Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
"The Herbs" was a BBC TV series for young children. It was written by Michael Bond (of Paddington Bear fame), produced using 3D stop motion model animation and first transmitted in 1968 in the famous BBC1 Watch With Mother timeslot.
It consisted of a fantasy mix of human characters and animals inhabiting the magical walled garden of a country estate, although we never venture beyond the garden. Each one was named after a proper herb plant like, for example, the Lord and Lady of the manor,Sir Basil and Lady Rosemary. Basil, an amiable huntin',shootin' and fishin' type with tweeds and a monocle, unencumbered by intelligence and "with a smell so excellent that it is fit for a king's house".And always deferring to the tall, willowy and aristocratic Rosemary who ran the garden with a benign, but no-nonsense approach - the possessor of "a tough bark".
Those descriptive quotes are taken from Nicholas Culpeper's famous 17th Century book "Culpeper's Complete Herbal" which Bond used to find the herbs whose botanical traits he could best reflect in the individual characters. Admittedly,this proved a little tenuous at times, and was really lost on the young viewers anyway,despite the good educational intent. Because overall it was simply a rollicking good piece of entertainment, with high quality writing and plenty of songs to keep the whole thing moving along nicely.
The central characters, were probably Parsley the Lion and Dill the Dog. But they had plenty of scene-stealing support from the likes of Sir B and Lady R,Constable Knapweed, Bayleaf the Gardener and Sage the Owl amongst others.An eclectic mix of personalities that allowed for plenty of comedic possibilities -which weren't wasted !
All the human characters were stereotypes, very much in the mould of The Simpsons. Each one acutely well observed both in Bond's writing and through their physical appearance.They were all instantly recognisable as human with only the odd nod towards their herbal roots.Although Mr.and Mrs Onion and their 12 kids (chives) were an exception and their rather alarming appearance probably confirms the wisdom of not attempting it with the others.
In fact,the basic models and sets were stylistically very similar to The Magic Roundabout,as the chief animator, Ivor Wood and some of his team worked on both.
But whilst the Roundabout's sense of 'place' was more undefined,The Herbs had a decidely Victorian feel to it, even though any magical place is basically timeless in essence.
Both shared a sophisticated style of writing and narrative delivery which meant that the appeal was somewhat broader than was intended. Although both were more than a big enough hit with the kids audience alone to ensure their success. And whereas The Roundabout just produced more of the same, The Herbs morphed into a sequel, "The Adventures of Parsley" which first hit the screens in April 1970.
Trimmed down to just 5 minute episodes (32 in all),they centred far more on just Parsley and his comedic sidekick, Dill. And were really little more than comedic vignettes with gags and slapstick, but still retaining the priceless ability to raise a smile from an adult just as much as a child.
Rarely spotted on TV these days, hopes are squarely pinned on a DVD boxset. And as that's a feat managed by most of its contemporaries, then you'd have to imagine it's entirely possible.
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