The Flower Pot Men is a British children's programme, produced by BBC television, first transmitted in 1952, and repeated regularly for more than twenty years.[1] The show was the basis for a comic strip of the same name in the children's magazine Robin.[2] A new version of the show called Bill and Ben was produced in 2001.[3]

Original series Edit

Originally, the programme was part of a BBC children's television series titled Watch with Mother, with a different programme each weekday, most of them involving string puppets. The Flower Pot Men was the story of Bill and Ben, two little men made of flower pots who lived at the bottom of an English suburban garden. The characters were devised by Freda Lingstrom and Maria Bird. Three later stories were written by Hilda Brabban. The puppeteers were Audrey Atterbury and Molly Gibson. The voices and other noises were produced by Peter Hawkins, Gladys Whitred and Julia Williams. The narration for all episodes was done by Maria Bird.

The plot changed little in each episode. The programme always took place in a garden, behind a potting shed. The third character was Little Weed, of indeterminate species, somewhat resembling a sunflower or dandelion with a smiling face, growing between two large flowerpots. The three were also sometimes visited by a tortoise called Slowcoach, and in one particular episode, the trio meet a slightly mysterious character made out of potatoes called Dan the potato man. While the "man who worked in the garden" was away having his dinner the two Flower Pot Men, Bill and Ben, emerged from the two flowerpots. After a minor adventure a minor mishap occurs; someone is guilty. "Which of those two flower pot men, was it Bill or was it Ben?" the narrator trills, in a quavering soprano; the villain confesses; the gardener's footsteps are heard coming up the garden path; the Flower Pot Men vanish into their pots and the closing credits roll. The final punch-line was, "and I think the little house knew something about it! Don't you?"

The Flower Pot Men spoke their own, highly inflected version of English, called Oddle Poddle, which was invented by Peter Hawkins (who also voiced the Daleks). At the end of each adventure, they would say bye-bye to each other and to the Little Weed – "Babap ickle Weed" – to which the Weed would inevitably reply with tremulous cadence "Weeeeeeeeeeed". This language, like that of the Teletubbies in the 1990s, was criticised for hindering children from learning proper English.[3] Amongst fans there is controversy about whether they actually said "Flobbalob", as is popularly supposed.

2000 series Edit

On 4 January 2001, a second series[4] named Bill and Ben began on CBBC on BBC One, this time involving stop-motion animation, 35mm film style and full color, and made by Cosgrove Hall Films with a team of ten animators.[5] Bill and Ben was narrated by John Thomson.[5] The series currently airs in Ireland on RTEjr and aired on CBeebies in 2002-2008.

Many additions were implemented:

  • A mean rosebush with buds in the neighbour's garden named Rose.
  • A mischievous prickly plant named Thistle.
  • A magpie named Pry, obsessed by shiny treasures, often just bottle caps.
  • A hedgehog named Boo.
  • Slowcoach remains in the series, with few changes to his characteristics.
  • A frog named Tad.
  • A squirrel named Scamper.
  • A baby squirrel named Scuff.
  • A spider named Whimsy.
  • A worm named Whoops.
  • A talking tomato named Ketchup.
  • Weed is no longer a weed, but an enormous sunflower. Rather than whining, "Weed!", she spoke proper English. She played an "earth mother" role to Bill and Ben. She often assisted them.

Repeats Edit

Bill and Ben has been repeated on BBC1, BBC2 and BBC Choice. CBBC on Choice premiered the series on Easter Monday 2001 at 11.05am, almost 4,5 months after it premiered on BBC1 on Thursday January 4th 2001. They showed Series 1 from Easter Monday - Friday 18th May 2001 and then showed Series 2 from Monday October 1st 2001 - Friday 2nd November 2001, twice, at 1.40pm and at 4.05pm. CBeebies re-repeated on Tuesdays along with the 1998 series of Oakie Doke.