The show is about two ragdolls called Rosie and Jim, whose owner says they like to pretend they come to life, which they do, but only when the adults don't know. A marionette duck sits on the roof of their narrowboat, the Ragdoll, and quacks when the coast is clear. Rosie and Jim do play with the children they come across, because children know the ragdolls are alive. At the end of each episode, the boat owner, a human actor, talks about their real life job.
The show was hosted by three celebrities, John Cunliffe (1990-93), Pat Hutchins (1994-96), and Neil Brewer (1997-2001). The show was a huge success for Central because it taught children about places they hadn't visited yet, though it wasn't as big a success as Teletubbies.
Rosie and Jim provides examples of::
- Art Evolution: Rosie and Jim didn't really look like Ragdolls between 1990-6, but between 1997-2001, they looked like classic 1960s-esque dolls! Also, Duck looked completely different in pre-1994 episodes, and received another paintjob in 1998.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: In an episode about a steam boat, John is so distracted by an old-fashioned steam boat, that the Ragdoll boat drifts into weeds, and has to be towed free by the steamer. He also leaves the kettle on the hob, steaming up the inside of the cabin.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: John is the only one in the series to regularly do this; he opens every episode by directly addressing the audience, and will sporadically talk to them during any given episode. Neither Pat nor Neil did this when they were the hosts — and Rosie and Jim never broke the fourth wall either.
- Brick Joke: In an episode about coracles, the duo wash the wooden duck in a plastic bowl; when they squabble over this, they send the bowl with duck inside flying out of the window; he floats away, as if in a little boat, and is rescued by some people in coracles. Later, the duo make a coracle out of strips of card; and again they squabble it, sending it out of the window.
- Butt-Monkey: Neil, as he bears the full brunt of Rosie and Jim's antics.
- Catchphrase: Neil has his own: "Now, what shall I sing about today?"
- Comically Serious: This could be applied to John, Pat and, to a lesser extent, Neil, especially when Rosie and Jim do something sneaky behind their backs; usually they just quietly shrug it off. "How did that happen?" "No idea." As John and Pat are children's authors, and Neil is a musician, rather than children's TV presenters, they lack the Excited Kids' Show Host personality. It could be argued that Rosie and Jim are the real hosts of the show. Neil, however becomes more easily startled by Rosie and Jim's antics in his final 2 seasons.
- Denied Food as Punishment: In the episode about weaving, the duo meet a cartoon girl who is weaving cloth for her stepmother, who will be very cross if it is not done in time, and the girl will be sent to bed with no dinner.
- The Hyena: Yes, they act like children who must not be seen.
- In Series Nicknames: The duo call John "Fizzgog", Pat "Loopy Lobes" (because of her earrings), and Neil "Tootle" (because of his harmonica-playing). This may lead to some Parental Bonus, though.
- Living Toys: Ragdolls count, huh?
- Mad Libs Catch Phrase: See Opening Narration below.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: The duo appeared in two children's compilations that contain almost no excerpts. First was "School" in NSPCC Children's TV Favourites Volume 2 (funnily enough, if you think about the 1983 Mr. Men cartoon, which was also on the compilation, then Teletubbies; their theme songs have the same key (both in D major)) in 1993, then "Automata" in My Best Friends, also in 1993.
- Musical Episode: "Automata". It's also one of the only pre-1997 episodes to actually make use of the accordion they play during the Title Theme Tune.
- Name and Name
- Noisy Duck: The painted wooden duck on the Ragdoll boat quacks loudly (clearly voiced by a human) Once per Episode to tell Rosie and Jim when it is safe to move, and again to tell them to return to the boat.
- Not So Stoic: When Neil is startled or frightened by Rosie and Jim's antics, he becomes much more animated than John and Pat.
- In "Riding Lesson", Rosie is about to jump onto the back of Jim's pony Pepe, but accidently jumps onto Neil's horse William, causing him to run off and giving Neil a good old fright. Neil's reaction when he realizes William is about to jump over a log is priceless: "OH NO, NOT A JUUUUUUMP!!!"
- Oh, Crap!: In "Automata", the duo play a game called Turning the Wheel while John rests his ears. First, the wheel stops at a feather, which sounds of nothing. Then, the wheel stops at a bunny toy that Rosie squeezes, making a loud squeaky sound, but not as loud as the last one, which was a drum! This trope was their reaction to the wheel stopping at that.
- "Houses" sees John moving to a bigger house, much to the duo's shock!
- Opening Narration: "Hello. I'm John. You saw me steering the boat earlier on, but that's not my real work. My real work is writing books. Books for children, just like you. I'm writing a new book just now, all about Rosie and Jim. They're my two Ragdolls that I have on my boat. I like to pretend that they come to life, and I get ideas for stories about them as I travel along on my boat. Now, what should I put in my story, today? It's a (insert weather here) day, so I'll start with that. One...(insert weather here)...day... and I'll draw the river with my two blue pens, like this. (draws the river) And now I'll put the picture of the boat on my drawing to show the place. (the duo take a quick look, then act natural) And then I'll be on my way."
- Running Gag: The duo will often move things while John is not looking; who will then say nonchalantly "Oh! I wonder how that got there?"
- Shout-Out: Since this is a live action TV series set in Birmingham, expect this to happen a lot. Even promotions from the show itself can be seen sometimes. Lucky their owners never knew about TVs playing the show.
- In the episode Hats, when John is looking at new hats in the shop, he compares one to the hat worn by Postman Pat. Rosie and Jim also sing a bit of that shows theme song in response.
- Strictly Formula: The episodes are structured in the same way, with very few exceptions.
- Title Theme Tune\Expository Theme Tune: "Rosie and Jim, Rosie and Jim, chugging along on the old Ragdoll".
- Vocal Evolution: Jim sounded different in pre-1994 episodes, but after that, he sounded more like Tom from Tots TV.