Flower Pot Men
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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. A reboot of the show called Bill and Ben was produced in 2001.
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 Hilda Brabban. She wrote three original stories of the three characters (Bill, Ben and Little Weed) which she sold to the BBC for one guinea each. The stories were originally broadcast on the radio programme Listen with Mother in 1951.
The rights to the stories were later sold to Ben Productions which turned the radio programme into the hugely popular television show. 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 and Captain Pugwash). An icicle was an "ickle-kickle", and Ben would say "flobabdob". 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.
On 4 January 2001, a reboot named Bill and Ben began on CBBC on BBC Two, this time involving stop-motion animation, 35mm film style and full colour, and made by Cosgrove Hall Films with a team of ten animators. This reboot features the voices of John Thomson (who also serves as the narrator), Jimmy Hibbert and Eve Karpf. The series aired in Ireland on RTEjr and formerly aired on CBeebies in 2002-2008.
Many additions were implemented:
- A mean female rosebush with two talking buds in the neighbour's garden named Rose.
- A mischievous female prickly plant named Thistle.
- A female magpie named Pry, obsessed by shiny treasures, often just bottle caps.
- A male hedgehog named Boo.
- Slowcoach remains in the series, with few changes to his characteristics. He gets angry at Bill & Ben for ruining his things.
- A male frog named Tad.
- A female squirrel named Scamper.
- A male baby squirrel named Scuff. He is Scamper's baby nephew.
- A female spider named Whimsy.
- A male worm named Whoops.
- A male talking tomato named Ketchup.
- A male turtle named Tortuga.
- Another male tortoise called Lightning. He is Slowcoach's brother.
- Weed is no longer a weed, but an enormous sunflower. Rather than whining "Weed!" self-centredly, she speaks normal English, playing an "earth mother" role to Bill and Ben and often assisting them. However, she does mutter that word in her sleep sometimes.
Flower Pot Men (1952–1953)
- "Seeds" (18 December 1952)
- "Musical Vegetables" (25 December 1952)
- "Cabbages" (1 January 1953)
- "The Potato Man" (8 January 1953)
- "Tiny Men" (15 January 1953)
- "Stickmen" (22 January 1953)
- "Shavings Men" (29 January 1953)
- "Stilts" (5 February 1953)
- "Steamroller" (12 February 1953)
- "Scarecrow" (19 February 1953)
- "Slowcoach Flies" (26 February 1953)
- "Mud Pies" (5 March 1953)
- "Bath In Hat" (12 March 1953)
- "Babies" (19 March 1953)
- "Babies Grow Up" (26 March 1953)
- "Live Chicks" (2 April 1953)
- "Icicles" (9 April 1953)
- "Boot Race" (16 April 1953)
- "Acrobats" (23 April 1953)
- "Bellows" (30 April 1953)
- "Water Lilies" (7 May 1953)
- "Turnip Faces" (14 May 1953)
- "Umbrella" (21 May 1953)
- "Fairy Queen" (28 May 1953)
- "Weathercock" (4 June 1953)
- "Flying Boots" (11 June 1953)
Bill and Ben series 1 (2001–2002)
- "The Tortoise and the Pots" - Bill and Ben challenge Slowcoach the tortoise to nut-gathering contest. (4 January 2001)
- "Go Fly A Kite" - Pry has lost her favourite green milk bottle top. Bill and Ben try to find out but end up stuck in a rubbish tip. How will they get home? (11 January 2001)
- "A Piece Of Sky" - Bill and Ben look for something to cheer up Weed's part of the garden. They think a piece of sky might be just the thing. (18 January 2001)
- "The Hottest Day" - Bill and Ben look for something to protect Weed from the sun. (25 January 2001)
- "Litterhog" - When Bill and Ben wake up to find the garden full of litter, Weed suggests a competition to see who can clear up the most mess. (1 February 2001)
- "Sticky Problems" - Bill and Ben find something very useful, but it turns out to be a hindrance than a help. (8 February 2001)
- "In Search Of Lettuce" - While Bill and Ben search the garden for some lettuce for Slowcoach, Thistle seizes the chance to play a trick on them. (15 February 2001)
- "The Big Time Band" - Weed is unhappy, so Bill and Ben try to cheer her up. Nothing seems to work - until they find inspiration in Whimsy the spider's web. (22 February 2001)
- "One of Our Spiders is Missing" - When Whimsy gets a fright and runs away, Bill and Ben set off a mission to find her. (1 March 2001)
- "Here Comes The Sun" - Confusion reigns in the garden when the sun keeps coming out for short periods during the night. (8 March 2001) The episode title is a reference to the Beatles song of the same name.
- "Phwoooar" - Bill and Ben are looking for the source of a horrible smell. (15 March 2001)
- "Around and Around" - Bill and Ben have fun with a strange round object they find in the garden, but Pry and Scamper can't see the funny side. (22 March 2001)
- "The Big Sleep" - Boo the hedgehog settles down for Winter, so Bill and Ben try to keep the garden as quiet as possible. (29 March 2001)
- "Ben Has a Visitor" - Returning home one evening, Ben finds that something has taken the root in his pot. Slowcoach celebrates his birthday - over 3 days. (5 April 2001)
- "A Night to Remember" - Slowcoach has an uninvited guest: A Spectacle Thief! So that night, Bill and Ben try searching for the missing spectacles. (12 April 2001)
- "A Picture for Slowcoach" - One morning, something interesting blows into the garden, but Bill and Ben misplace it and start searching for it. (19 April 2001)
- "Treasure Garden" - Weed suggests a game of treasure hunt, leading Bill and Ben to find something they're not too familiar with. (26 April 2001)
- "The Jumping Jar" - Tad, next door's friendly frog, gets himself into a very sticky situation. Bill and Ben hop to it and uncover the mystery. (3 May 2001)
- "The Great Worm Hunt" - Bill and Ben are having fun with the garden hose, when they notice that Whoops the worm is missing. (7 September 2001)
- "The Singing Cobwebs" - Bill and Ben awake to discover that Whimsy the spider has spun beautiful new webs around the garden. (14 September 2001)
- "Game For A Laugh" - Bill and Ben enjoy playing a new game they have invented, until things mysteriously disappear. (21 September 2001)
- "Tears Before Bedtime" - Bill and Ben set out to discover the true identity of an object that Scamper believes to be a big nut. (28 September 2001)
- "Weed Sees The World" - Weed discovers there's more to life than the garden, and wants to the travel the world. (5 October 2001)
- "The Snow Castle" - Bill and Ben make a snow castle in the garden, but when they wake up the next day, the castle is not quite how they remembered it. (1st January 2002)
- "The Shiny Man" - Bill and Ben make something out of snow to give to Weed: A shiny snowman. (3 January 2002)
- "Two New Flowerpot Men" - One snowy morning, Tad learns there's another frog living in next door's pond, so Bill and Ben investigate. (2 January 2002)
Bill and Ben series 2 (2001–2002)
- "All Quiet On The Flowerpot Front" - Slowcoach is fed up with the noise the Flowerpot Men make, so Weed invents the "Keeping Quiet and Still Game". (8 October 2001)
- "Looking After Ben" - Ben stays up late to see the new moon and catches a nasty cold. Bill and Tad do their best to look after Ben. (19 October 2001)
- "Slowcoach's Brother" - Slowcoach's brother Lightning comes to stay, but proves to be an unwelcome guest. (26 October 2001)
- "Meeting Lulu" - The arrival of a doll causes trouble for Bill and Ben as they compete for her affections. (2 November 2001)
- "Two Angry Men" - Bill and Ben fall out with one another while playing Hunt the Carrot. (9 November 2001)
- "Whoops Takes a Trip" - A remote-control car appears in the garden, and Bill and Ben decide to give Whoops the ride of a lifetime. (16 November 2001)
- "The Rainbow" - Bill and Ben try to catch a rainbow - but it is not easy as it first appears. (23 November 2001)
- "Tin Can Telephones" - Bill and Ben learn how to make a telephone with tin cans and string, and use it to rescue Boo. (30 November 2001)
- "The Magnet" - Bill and Ben find a way into the cellar beneath the house and find a magnet in there. The magnet is useful to find Slowcoach's spectacles. (7 December 2001)
- "Home Sweet Home" - Tad the frog next door moves in and soon tires Bill and Ben out. (14 December 2001)
- "Down In The Cellar" - While Bill and Ben are playing hide and seek, Ben falls into the cellar beneath the house and explores it. (21 December 2001)
- "A Gnome's Best Friend" - Bill and Ben search in the shed, the cellar and next door's garden to find a best friend for the garden gnome. (21 August 2002)
- "Water Water Everywhere" - Bill and Ben rescue Rose from a garden sprinkler, but things go wrong when they accidentally flood Slowcoach's house. (22 August 2002)
- "Balloon Tricks" - Tad has played a trick on Bill and Ben, so when they find a hot air balloon in the cellar they get their own back. (23 August 2002)
- "Bubble Trouble" - Bill and Ben find a washing-up liquid bottle. They decide to mix the contents with water, and Whoops gets stuck in a big bubble! (24 August 2002)
- "The Perfect Nut" - Bill and Ben find a new game to play and have great fun playing it. But they're supposed to be looking after Scuff the baby squirrel. (25 August 2002)
- "Flowerpot Band" - Bill and Ben hear lots of musical noises in the garden. When they put them all together, they make some wonderful music. (26 August 2002)
- "Slowcoach Gets Cross" - When Bill and Ben accidentally smash Slowcoach's piece of art, they try to find another one in the cellar. (27 August 2002)
- "Every Cloud Has A Silly Lining" - Bill and Ben decide to make a cloud, so they slide into the cellar to look for something. (28 August 2002)
- "Whimsy The Brave" - Bill, Ben and Tad go on a climbing adventure. When Tad climbs up lots of things next to the cellar entry, he gets stuck on the roof. (29 August 2002)
- "Weed's Birthday" - Bill, Ben and their friends prepare a special birthday surprise for Weed. (30 August 2002)
- "A Cellar Full Of Noise" - Scamper's baby nephew Scuff slides down the cellar slide entrance and makes a lot of noise in the cellar. (31 August 2002)
- "Snow Place Like Home" - Bill and Ben make a curly slide out of snow and build an igloo. (1 September 2002)
- "Bouncing Cobwebs" - Bill and Ben make a sledge, get thrown into the cellar and bounce on really bouncy cobwebs. (2 September 2002)
- "The Big Thaw" - Bill and Ben decide to play a game of football, but it's gone missing and the snow's thawing. (3 September 2002)
- "Winter Sports" - Bill, Ben and Tad slide down the ice on a fallen bit of roof and Pry decides to have their own Grand Winter Sports Day. (4 September 2002)
UK VHS and DVD releases
|VHS or DVD title||Release date||Episodes|
|Bill and Ben Flower Pot Men (BBCV 4208)||6 March 1989||Musical Vegetables, Scarecrow, Flying Boots, Icicles|
|Bill and Ben Flower Pot Men 2: Tales from the Bottom of the Garden (BBCV 4362)||4 June 1990||Bath in Hat, Cabbages, Bellows, Stickmen|
|The Very Best of Bill and Ben Flower Pot Men (BBCV 5106)||6 September 1993||Stickmen, Scarecrow, Bath in Hat, Musical Vegetables, Cabbages|
|Bill and Ben: Flobbadobba Fun! (BBCV 7141)||2 April 2001||The Tortoise and the Pots, The Hottest Day, One of Our Spiders is Missing, Sticky Problems, Litterhog|
|Bill and Ben: Garden Games (BBCV 7188)||17 September 2001||Weed Sees The World, Phwoooar, Here Comes The Sun, Ben Has A Visitor, Treasure Garden|
|Bill and Ben: Flowerpot Friends (BBCV 7313)||20 May 2002||Around and Around, A Night To Remember, Game For A Laugh, The Great Worm Hunt, Two New Flowerpot Men|
|Bill and Ben: Here Comes the Sun and Other Stories||2006||Here Comes the Sun, Treasure Garden, Weed Sees the World|
|Bill and Ben: Go Fly a Kite (2EDVD0431)||8 September 2008||Go Fly a Kite, The Tortoise and the Pots, A Piece of Sky, The Hottest Day, Litterhog, Sticky Problems|
|Bill and Ben: Here Comes the Sun (2EDVD0432)||8 September 2008||Here Comes the Sun, In Search of Lettuce, The Big Time Band, One of Our Spiders is Missing, Phwoooar, Around and Around|
- "The Flowerpot Men (1952)". BFI.
- "BFI Screenonline: Flowerpot Men, The (1952-54)". screenonline.org.uk.
- Penny Legg; James Marsh. A 1950s Southampton Childhood. Stroud: History. ISBN 9780752482859.
- Flowerpot Men bloom again, BBC Online, 4 January 2001. Retrieved 28 December 2009
- "Bill and Ben". www.bcdb.com, 13 April 2012
- "Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men". comicvine.com.
- Toonhound on the Flowerpot Men
- Whirligig TV
- Flower Pot Men (1952) on IMDb
- Bill and Ben (2001) on IMDb
- Bill and Ben (2001) at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- British Film Institute Screen Online