'De Film van Ome Willem' was quite a surreal experience. For starters, it was not a film at all, but a TV show for 4 to 6 year olds. The makers wisely decided to break as many rules as possible instead of talking down to their audience. 'Uncle' Willem was played by jazz singer Edwin Rutten. He would come in through a paper door and join the musical trio of 'Geitenbreiers' playing the opening tune. Being a big child himself, Ome Willem loved to shock the other Geitenbreiers with dirty words like 'poop sandwich'.
Every episode featured a morality play centered around Ome Willem and three wards; Toon, Teun and August. Wearing outlandish clothes (even for the seventies) Toon (Aart Staartjes) and Teun (Jennifer Willems) looked to be about the same age as Ome Willem, while August (Pieke Dassen), with his long gray beard, could have been Ome Willems father. Every week the three 'children' (in the early years they were presented as clowns) would try to trick Ome Willem but with him being the naughtiest of them all, he would always get the better of them. In the middle of this Pieke Dassen would put on a traditional Punch and Judy show, with him performing the part of Jan Klaassen (Mr. Punch).
Before the show, the toddlers in the audience could dress up like firemen, nurses or anything else they wanted and receive makeup, thus insuring a very colourful audience. Then they would get so involved with the story that usually one of them would try to warn the actors about what Ome Willem was planning to do. Each week at least one member of the audience got up to tell Ome Willem he or she had to go to the toilet. They would then be pointed towards the 'Toilet Geitenbreier'. This became such a mainstay of the show that it was rumored parents would instruct their children to pretend they had to pee so they would get on television. At the very end of the show, the children were allowed on stage. During the final song Ome Willem went through the actors credits verbally instead of having them scroll up on screen.
In 1986 the VARA decided that Ome Willem's Film had run it's course and in the grand finale Ome Willem left to immigrate to 'Fireland' and Toon took over announcing the credits from him. However, because of complaints from viewers, the show was back on the air in early 1987. Only this time there had been some budget cuts: Aart Staartjes and Jennifer Willems were written out (Aart stayed on behind the scenes while Jennifer kept doing stage shows with Edwin Rutten). Only Pieke Dassen and his puppet show remained with Ome Willem until the very end. His Jan Klaassen puppet got a bigger part, often interacting with Ome Willem during the main storyline. At first the pretense of the show now being broadcast from 'Fireland' (August had stowed away in Ome Willem's trunk) was kept up, but not for long. Also the show went from once a month to weekly and now featured a special guest star every other week.
The show finally went off the air in 1989, but thanks to DVD and annual summer reruns in the new millennium, Ome Willem made a comeback and Edwin Rutten went out on tour to the delight of a whole new generation as well as a lot of now grown up 'little rascals'.
7 out of 10
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