“I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,” crooned Mr. Rogers for all those afternoons.
Well, evidentially it’s mutual, and then some. Michael Kinsell, it seems, has always wanted to be a neighbor, just like — I mean, just like — Mr. Rogers:
PBS is accusing a San Diego teenager of “falsely claiming association” with the network and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He is selling tickets for a May 31 gala event where, according to a news release by his publicist, he will present himself as successor to the late Fred Rogers.
Michael Kinsell, who told Current he is 18, said he has produced six episodes of a new show, Michael’s Enchanted Neighborhood.
Kinsell described the benefit event, to be held at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, as a tribute to Rogers that will raise funds for “children’s public television” and, he hopes, for his own new show.
He said he invited members of Rogers’ family to receive a Children’s Hero Award in Rogers’ honor and said he will give $10,000 in mid-June to Family Communications Inc., Rogers’ production company in Pittsburgh.
In a complaint this month to the California Attorney General’s office obtained by Current, PBS says that Kinsell, with event publicity falsely associating himself with PBS and Rogers, could divert funds to his nonprofit from the network and Rogers’ company.
“Kind of our way,” huh? The juxtaposition of Eddie Murphy and a Mr. Rogers wannabe is odd enough, but his tossing out of various names best known for TV fame in decades past is odder still.
Actually, let’s go back to “odd enough.”
Reached over the weekend, PBS spokesperson Jan McNamara said, “PBS has no affiliation with Michael Kinsell.” The network’s complaint states that both PBS and Family Communications have “spoken personally” with Michael Kinsell and sent him cease-and-desist letters.
“This event may set a record of the biggest celebrity turnout in the history for San Diego,” said the event’s website.Kinsell said that he was “not at liberty” to say who would appear at the gala, but “foundation supporters” include Bette Midler, Tom Hanks, Sally Field, Barbara Eden and Eddie Murphy. “That’s kind of our way of saying they will be on stage that night, but scheduling stars is difficult,” he added.
Not in my neighborhood, thanks.
UPDATE: Sadly, no.