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. The show was the basis for a comic strip of the same name in the children's magazine Robin. A new version 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 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 and Captain Pugwash). 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. Amongst fans there is controversy about whether they actually said "Flobbalob", as is popularly supposed.
On 4 January 2001, a second series 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. Bill and Ben was narrated by John Thomson. The series currently airs in Ireland on RTEjr and aired on CBeebies in 2002 and 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.
Watch With Mother series - 1952 + 1953
1. Seeds (18 December 1952)
2. Musical Vegetables (25 December 1952)
3. Cabbages (1 January 1953)
4. The Potato Man (8 January 1953)
5. Tiny Men (15 January 1953)
6. Stickmen (22 January 1953)
7. Shavings Men (29 January 1953)
8. Stilts (5 February 1953)
9. Steamroller (12 February 1953)
10. Scarecrow (19 February 1953)
11. Slowcoach Flies (26 February 1953)
12. Mud Pies (5 March 1953)
13. Bath In Hat (12 March 1953)
14. Babies (19 March 1953)
15. Babies Grow Up (26 March 1953)
16. Live Chicks (2 April 1953)
17. Icicles (9 April 1953)
18. Boot Race (16 April 1953)
19. Acrobats (23 April 1953)
20. Bellows (30 April 1953)
21. Water Lilies (7 May 1953)
22. Turnip Faces (14 May 1953)
23. Umbrella (21 May 1953)
24. Fairy Queen (28 May 1953)
25. Weathercock (4 June 1953)
26. Flying Boots (11 June 1953)
Series 1 - 2000
1. 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? - 6 January 2000
2. The Tortoise and the Pots - Bill and Ben challenge Slowcoach the tortoise to nut-gathering contest. - 13 January 2000
3. 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. - 20 January 2000
4. The Hottest Day - Bill and Ben look for something to protect Weed from the sun. - 27 January 2000
5. 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. - 3 February 2000
6. Sticky Problems - Bill and Ben find something very useful, but it turns out to be a hindrance than a help. - 10 February 2000
7. 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. - 17 February 2000
8. Phwoooar - Bill and Ben are looking for the source of a horrible smell. - 24 February 2000
9. 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. - 2 March 2000
10. Weed Sees The World - Weed discovers there's more to life than the garden, and wants to the travel the world. - 9 March 2000
11. 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. - 16 March 2000
12. One of Our Spiders is Missing - When Whimsy gets a fright and runs away, Bill and Ben set off a mission to find her. - 23 March 2000
13. Here Comes The Sun - Confusion reigns in the garden when the sun keeps coming out for short periods during the night. - 30 March 2000
14. Around & 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. - 6 April 2000
15. A Picture For Slowcoach - One morning, something interesting blows into the garden, but Bill and Ben misplace it and start searching for it. - 13 April 2000
16. A Night To Remember - Slowcoach has an uninvited guest: A Spectacle Thief! So that night, Bill and Ben try searching for the missing spectacles. - 20 April 2000
17. The Big Sleep - Boo the hedgehog settles down for Winter, so Bill and Ben try to keep the garden as quiet as possible. - 27 April 2000
18. 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. - 4 May 2000
19. The Great Worm Hunt - Bill and Ben are having fun with the garden hose, when they notice that Whoops the worm is missing. - 11 May 2000
20. Treasure Garden - Weed suggests a game of treasure hunt, leading Bill and Ben to find something they're not too familiar with. - 18 May 2000
21. The Singing Cobwebs - Bill and Ben awake to discover that Whimsy the spider has spun beautiful new webs around the garden. - 25 May 2000
22. Game For A Laugh - Bill and Ben enjoy playing a new game they have invented, until things mysteriously disappear. - 1 June 2000
23. Tears Before Bedtime - Bill and Ben set out to discover the true identity of an object that Scamper believes to be a big nut. - 8 June 2000
25. 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. - 15 June 2000
24. Two New Flowerpot Men - One snowy morning, Tad learns there's another frog living in next door's pond, so Bill and Ben investigate. - 22 June 2000
26. The Shiny Man - Bill and Ben make something out of snow to give to Weed: A shiny snowman. - 29 June 2000
Series 2 - 2001 + 2002
1. 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. - 4 October 2001
2. 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. - 11 October 2001
3. Slowcoach's Brother - Slowcoach's brother Lightning comes to stay, but proves to be an unwelcome guest. - 18 October 2001
4. Meeting Lulu - The arrival of a pretty doll causes trouble for Bill and Ben as they compete for her affections. - 25 October 2001
5. Two Angry Men - Bill and Ben fall out with one another while playing Hunt the Carrot. - 1 November 2001
6. Whoops Takes a Trip - A remote-control car appears in the garden, and Bill and Ben decide to give Whoops the Worm the ride of a lifetime. - 8 November 2001
7. The Rainbow - Bill and Ben try to catch a rainbow - but it is not easy as it first appears. - 15 November 2001
8. Tin Can Telephones - Bill and Ben learn how to make a telephone with tin cans and string, and use it to rescue Boo. - 22 November 2001
9. 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. - 29 November 2001
10. Home Sweet Home - Tad the frog next door moves in and soon tires Bill and Ben out. - 6 December 2001
11. Down In The Cellar - While Bill and Ben are playing hide and seek, Ben falls into the cellar beneath the house and explores it. - 13 December 2001
12. 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. - 20 December 2001
13. Water Water Everywhere - Bill and Ben rescue Rose from a garden sprinkler, but things go wrong when they accidentally flood Slowcoach's house. - 27 December 2001
14. 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. - 3 January 2002
15. 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! - 10 January 2002
16. 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. - 17 January 2002
17. Flowerpot Band - Bill and Ben hear lots of musical noises in the garden. When they put them all together, they make some wonderful music. - 24 January 2002
18. Slowcoach Gets Cross - When Bill and Ben accidentally smash Slowcoach's piece of art, they try to find another one in the cellar. - 31 January 2002
19. Every Cloud Has A Silly lining - Bill and Ben decide to make a cloud, so they slide into the cellar to look for something. - 7 February 2002
20. 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. - 14 February 2002
21. Weed's Birthday - Bill, Ben and their friends prepare a special birthday surprise for Weed. - 21 February 2002
22. 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. - 28 February 2002
23. Snow Place Like Home - Bill and Ben make a curly slide out of snow and build an igloo. - 7 March 2002
24. Bouncing Cobwebs - Bill and Ben make a sledge, get thrown into the cellar and bounce on really bouncy cobwebs. - 14 March 2002
25. The Big Thaw - Bill and Ben decide to play a game of Football, but it's gone missing and the snow's thawing. - 21 March 2002
26. 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. - 28 March 2002
UK VHS releases
|VHS 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 & Around, A Night To Remember, Game For A Laugh, The Great Worm Hunt, Two New Flowerpot Men|
- Toonhound on the Flowerpot Men
- CBeebies - Bill and Ben at bbc.co.uk
- Whirligig TV
- Flower Pot Men (1952) at the Internet Movie Database
- Bill and Ben (2001) at the Internet Movie Database
- Bill and Ben (2001) at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- British Film Institute Screen Online
- The Museum of Broadcast Communication