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Mr Benn

Mr Benn

Festive Road is an ordinary, terraced street. Neighbours chat over fences and children and dogs play on the pavement. Mr Benn lives at number 52 – we know very little about him except he’s always smartly dressed in a black suit and bowler hat. Is he a businessman? Or does he simply enjoy dressing formally for fun? In the very first episode (‘Mr Benn – Red Knight’) the gentle tone of narrator Ray Brooks tells us that he’s been invited to a fancy dress party and needs something to wear. After some fruitless searching in the town Mr Benn starts to head home, only to happen upon a small costume shop up a back lane. Once he steps through the door, ‘as if by magic the Shopkeeper appears’, and the two make each other’s acquaintance. Wearing a bow tie and fez, and sporting a small moustache, the Shopkeeper comes to be a quietly reassuring presence both before and after Mr Benn’s outings.

Once his fancy dress outfit has been chosen, Mr Benn transforms into it in the changing room, only to then discover another door that leads him out to an unknown land. Without blinking an eye he immerses himself in his new role of ‘adventurer’, a far cry from his real-life suburban suited existence. His escapades will come in many forms, and he always calmly takes a very pro-active role in helping the people he meets on them. In the first story he restores justice to a dragon who’s been unfairly blamed for a fire; in the next he manages to change the attitude of a hunter so that he ends up snapping animals with a camera rather than shooting them with a gun. There’s a common thread of solving real issues running through the storylines (loneliness, animal welfare, valuing who somebody is, rather than what they look like etc.) with an emphasis on people working together to achieve a common goal. Despite this, the programme never preached; children watching could understand the message that each episode delivered whilst simply enjoying the story and without feeling they were being lectured.

Once the inhabitants of each new world Mr Benn encounters have been helped/placated/ rescued etc., the Shopkeeper mysteriously appears again, to guide Mr Benn back to the changing room. On every occasion Mr Benn is always the only customer in the shop. That obviously makes it easy for Mr Benn’s browsing purposes, but it does make you wonder if that was the real reason for only 13 episodes being made in the original run; did the shop face bankruptcy after that through lack of business?

There is great speculation as to whether Mr Benn actually does travel through space and time or whether he is simply imagining these extraordinary places as an antidote to his sedate and rather ordinary existence. On returning from each adventure however, he always finds a small memento of his trip (a clown’s red nose, a parrot’s feather, a stone hammer etc.) that he has retained, which implies he really was there. Often the street scene on his way to and from the shop will also reflect an aspect of his experience as well, so in the episode where Mr Benn becomes a frogman and dives under the sea to help King Neptune, the children playing near his house are holding shells to their ears to listen for the sound of waves.

Mr Benn started life as a series of books, written and drawn by the author and artist David McKee in the late 1960s. With beautifully drawn and vividly coloured, detailed scenes it is no wonder it was spotted by the BBC who then commissioned a television series. In its original outing between 1971 and 1972 it went out in the children’s See-Saw slot on BBC2, and since then it has been repeated over sixty times. A further book, ‘Mr Benn – Gladiator’ was written by McKee in 2001, which was then brought to the television in 2005, and Mr Benn’s 40th birthday in 2011 has sparked a multitude of new projects for him. It was also voted sixth in Channel 4’s ‘100 Greatest Kids’ TV Show’s poll in 2001 – and no wonder. With beautiful illustrations, a heart-warming central character and meaningful, imaginative storylines, Mr Benn is a programme that will appeal to every new generation of children.


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Mr Benn Last post by Retrogames
23 August 2012

Do You Remember Mr Benn?

Do You Remember Mr Benn?

  • Cazzle
    on
    Definitely on my top ten list of favourites when I was growing up :)
  • Anonymous user
    on
    just bought the dvd for my 3 year old son and for me of course what great memories! they should have a channel called uk gold for kids showing all the old kids tv!
  • Anonymous user
    on
    One word: LEGEND!
  • Anonymous user
    on
    I used to love Mr Benn kept me glued to the settee, loved it fetch back Mr Benn
  • Anonymous user
    on
    He always used to take something from the shop at the end. The shopkeeper never made anymoney from Mr.Benn he always got something free at the end. Also he never bought an outfit.
  • Anonymous user
    on
    For anyone into Mr. Benn who also likes coffee, there is a coffee shop in Maida Vale and the owner of the shop is in spirit like the shopkeeper in Mr. Benn. It is a truly fantastic shop that sells great coffee.
  • Anonymous user
    on
    i got it on dvd
  • Anonymous user
    on
    House number was 52 Festive Road, used to love coming home from school for lunch when this was on.
  • Anonymous user
    on
    117 festival road was alway the starting and finishing point of these short vignettes. Was there a deeper message beneath the surface? perhaps, one example i remember was when he was a chef ( many years befor these celebrity chefs of today) where he had to provide the perfect dish for the kings daughter, Only the pragmatic MR Benn (did he have a first name?) realised that feeding all the other kids and letting them play with the princess would make the princess happy rather tha material wealth- however just before the sentiment would get too much the shopkeeper arrived to bring everything back to earth. a perfect end was always guaranteed- with a memento of the adventure at the end for us all to share-- perfect
  • Anonymous user
    on
    ....and as if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared! (ping) CLASSIC!