While William Brown’s mischievous tales have lasted almost 90 years he, unsurprisingly, has never grown old. His childhood whims are the same today as they were in the short stories of the 1920s. Despite numerous adaptations for TV, film and radio his attitude has never changed--because it hasn’t needed to. Just William (BBC One, December 28 at 12.30pm) is just as charming as it’s ever been.
Stepping into his (muddy) shoes for the latest remake is Daniel Roche. You really couldn’t have picked a better young actor to take on the role. He’s familiar to outspoken naughty boy characters, having played Ben in Outnumbered for the past three years, and is a natural fit for William. Those worried about his acting skills, given that Outnumbered allows its child actors to improvise, can be rest assured: he’s just as convincing in a scripted show.
Equally fitting is the addition of Stephen Fry, who narrates the four-part series. His authoritative tone compliments the series as it’s far more subtle than some of the louder on-screen parts. It’s this that makes the show, unlike similar kid’s series Tracy Beaker, more of a family foray than a child-only party.
All of the original characters return for this version of Just William, which is still set in the '20s. There are his equally wayward “outlaw” friends: Douglas, Henry and Ginger; his trusty dog Jumble; and Violet Bott, the spoilt girl next door, who’s re-introduced in the first episode with her blackmailing catchphrase “I'll shcream and shcream 'til I'm thick”.
The young characters form the basis of the show, but we shouldn’t forget the adults: Caroline Quentin and Warren Clarke play William’s new eager-to-impress neighbours, while Rebecca Front and Daniel Ryan become his placid parents. They over-act in parts, presumably to appeal to the watching children, but the grown-ups (particularly Front) also add context, much-needed for mature viewers.
Just William is a family show, hence its midday slot, but adults looking for an easy watch could happily tune in without kids. Another joy to the holiday season is that broadcasters are putting on better shows during the day. We’re not all stuck watching Bargain Hunt or Doctors over the Christmas period!