Sunday 23 June 2019

Watch with Mother

When I was a young child, there were only a handful of TV programmes available (and we had a very small monochrome TV/ Radio) - but some of these had a very powerful effect on me,. Especially Watch with Mother, which was on the BBC (one of the two TV channels) from (I think) 1.30 to 1.45 pm - after which we would switch over to radio.

I literally loved Watch with Mother - especially the puppet shows The Woodentops and Andy Pandy. I remember both of the episodes linked below quite distinctly, having seen each several times; because the programmes were frequently repeated on a cycle.

These were already old programmes when I saw them in the early-mid 1960s, and the picture was so fuzzy, and our television so small (and also fuzzy), that we used to sit on the floor only about 3 feet away from the screen.

The Woodentops were idyllic tales of a rural family. Our favourite character was the baby - for obvious reasons when you see this episode. The first few minutes are comic genius:

The introduction, and ending - with the lovely music by Grieg and the way the family wave goodbye, are so sweetly-sad that I can't watch them without tearing-up.

These old shows certainly had real magic about them, which instantly takes me back to that young child's view of the world.

Andy Pandy was another favourite specifically because of the character of Teddy (we actually used to rather resent Andy and Looby Lou - whom we regarded as smug and spoiled) - the puppetry of Teddy is a work of genius - you can't take your eyes off him.

We used to be so sorry at the end of each episode (a wistful, sweet farewell song) that my sister and I would fight to kiss the on-screen Teddy.

After switching-off the TV there was another ritual as the picture dwindled to a bright spot which we called 'the star' - and we needed to keep watching until it had completely disappeared.

And then it was the Home Service on the radio, and Listen with Mother: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin..."


Francis Berger said...

Charming programs. It's a shame they don't many like these anymore.

John Douglash said...

Two more for you Bruce.

Michael Bentine had a series called The Bumblies and I can remember this one very clearly from the late fifties when we got our first TV with its tiny nine inch screen!
Read the notes under that one for an idea of what it was all about and I remember being fascinated how they would float up to the ceiling to go to sleep. Why couldn't I do that?

And this is the very famous Flowerpot Men from the fifties -

From the days when telly was good, even the children's programmes.

dearieme said...

I remember a children's programme becoming wildly popular with undergraduates: The Magic Roundabout starring Dougal, Zebedee, Florence and friends. Bags of charm.

Bruce Charlton said...

@John - I was too young for the Bumblies, and it wasn't repeated; so they don't trigger the same response from me. I remember the Flowerpo Men very well - having had strong preferences between the characters, as usual: pro Ben and a bit afraid of Bill (deeper voice, as I recall), disliking the Little Weed interlude, liking Slowcoach the tortoise...

@d - I remember it, although I was a bit older by then and did not perceive any real magic in it; indeed, Magic Roundabout seemed self-consciously 'arch' (as I would now describe it) and indeed apparently that was pretty much how it was made. MR probably made more impact as a cult among young adults and adolescents - who (with whatever degree of truth) regarded MR as laced with subversive and smutty innuendo about sex, drugs, rock and roll etc. - than among young children. It's a matter of whether a show is aimed at the kids or over-their-heads.

John Douglash said...

Bruce, the Magic Roundabout was a French programme. The English version was scripted and narrated by Eric Thompson, father of the unlovely Emma so your reservations are entirely justifiable.

I would like to have seen the French version just for comparison.

Oh, and two more from when I was older but still enjoyed - Captain Pugwash and Noggin the Nog.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Ah, so that's where "Are you sitting comfortably?" (the Moody Blues song) comes from!

Bruce Charlton said...

@JD - yes, I know that stuff of how MR was improvised etc., just didn't want to go into it. Pugwash was an excellent show, well scripted - but for older kids. I loved Noggin the Nog, which did have that magic; but I only saw it infrequently - I think it was embedded in some episodes of Blue Peter. The makers (Postgate and Firmon) went on to do Pogles, Clangers, Bagpuss etc - the pinnacle of kids TV shows.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Note that having a show called "Watch With Mother" would be unthinkable nowadays.