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Bod (1975-76)

Main image of Bod (1975-76)
BBC, tx. 23/12/1975 - 16/3/1976
13 x 15 min episodes, colour
ProducerDavid Yates
Production CompanyBodfilms
ScriptsMichael Cole
  Joanne Cole
AnimationMichael Cole
  Joanne Cole
MusicDerek Griffiths

Cast: John Le Mesurier (Narrator/Bod); Maggie Henderson (Alberto Frog)

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The philosophical and whimsical adventures of Bod and his friends.

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This eccentric lunchtime series for the young had its origins in four books published in 1966, originally written and illustrated by husband and wife Michael and Joanne Cole for their own children. Joanne's drawings of stick-like figures betrayed a Picasso influence. Michael Cole subsequently became a director on Play School (BBC, 1964-88) in 1969 and the Bod books were read aloud on the programme in May 1974, prompting a full series.

We are never sure if Bod is a boy or girl. What age is he/she, with such innate wisdom yet innocence? Bod, it seems, is Bod. Wearing a distinctive, yellow V-neck A-line smock and with bald head and almond eyes, Bod is reminiscent of a Hare Krishna devotee or Tibetan monk.

Bod was accompanied by four constant, if unlikely, companions - 'his' Aunt Flo, policeman PC Copper, Farmer Barleymow and Frank the Postman - and each character had an easily hummable jazzy theme that played whenever they appeared (written by Play School presenter/musician Derek Griffiths). The five lived in a visually ultra-simplistic world where backdrops were often just flat colours.

Easygoing, laidback stories reflected Michael Cole's interest in the philosophical Eastern Asian religion Taoism, promoting a Zen-like 'natural balance of things'. 'Bod and the Cherry Tree', for example, concerns the inevitability of the seasons, Bod reminding a wistful Aunt Flo that "the leaves must fall in the autumn before blossom can come again in the spring".

The programme was initially commissioned as a series of five-minute films to be made by independent company Bodfilms Ltd (formed by Cole and producer David Yates), but after completion it was decided to fit these into a 15-minute slot, not by bookending with a slightly longer programme (common practice with early-70s Watch With Mother programmes) but by expanding the programme itself.

Songs and puzzles were added in the BBC videotape studios and a new 'animation' was achieved by pointing cameras at large drawings on boards, supplied by Joanne Cole. These featured a new character unrelated to Bod, Alberto Frog, conductor of an animal orchestra. Each week's story was linked thematically, if loosely, to the Bod tale and always ended on a play-along-at-home guessing game concerning which milkshake Alberto would drink.

Just as nostalgic interest in Bod was growing in the early 90s, BBC Archives elected to wipe many Bod tapes. Only five Bod programmes now exist in their original broadcast format, although all 13 Bod cartoon films survive.

Alistair McGown

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete episode - 'Bod's Dream' (14:22)
Fingerbobs (1972)
Flumps, The (1977)
Children's TV in the 1970s