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Although Gentle Ben was made several years before I was born, I often
used to watch this on BBC1 and BBC2 when they shown it around the late
1980's, often in the mornings during the school holidays. I found this
It was about a boy, Mark who had a pet brown bear which he named Ben. He lived with his mum and dad in Florida's Everglades and got up to all sorts of different adventures and often danger.
Mark was played by Clint Howard and his parents were played by Dennis Weaver (Gunsmoke, Duel) and Beth Briknell.
It would be nice to see some episodes of Gentle Ben again. Come on BBC, let's have some repeats of this instead of rubbish property programmes and makeover shows.
Gentle Ben was produced by Ivan Tors, who also brought us Flipper and Sea Hunt.
"Gentle Ben" is a story about a tame old brown bear and his faithful
friend,a little boy named Mark as they go onward in search for
adventure and excitement. This show was another winner from producer
Ivan Tors,who was behind some very successful television series which
included. "Sea Hunt","Flipper","Primus",and also "Salty". This show was
on the same premise as "Flipper" but with a twist,with the father as
the park ranger(played by Dennis Weaver,aka of Gunsmoke and McCloud
fame),his wife(Beth Brickell),and his son Mark(played by Clint
Howard,brother of Ronnie Howard,aka Opie from The Andy Griffith Show)as
they were living up in the Florida everglades and also taking
responsibility for Gentle Ben and the national park in which the show
is set in.
The show was filmed on location in the Florida Everglades region and also at the famous Ivan Tors Studios near Miami. The series started out as an theatrical feature at first,but when CBS executives saw it and the pilot episode,they immediately launched it into a weekly series that ran for two seasons on the network from 1967-1969. It was shown on Sunday nights opposite another family-oriented animal show,"Lassie",on the same network. However,it was a mix of high adventure and breathtaking excitement at every turn as Gentle Ben and his friend Mark explore the territory,facing danger at every turn,and in some of the episodes having Dad save him from a certain fate. Great show.
NOTE: This series hasn't been seen in many years since the last time this show was on anywhere was during the 80's on cable's The Family Channel,and later on Nickelodeon. Catch it on Discovery Kids! Check local listings.
Ivan Tors, who was responsible for shows like Sea Hunt, Daktari and
Flipper, struck again with another success in Gentle Ben. Running on
Sunday nights after Lassie, Gentle Ben completed an hour block of
wholesome, family friendly entertainment leading into the Ed Sullivan
The cast was outstanding, anchored by Dennis Weaver and featuring Beth Brickell and Clint Howard (Ron's brother). But the real star of the show was the title character, played by a bear trained by Monty Cox. The chemistry between Howard and Ben the bear was a key to the show's success.
But the one thing I really enjoyed about the show was the scenery of the Florida Everglades. It was a very naturalistic setting for a family drama and I remember the opening titles with the Wedloe family on their airboat. To me, it was one of the few TV shows where an airboat was shown.
One other thing I should point out is that Gentle Ben was actually based on a book by Walt Morey. It may be out of print but if you can find it in your local library, be sure and check it out to find out the genesis of the TV series that should be released on DVD someday.
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