Flower Pot Men

In the 1950s and 1960s, BBC television ran a series of children's programmes under the collective title of Watch with Mother. There was a different programme on each weekday, one of which was Flower Pot Men. The characters were devised by Freda Lingstrom and Maria Bird. Three later stories were by Hilda Brabban. The puppeteers were Audrey Atterbury and Milly Gibson. The voices and other noises were produced by Peter Hawkins, Gladys Whitred and Julia Williams.

The plot changed little in each episode. The programme always took place in a garden, behind a potting shed. There was a Little Weed, of indeterminate species, somewhat resembling a sunflower or dandelion with a smiling face between two large flowerpots. 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 unintelligible language called 'oddle poddle'; for example, "Hello, Little Weed" came out as, "Flobadob, 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.

Legend has it that Hilda Brabban sold the rights to her stories to the BBC for a mere three guineas (£3 3/–).

In 2001, a second series named Bill and Ben was produced for CBBC, this time involving stop-motion animation and full colour. However, many additions were implemented:

  • A mean rosebush with buds in the neighbours garden.
  • A magpie obsessed by shiny treasures, often just bottle caps.
  • A hedgehog.
  • A worm.
  • Weed is no longer a weed, but an enormous sunflower. Rather than whining, "Weed!", she can now speak proper English. She appears to play an "earth mother" role to Bill and Ben.

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