Flower Pot Men
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|Flower Pot Men|
Still from original BBC series, with Little Weed centre
|Opening theme||Bill and Ben Theme (2001)|
|Ending theme||Bill and Ben Theme (different version; 2001)|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
United States (2001 reboot)
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||78|
|Running time||14–16 minutes (Watch with Mother) 10 minutes (reboot)|
|Production companies||Original series|
Cosgrove Hall Films
Ben Productions LLC
|Original release||18 December 1952 –|
4 September 2002
Flower Pot Men was 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, featuring 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 in the 1950s. Rights to the stories were later sold to Ben Productions, successfully transferring the radio programme to television. 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 in all episodes was done by Maria Bird.
The plot changed little in each episode and always took place in a garden, behind a potting shed. A third character, Little Weed, of indeterminate species resembling either a sunflower or a dandelion with a smiling face, was shown growing between two large flowerpots. The three were also sometimes visited by a tortoise called Slowcoach and, in one particular episode, the trio met a faintly mysterious character made out of potatoes, Dan the potato man. Typically, while the "man who worked in the garden" would be away eating lunch, the two Flower Pot Men, Bill and Ben, would emerge from their pots. After a minor adventure, a slight mishap would occur, for which someone would then take the blame: "Which of these two flower pot men, was it Bill or was it Ben?" the narrator would trill in a quavering soprano; the culprit would then confess, before the gardener's footsteps would be heard coming up the garden path; the Flower Pot Men then would vanish into their pots and the "Goodbye" screen would appear. 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, invented by prolific voice artist Peter Hawkins (who also provided speech for the Daleks and Captain Pugwash). "Ickle-kickle", for instance, was an icicle 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 1997, 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 treasure, often just every bottle cap.
- A male hedgehog named Boo.
- A tortoise named Slowcoach remains in the series, with few changes to his characteristics. He gets angry at Bill & Ben for ruining his things, but mostly, for messing around.
- 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 earthworm named Whoops.
- A male talking tomato named Ketchup.
- Another male tortoise called Lightning. He is Slowcoach's brother.
- Bill and Ben's voice tones have switched; Bill now has the deep-toned voice, while Ben now has the high toned voice.
- Weed is no longer a weed, but an enormous sunflower. Rather than just saying her name, she speaks normal English, playing an "earth mother" role to Bill and Ben and often assisting them.
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" (22 April 1953)
- "Bellows" (29 April 1953)
- "Water Lilies" (6 May 1953)
- "Turnip Faces" (13 May 1953)
- "Umbrella" (20 May 1953)
- "Fairy Queen" (27 May 1953)
- "Weathercock" (3 June 1953)
- "Flying Boots" (10 June 1953)
Bill and Ben series 1 (2001–2002)
|#||Episode title||Writer||Summary||Original airdate|
|1||The Tortoise and the Pots||Jimmy Hibbert||Bill and Ben challenge Slowcoach the tortoise to a nut-gathering contest.||4 January 2001|
|2||Go Fly A Kite||Jimmy Hibbert||Pry has lost her favourite treasure, a milk bottle top. Bill and Ben try to find it but end up stuck in a rubbish dump. How will they get home?||11 January 2001|
|3||A Piece of Sky||Jimmy Hibbert||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. But the piece they find in the garden doesn't appear to be sky at all.||18 January 2001|
|4||The Hottest Day||Chris Allen||Bill and Ben look for something to protect Weed from the sun.||25 January 2001|
|5||Litterhog||Chris Allen||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|
|6||Sticky Problems||Jimmy Hibbert||Bill and Ben find something very useful, but it turns out to be a hindrance than a help.||8 February 2001|
|7||In Search of Lettuce||Pete Reeves||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|
|8||The Big Time Band||Jimmy Hibbert||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|
|9||One of Our Spiders is Missing||Jimmy Hibbert||When Whimsy gets a fright and runs away, Bill and Ben set off a mission to find her. But what are the strange noises preventing her from returning?||1 March 2001|
|10||Here Comes The Sun||Chris Allen||Confusion reigns in the garden when the sun keeps coming out for short periods during the night.||8 March 2001|
|11||Phwoooar||Jimmy Hibbert||Bill and Ben are looking for the source of a horrible smell.||15 March 2001|
|12||Around & Around||Chris Allen||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|
|13||The Big Sleep||Jimmy Hibbert||Boo the hedgehog settles down for Winter, so Bill and Ben try to keep the garden as quiet as possible.||29 March 2001|
|14||Ben Has A Visitor||Chris Allen||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|
|15||A Night To Remember||Jimmy Hibbert||Slowcoach has an uninvited guest - a spectacle thief! So that night, Bill and Ben try searching for the missing spectacles.||12 April 2001|
|16||A Picture For Slowcoach||Chris Allen||One morning, something interesting blows into the garden, but Bill and Ben misplace it and start searching for it. Will they find it before Slowcoach realises it's missing?||19 April 2001|
|17||Treasure Garden||Jimmy Hibbert||Weed suggests a game of treasure hunt, leading Bill and Ben to find something they're not too familiar with.||26 April 2001|
|18||The Jumping Jar||Chris Allen||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|
|19||The Great Worm Hunt||Jimmy Hibbert||Bill and Ben are having fun with the garden hose, when they notice that Whoops the worm is missing.||7 September 2001|
|20||The Singing Cobwebs||Chris Allen||Bill and Ben awake to discover that Whimsy the spider has spun beautiful new webs all around the garden.||14 September 2001|
|21||Game for a Laugh||Jimmy Hibbert||Bill and Ben enjoy playing a new game they have invented, until things mysteriously disappear.||21 September 2001|
|22||Tears Before Bedtime||Chris Allen||Bill and Ben set out to discover the true identity of an object that Scamper believes to be a big nut.||28 September 2001|
|23||Weed Sees The World||Chris Allen||Weed discovers there's more to life than the garden, and wants to travel the world. Knowing that it's not possible, Bill and Ben try to bring the world to her.||5 October 2001|
|24||The Snow Castle||Chris Allen||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.||28 December 2001|
|25||Two New Flowerpot Men||Chris Allen||When Tad learns there's another frog living in next door's pond, so Bill and Ben investigate, and discover it's not the only inhabitant there.||1 January 2002|
|26||The Shiny Man||Chris Allen||Bill and Ben make something out of snow to give to Weed.||3 January 2002|
Bill and Ben series 2 (2001–2002)
|#||Episode title||Writer||Summary||Original airdate|
|1||All Quiet on the Flowerpot Front||Jimmy Hibbert||Slowcoach is fed up with the noise the Flowerpot Men make, so Weed invents the Keeping Quiet and Still game for them to play. Unfortunately, they aren't very good at it..||8 October 2001|
|2||Looking After Ben||Chris Allen||Ben stays up late to see the new moon and catches a nasty cold. Bill does his best to care for him.||19 October 2001|
|3||Slowcoach's Brother||Jimmy Hibbert||Slowcoach's brother Lightning comes to stay, but proves to be an unwelcome guest. It's up to Bill, Ben, Whimsy and a magnifying glass to get rid of him.||26 October 2001|
|4||Meeting Lulu||Chris Allen||The arrival of a pretty doll causes trouble for Bill and Ben as they compete for her affections.||2 November 2001|
|5||Two Angry Men||JImmy Hibbert||Bill and Ben fall out with one another while playing Hunt the Carrot.||9 November 2001|
|6||Whoops Takes a Trip||Chris Allen||A remote-control car appears in the garden, and Bill and Ben decide to give Whoops the ride of a lifetime.||16 November 2001|
|7||The Rainbow||Chris Allen||Bill and Ben try to catch a rainbow - but it is not easy as it first appears.||23 November 2001|
|8||Tin Can Telephones||Chris Allen||Bill and Ben learn how to make a telephone with tin cans and string, and use it to rescue Boo.||30 November 2001|
|9||The Magnet||Jimmy Hibbert||Bill and Ben find a magnet, which helps them to find Slowcoach's lost spectacles.||7 December 2001|
|10||Home Sweet Home||Chris Allen||Tad, the frog next door, moves in and soon tires Bill and Ben out.||14 December 2001|
|11||Down in the Cellar||Jimmy Hibbert||While playing hide and seek, Ben discovers the cellar.||21 December 2001|
|12||A Gnome's Best Friend||Chris Allen||Bill and Ben are worried that Garden Gnome does not have any friends.||21 August 2002|
|13||Water Water Everywhere||Jimmy Hibbert||Bill and Ben rescue Rose from a garden sprinkler, but things go wrong when they flood Slowcoach's house.||22 August 2002|
|14||Balloon Tricks||Chris Allen||Tad has played a trick on Bill and Ben, so when they find a hot air balloon they get their own back.||23 August 2002|
|15||Bubble Trouble||Jimmy Hibbert||Bill and Ben find a washing-up liquid bottle. They decide to mix the contents with water, and Whoops finds himself in deep bubble trouble!||24 August 2002|
|16||The Perfect Nut||Chris Allen||Bill and Ben find a new game to play and have great fun playing it. Unfortunately, they get so distracted that they forget they are supposed to be looking after Scamper's baby nephew.||25 August 2002|
|17||Flowerpot Band||Jimmy Hibbert||Bill and Ben hear many musical noises in the garden. When they put them all together, they make some wonderful music.||26 August 2002|
|18||Slowcoach Gets Cross||Chris Allen||Slowcoach is not impressed by the drawings made by Bill and Ben, and gets upset when they accidentally break his favourite picture.||27 August 2002|
|19||Every Cloud Has A Silly Lining||Jimmy Hibbert||Bill and Ben decide to make a cloud and Slowcoach discovers that the joke's on him when they make a thunderstorm too!||28 August 2002|
|20||Whimsy The Brave||Chris Allen||Bill and Ben go on a climbing adventure with Tad and they find that Tad is afraid of heights until Whimsy the spider comes to help him.||29 August 2002|
|21||Weed's Birthday||Jimmy Hibbert||Bill, Ben and their friends prepare a special birthday surprise for Weed.||30 August 2002|
|22||A Cellar Full of Noise||Chris Allen||When Bill and Ben search the garden for a wooden draught that's gone missing from their game, they hear strange sounds.||31 August 2002|
|23||Snow Place Like Home||Jimmy Hibbert||When Slowcoach tells Bill and Ben about igloos, they decide to make one for themselves – but they're no eskimos.||1 September 2002|
|24||Bouncing Cobwebs||Chris Allen||Bill and Ben make a sledge and find out how magical Whimsy's cobwebs can be.||2 September 2002|
|25||The Big Thaw||Jimmy Hibbert||Bill and Ben decide to have a game of football. But where's the ball? Thistle says she hasn't seen it, but when the snow thaws it's clear she lied.||3 September 2002|
|26||Winter Sports||Chris Allen||Bill, Ben and Tad take part in a sports contest in the snowy garden.||4 September 2002|
UK VHS and DVD releases
|VHS or DVD title||Release date||Episodes|
|Bill and Ben Flower Pot Men (BBCV 4208)||6 February 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. Archived from the original on 31 August 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
- "BFI Screenonline: Flowerpot Men, The (1952-54)". screenonline.org.uk.
- Sims, Monica (2014). "Lingstrom, Freda Violet". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
- Morrison, James (20 October 2002). "Flobbadob! Storm in a flowerpot over who sowed the seeds for Bill and Ben". The Independent. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
- 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.
- Flower Pot Men at BBC Programmes
- 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