Worst to Best

Bod originally aired from October-December 1975, and then saw regular repeats up until the 80s. A programme for preschoolers with surprising philosophical depth, the entire series is available on DVD from Amazon.


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the original Bod books being published. What better time to rank the entire series, from worst to best...

13 Bod on the Beach

The eternally rewarding genius of Bod – and the reason why not only is it a programme that can still be appreciated by adults, but also a completely different one from that you saw as a child – is the revelation that its makers based it on Taoism. Bod's adventures exist in a world of inaction and holistic connections, with two spin off books released on the subject: Bod's Way: The Meaning of Life and Bod's New Leaf: Making a Fresh Start.
     No episode of Bod is weak, and so the ranking here ranges from very good to outstanding. The final payoff in this particular episode is the lucky rescue of Bod's Aunt Flo after being stranded on a rock when the tide came in. Also notable is the phrase "Don't panic!", a famous Dad's Army catchphrase. Although Michael Cole's children don't recall whose idea it was to hire John le Mesurier for the sublime narration, they suspect it was their father, as he was a huge fan of the series.

12 Bod and the Rain

In addition to Bod's Aunt Flo, they both share three friends who we get to meet each episode: PC Copper, Farmer Barleymow and Frank the Postman. Each of them get their own distinct "walk on" musical theme, provided by the superb Derek Griffiths. Griffiths, like Le Mesurier, brings his A Game to the series, and is a much beloved presenter behind such favourites as Playschool and Heads and Tails. Griffiths also provided Bod's own theme, and the theme to the series, an insanely catchy jazz workout recorded in a single take with Griffiths on a penny whistle and a student of Stéphane Grappelli on violin. Although the status quo of the five main characters rarely changes, this is the first aired episode to reveal that PC Copper is bald underneath his helmet, a revelation that is only repeated in two further episodes: Bod on the Beach and Bod and the Apple.

11 Bod and Breakfast

Farmer Barleymow is convinced that his house should be converted into a bed and breakfast so visitors can enjoy the peace and quiet. In a quite literal demonstration of "reap what you sow", Bod, PC Copper and Frank the Postman all help him to do the house up and work on his farm, then become his first guests, with Barleymow waiving the fee. Slightly troubling is Aunt Flo staying with Barleymow overnight, there to help with breakfast... either she's placed into the typical female role or the entire series is about her having an affair and Bod's too naive to see it.

10 Bod and the Cake

Unusually for the Zen-like world in which Bod normally inhabits, this one is full of stress symptoms, such as constant ringing telephones and traffic jams. (The latter inexplicably combined as PC Copper has a phone call while in the middle of directing traffic). Rather than the tranquil feeling that Bod normally provides, this is a more hectic instalment, the least relaxing of the series.
     Said phone calls are all based around Aunt Flo baking a cake, which the others are inordinately excited about. Childish observers might like to pretend it's a hash cake, and that Aunt Flo is secretly the town's dope dealer, but such puerile observations are below this site, so they won't get mentioned here. What will get mentioned is the first signs of cracks in the relationship between the regulars: everyone is disappointed that Flo forgot to put the cake in the oven, but they all put on a smile and pretend not to mind. Who's to say that in 2016, Postman Frank hasn't finally lost it, and smashed up her house in an insane rage after one too many broken promises?

9 Bod and the Birds

When the series was aired in the Watch With Mother slot, additional material was placed after it to expand the 4'30m shows into a 14-15 minute length. As this supporting material was recorded on videotape, it was later wiped from the BBC archives, and, while all the original Bod film inserts survive, only five episodes were represented in full on the DVD release.
     As well as this episode, those also containing the extra footage, narrated by Maggie Henderson, are Bod's Dream, Bod And Breakfast, Bod and the Dog and Bod's Present. Since the DVD release, a VHS copy of the material from Bod and the Cake has been uploaded by a user to YouTube. The sequences contain songs, guessing games, "Bod snap", and, perhaps most famously, Alberto Frog and his Amazing Animal Band. These consist of still paintings, which the camera pans around, as Henderson provides the voices. Selfishly, Alberto asks for a milkshake as a reward (guessing which one of three flavours it will be is a game for the audience) yet never asks for drinks for the band, who, after all, do all the hard work.
     There's evidence that he may occasionally be altruistic (he doesn't request a drink-based payment in Bod's Present or Bod and the Cake, for example), and I personally got a smug thrill as I correctly guessed a lemon milkshake for this particular episode; but generally the unshakable feeling is one of a cocky chancer who tries it on at the expense of his mates. Bod, for his part, is left transposing a bird table and a scarecrow to help out his friends. I don't know him personally, but I feel certain that, had he been offered a milkshake, Bod would have asked for five, so no one missed out.

8 Bod in the Park

One of the most involved Bod episodes, with every character having distinct plots of their own, getting involved in multiple activities in the titular park. Some of these activities just involve sleeping on the job for PC Copper, while Farmer Barleymow suggests a boat trip and gets blanked by everyone. Despite Barleymow nearly drowning and PC Copper waking to lead off bullying geese, it all ties together neatly, another fine treaty on the interconnectedness of life.

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