airing Monday, is named Margaret, after Fred Rogers’ mentor, the late Margaret McFarland, a child psychology expert and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.

The introduction of Margaret won’t be a one-and-done scenario. She will continue to appear and have an influence on Daniel’s life, aging from a newborn to 14 months during the show’s 25-episode second season.

Daniel remains in the foreground, but the baby’s presence is felt. Episodes deal with how Daniel feels when neighbors stop by to see the baby and how Daniel reacts when his friend Prince Wednesday doesn’t want to play because he’s having “brother time” and how Daniel can have family time with Margaret.

Other episodes in the new season deal with trying something new and a little scary, misplacing a favorite red sweater and how children can “look for the helpers,” inspired by the Mister Rogers Internet meme that inevitably returns anytime there are tragedies such as school shootings or terror attacks (in Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood, the scary event is a preschool-appropriate thunderstorm).

Live-action interstitials for season two continue to be filmed in Pittsburgh, this time with a regular rotating cast of local children who make up the show’s sweater crew. They include Veronica Garcia, 7; Olivia Hill, 7; Evie Marshal, 7; Phineas Pennington, 6; Brayden Sims, 7, and Joey Verzinskie, 6.

Paul Siefken, vice president of broadcast and digital media for The Fred Rogers Company, explained earlier this year that these live-action segments will more closely approximate Mister Rogers’ visits in the real world on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

“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,” he said. “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.”

In addition to a second season of “Daniel,” a new one-hour episode of PBS’s “Dinosaur Train” will follow “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” Monday at 11 a.m. on WQED-TV.


TV Land has canceled “Kirstie” after one season.

ABC gave the ax to low-rated medical drama “Black Box.”

USA Network renewed “Suits” for a 16-episode fifth season to air next summer.

Comedy Central renewed “@Midnight” for a 40-week second season to air in 2015.

DirecTV’s buzz-free “Rogue” has nonetheless been renewed for an additional two seasons with 10 episodes for 2015 and another 10 for 2016.

ABC Family canceled mystery-drama “Twisted” after a single season.

HBO renewed “The Leftovers” for a second season.

SEC Network launches

College football’s SEC Network will debut locally on Comcast’s Xfinity service today  for customers with digital preferred and above service tiers.

The new network can be found on Channel 269 or 842HD.

Channel surfing

This week Comedy Central launched “The Daily Show Podcast Without Jon Stewart,” a 20-30-minute podcast that will post to iTunes every other week. Each episode will explore how different elements of the program are put together. … Roundtable chat show “Live From E!,” hosted by Jason Kennedy, Maria Menounos and Ross Mathews, will expand to three nights — Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday at 8 p.m. — starting Sept. 8. ...“Play It Again, Dick,” a “Veronica Mars” Web series spinoff, will debut on The CW Seed website (cwseed.com) Sept. 15 and will feature guest spots from most of the “Mars” cast, including star Kristen Bell.

Tuned In online

Today’s TV Q&A column responds to questions about “Unforgettable,” on-air corrections in TV news and ME-TV. This week’s Tuned In Journal includes posts on the late Robin Williams, “The Approval Matrix,” “Heartbreakers,” a new Joss Whedon biography and “Bark Week.” Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

This week’s podcast includes conversation about “Outlander,” “The Approval Matrix” and “Project Runway.” Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.

TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.

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