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Just William (1977-78)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Just William (1977-78)
2 series of 26 episodes plus 1 Christmas special
ProducerJohn Davies
Adapted byKeith Dewhurst
Original WorkRichmal Crompton

Cast: Adrian Dannatt (William Brown); Bonnie Langford (Violet Elizabeth Bott); Diana Fairfax (Mrs Brown); Hugh Cross (Mr Brown); Stacy Dorning (Ethel Brown); Simon Chandler (George Brown)

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The adventures of eleven-year-old tearaway William Brown.

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Richmal Crompton's famous stories of high-spirited tearaway William Brown were first adapted for television in a 1951 BBC play starring Robert Sandford. Next was a series, Over To William (ITV, 1956), starring Keith Crane. Two BBC series of William (BBC, 1962-63) followed, with Dennis Waterman and, later, Denis Gilmore in the title role.

Most popular of all was the Sunday teatime version from LWT (ITV, 1977-78). It was set firmly in the 1928 milieu of Crompton's first novels (her books had kept up with the times over the decades), a time of middle-class gentility, "irate colonels, dry-stick spinsters and angry men who get their cucumber frames smashed by cricket balls," as producer John Davies put it.

Mischievous William couldn't help but be an engaging character, set against the stultifying, self-satisfied dullness of his middle-England family - his banker father, terribly reasonable mother, desperately aspirational older sister Ethel and pompous ladies' man brother Robert. The comic misunderstandings among the Browns were entertaining enough, but the series really took off after episode four, which introduced the 'aitch-dropping nouveau riche Bott family. Mr Bott had made his money from Bott's Digestive Sauce and moved into the grand Hall in the village.

Mr and Mrs Bott (her pet name for her husband was 'Botty') were bad enough, but their ghastly daughter Violet Elizabeth, in her ginger ringlets, was to become the bane of William and his gang the Outlaws. Some purists complained about William's neat bowl cut hair and cherub face, wanting a spiky-haired tyke, but Bonnie Langford's Violet - catchphrase "I'll thcweam and thcweam until I'm sick!" - was definitive and stole the show. Both Violet and William shared the cover of TV Times to launch the second series.

William Brown later returned to Sunday evenings (BBC, 1994-95) in two series aimed more at adults than children. Oliver Rokison starred.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. 'Let's play fairies' (3:58)
2. 'I'll thcweam and thcweam and thcweam' (1:40)
3. A hard bargain (1:52)
Educating Marmalade/ Danger: Marmalade at Work (1982-84)
Dors, Diana (1931-1984)
Richman, Stella (1922-2002)
Children's Entertainment and Comedy
Children's TV in the 1970s