Watch with Mother is a cycle of children's programmes created by Freda Lingstrom and Maria Bird. Broadcast by BBC Television from 1953 until 1975, it was the first BBC television series aimed specifically at pre-school children, a development of BBC radio's equivalent Listen with Mother, which had begun two years earlier. In accordance with its intended target audience of pre-school children viewing with their mothers, Watch with Mother was initially broadcast between 3:45 pm and 4:00 pm, post-afternoon nap and before the older children came home from school.
The choice of Watch with Mother for the title of the series was intended "to deflect fears that television might become a nursemaid to children and encourage 'bad mothering'".
Although Andy Pandy had been regularly broadcast every week since mid-1950 (normally on Tuesdays), and was joined by Flower Pot Men in December 1952 (normally on Wednesdays), the name Watch with Mother was not adopted until April 1953, shortly before the programming was expanded to three afternoons a week with the addition of Rag, Tag and Bobtail that September. The "classic" cycle of shows was in place by September 1955, with the first showing of The Woodentops.
Each of the five classic shows actually consisted of only a very small number of episodes, all made on film – and all in black-and-white. Typically, not more than 26 programmes were filmed for each show, this being sufficient for a run of six months as there was only one broadcast per week. The aim was to provide childrens' programming on the cheap: the BBC Children's department had an extremely tiny budget, and needed a collection of films which could be endlessly repeated, typically in six-monthly cycles, for its undemanding pre-school age audience.
The original programmes had a loyal following, and there was concern when it was learned that they would be replaced by new programmes, as in 1965 when it was (wrongly) rumoured that the new show, Camberwick Green, would replace Andy Pandy and Flower Pot Men. Camberwick Green eventually was slotted in the Monday slot in January 1966 and saw an end to Picture Book. Eventually, new programmes were added, including Tales of the Riverbank, Pogles' Wood, The Herbs, Joe, the Trumptonshire trilogy, Barnaby, Mr Benn, Bagpuss, Mary, Mungo and Midge, Fingerbobs, Bod, and Bizzy Lizzy.
In 1975 the Watch with Mother title was dropped, as it was considered to be dated, and the strand was known as See-Saw from 1980 to 1990. A Watch with Mother video became a best-seller in 1987, and was followed by a second in 1989.
A 45rpm promotional single was available to radio disc jockeys, for promo only, entitled "Flob-A-Dob-A-Ben", in 1987. The single was not released on general release and was played often as a novelty record by Radio Trent on the Andy Marriott Television Show. As the shows were a great success – and fondly remembered by many – modern incarnations of Andy Pandy and Flower Pot Men have been produced.
Under British law, copyright in TV programmes lasts for 50 years from the date of first broadcast. As such, surviving episodes first transmitted between 1950 and 1967 are slowly appearing on the Internet Archive.
|VHS title||Release date||Episodes|
|Watch with Mother (BBCV 4091)||5 October 1987||Picture Book: Paper Lanterns, Andy Pandy: Pram, Flowerpot Men: Seeds, Rag, Tag and Bobtail: The Hazel Twig, The Woodentops: Introduction|
|Watch with Mother 2 (BBCV 4286)||2 October 1989||Picture Book: Bush Baby, Andy Pandy: The Cart, Flowerpot Men: The Potato Man, Rag, Tag and Bobtail: Snowballs, The Woodentops: Horseshoe|
|Watch with Mother the Next Generation (BBCV 4280)||2 October 1989||Tales of The Riverbank: A Ride in Guinea's Jeep, Pogles Wood: Honey Bees, The Herbs: Strawberry Picking, Mary Mungo and Midge: The Crane, Barnaby: The Circus|
|The Very Best of Watch with Mother (BBCV 4966)||5 April 1993||Andy Pandy: Tricycle, Flowerpot Men: Icicles, Camberwick Green: Mickey Murphy the Baker, Muffin the Mule: Muffin and the Squeaking Shoes, The Woodentops: The Party|