TV Diary: Watch With Mother (Picture Book 1963)

Monday 15th April 1963 (aprox 3:45pm) BBC

‘Watch With Mother’ is a children’s programme which was broadcast on the BBC for over 21 years. This episode entitled ‘Picture Book’ was tailored for a pre-school audience. Vera McKechnie presented the 15 minute show, joined by a Sausage, a dachshund puppet shown to be on the front of the picture book in the title sequence.

The episode consists of a mixture of live action, animation and pictures. It is a simple, but effective format as McKechnie sits behind a table engaging the younger audience with craft activities and animated stories. As is often the case with children’s programmes the presenter uses direct address to grab the audience’s attention. An example of this is when Vera introduces the animated segment about a little girl who makes wishes, she says ‘Do you know what her name is?’. The series was intended to become a substitute of a nursemaid and be an example of ‘good mothering’. It was one of the first children’s programmes to be shown on the BBC alongside ‘Andy Pandy’ and ‘Flower Pot Men’.

The use of different techniques keeps its audience engaged and Vera McKechnie sets a moral precedent for mothers in the 1950s with her soft tone and queen’s English. In keeping with the BBC’s ethos to educate, inform and entertain, ‘Watch With Mother’ teaches viewers how to make paper lanterns, informs them about chicks and the consequences of being greedy as well as entertaining them with stories and animations.

I think as a pioneering children’s programme it did a terrific job considering the aesthetic restrictions at the time. It had to stick to mid shots or head shots due to the size of television sets, but this did not detract from the quality of the show. The transitions between each segment appeared to be seamless using McKechnie’s narration to continue the flow from each animation or puppet sequence and it held my attention throughout. Whilst still maintaining an underlying educational theme to the show.

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