Posted: 07/25/2011

 

Just William

by Elaine Hegwood Bowen




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Based on Richmal Crompton’s comedic stories and books, 11-year-old William Brown and his intrepid friends, the Outlaws, live in Idyllic England of the 1950’s. In Just William, William is irrepressible and scruffy, forever causing trouble and getting into chaos, all under the watchful eye of his parents and school administrators.

Just William is a serial about this young boy, who hates girls, and who might not even like his sister much. He lives with his parents, and older sister and brother, who thinks he’s cooler than he really is. William has two best buddies, but he often resents their older brothers, because both of them pine for his sister. A hero in his own mind, William battles disapproving adults, long-suffering parents, teachers and older siblings to see justice done in four laugh-out-loud funny escapades of enjoyable family viewing.

In one episode, William discovers that he has a new neighbor, who just happens to be a girl. He is determined not to play with her but is forced by his mother to be cordial. The girl grows attached to William and also wants to play with his friends. One day, they agree to let her play with them, and she tricks them out of a kiss and manages to get her dress all muddy and slimy, before they take her back home. While her mother searches for her, thinking she has become lost in the woods, her father begs William and his friends to take her and clean her up.

As will become true in other episodes, William uses this opportunity to trade a favor with the father—one that he had lost when the family moved in. He agrees to bring VioletElizabeth back squeaky clean, if the father agrees to allow the boys to continue playing on his property.
In another episode, William’s sister becomes ill and is quarantined in her bedroom. Her young suitors, Williams’ best buddies’ brothers, each bring her a parrot; since she read somewhere that a parrot would make a good gift. William’s playboy, fast-car driving uncle is visiting, and he knows a lot about animals and birds, as he is trying to convince William’s mother to take a trip to Africa with him.

William is upset that his mother would even contemplate going, so he decides to have a showing of rare species of animals at his home, with his uncle headlining. The uncle never makes it back home in time, but William has gathered the lot of the neighborhood kids. William succeeds in getting both of the parrots, even though they are left at the front gate for his sister. All’s well that ends well, as William again connives; this time he gets the young suitors to replace the musical instruments that belonged to his buddies, as the older brothers had become annoyed with the music lessons and destroyed the instruments. William trades the instruments for the parrots.

In the school report, William has received not so good grades and his father has threatened him with a tutor for most of the upcoming summer vacation. But as luck would have it, William’s rich aunt comes to town, and William pretends to have helped her through the woods, as she felt she was getting lost on her way from the train station. As the episode develops, William’s father is pleased with the outcome of the aunt’s visit; and he has to admit that he really couldn’t handle William at home all summer.

Just William is, indeed, a lot to handle. It is recommended family entertainment by The Dove Foundation. See for yourself with the two-DVD set available July 26. For more information, visit www.bfsent.com.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.



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