William returned to British TV screens fifteen years after his last appearance, and this time back on the BBC. A lavishly designed series, with costumes, sets and music basing the series firmly in their original 1920’s setting, this revival ran for two series on Sunday teatimes, in what was once the ‘Classic Children’s Serial’ slot.
The regular cast were all relatively unknown, with Oliver Rokison’s William very much the centre of attention. The focus was much more on the Brown family, rather than either the Outlaws or other regulars in the books such as the Botts. David Horovitch is particularly delightful as an arch, sarcastic Mr. Brown. But this allowed some prominent guest stars including Lindsay Duncan, Mollie Sugden and Miriam Margolyes to have a lot of fun when called upon to play some of the various eccentric characters William invariably gets entangled with.
William as a character was much more in the mould of his family – well spoken as opposed to the rough and ready approach favoured by Martin Jarvis in his readings. But this brought a sense of coherence to the family scenes and made the series perfect family viewing. We don’t really get a sense of where William lives, or of village life in general, however.
An interesting selection of stories were chosen to be adapted – including the seemingly perennial ‘Parrots for Ethel’. But with what seems like a nicely substantial budget the programme was able to go outside the family home and provide a mix of more ‘epic’ stories – ‘William and the Russian Prince’, filmed on location around a grand stately home being a particular highlight.
Some episodes from Series 1 were released on VHS, but nothing has been released in many years. Some episodes can be found on Youtube.
As an interesting side note, it appears Oliver Rokison is now an ICT teacher at the prestigious St. Paul’s School in London – what would William make of that one supposes?
Oliver Rokison (William Brown); Jonathan Hirst (Ginger); Stephen Wilmot (Henry); Alistair Weller (Douglas); Tiffany Griffiths (Violet Elizabeth Bott); Polly Adams (Mrs Brown); David Horovitch (Mr Brown); Rebecca Johnson (Ethel Brown); Benjamin Pullen (Robert Brown); Ace (Jumble)
Based on the William books by Richmal Crompton; David Giles (Director); Alan Wright (Producer); Alan Shallcross (Executive Producer); Anna Home (Executive producer for the BBC); Music by Nigel Hess
Series 1 (1994)
- William and the White Elephants by Simon Booker (broadcast 13 November 1994)
Naomi Allisstone (Ellen the Maid); Troy Jackson (Cook); Christine Moore (Mrs Bott); Marcia Warren (Miss Poll); Vivienne Moore (The Vicar’s Wife); Michael Percival (The Vicar); Delia Lindsay (Mrs Lovering-Moon); Roland Oliver (Mr Lovering-Moon);Maureen O’Reilly (Maid at Bott Hall)
- Finding a School for William by Simon Booker (broadcast 20 November 1994)
Katy Landis (Gloria); Troy Jackson (Cook); Stephen Moore (Mr Cranthorpe)
- William The Great Actor by Simon Booker (broadcast 27 November 1994)
- William’s Birthday by Allan Baker (broadcast 04 December 1994)
- William and the Russian Prince by Allan Baker (broadcast 11 December 1994)
- William’s Busy Day by Allan Baker (broadcast18 December 1994)
Series 2 (1995)
- William Clears The Slums by Simon Booker (broadcast 12 November 1995)
Lill Roughley (Mrs Bott); Joan Sims (Mrs Miggs); Robert Austin (Mr Bott); Tim Preece (Vicar); Lindsay Duncan (Lady Walton); Gunnar Cauthery (Terry); Thomas Parsons (Billy)
- Boys Will Be Boys by Simon Booker (broadcast 19 November 1995)
Jennie Goosens (Bus Passenger); Roger Frost (Perkins); Bridget Turner (Nurse Hoddle); Guy Edwards (Francis); Mollie Sugden (Aunt Florence); Tim Wylton (Alec); Richard Cordery (Ralph); Richard Simpson (Doctor)
- William and The Ebony Hairbrush by Simon Booker (broadcast 26 November 1995)
Eleanor Tremain (Sheila Barron); Troy Jackson (Cook); Naomi Allisstone (Ellen); Malcom Rogers (Fisherman); Candida Rundle (Maid); Stuart Mitchell (Gardener); Robert McBain (Mr Barron); Neil Roberts (Police Sargeant);
- William and The Old Man in the Fog by Simon Booker (broadcast 03 December 1995)
Debra Gillet (Peggy); Robin Sebastian (Herbert); Lill Roughley (Mrs Bott); Angela Curran (Madame Rose); Robert Austin (Mr Bott); Brian Osborne (Greengrocer); Hugh Walters (Customer); Polly Maberley (Caroline); Biddy Hodson (Clarinda); Sarah Howe (Cornelia); Maggie Henderson (Caroline’s Mother); Sally Greenwood (Clarinda’s Mother); Tim Preece (Vicar); Robin Parkinson (Jeweller)
- Parrots For Ethel by Simon Booker (broadcast 10 December 1995)
Adrian Ross-Magenty (George); Ian Kelly (Hector); James Greene (Lecturer); Naomi Allisstone (Ellen); Sam Stockman (Village Boy); Ben Stockman (Big Brother)
- William Turns Over a New Leaf written by Simon Booker (broadcast 17 December 1995)
Tim Preece (Vicar); Linda Spurrier (Vicar’s Wife); Simon Cox (Toby Morris); Louisa Lawrenson (Millicent); Charlotte Williams (Muriel); Basil Moss (Claude); Helen Ryan (Phoebe); Troy Jackson (Cook); Patrick O’Conner (Tramp)
Pat O’Connell (Casting Director); Patrick Duval (Photography); John Marchbank (Sound Recordist); Simon Cox (Boom Operator); Aad Wirtz (Dubbing Mixer); Michael Parkinson (Film Editor); Mark Auguste (Dubbing Editor); Alexandra Bridcut (Production Manager); Andrew Conrad (Location Manager); Julia Richards (Script Supervisor); Sarah Wilson (Production Assistant); Shaun Deeney (First Assistant Director); Mike Elliot (Second Assistant Director); Charlotte Walter (Costume Designer); Lesley Lamony-Fisher (Make-up Designer); David Hitchcock (Designer); Sue Claybyn (Properties); Andrew Sides (Graphic Design); Neil Richards (Script Editor)
1995 Series Alternative Credits
Peter Margrave (Boom Operator); Matthew Whiteman and Kate Whiteman (Film Editors); John Seymour (Dubbing Editor); Adam Bohling and Rachel Heyman (Location Managers); Fiona McGuire (Production Co-ordinator); Tory Wright (Make-up Designer); Francesca Mills (Designer); Tom Pye (Art Director); Trisha Edwards (Set Decorator); Neil Richards (Script Executive); Sue Hancock (Associate Producer)
Four episodes from the first series were released on BBC VHS.
Volume One featured Episodes 1 and 2, ‘William and the White Elephants’, and ‘Finding a School for William’
Volume 2 featured Episodes 3 and 4, ‘William the Great Actor’, and ‘William’s Birthday’
There were also three books released to tie in with the series:
‘Just William as Seen on TV’ and ‘More Just William as Seen on TV’ colleated the stories from Series 1 and Series 2 respectively:
There was also the ‘Just William Bumper Joke and Activity Book’
The series also got a prestigious Radio Times cover, tying in with that year’s ‘Children in Need’ appeal