9 November 2008 | Chip_douglas
Clearly made by fans of Jim Henson
Belgian puppet creator and operator Jan Mailard is known for creating some of the ugliest (yet endearing) rubber creatures ever to be shown on television in the last twenty years. After BRT2 officially merged into one half children's channel (Ketnet), one half culture network (Canvas) in 1997, Mailard was allowed to produce his skewed few on some familiar fairy tales in a show that owes more to the Muppet Show than any of the previous children's programs he worked on. For instance, it starts and ends with a red curtain being drawn, the main character, Willy de Grote Boze Wolf (the titular Big Bad Wolf) continually addresses the viewers at home and is well aware of being in show business and there are several flesh and blood human characters roaming the woods as well, most notably Mich Walschaerts as a skinhead forester.
The wolf is always trying to catch two young rabbits, Rita and Lulu (who wears a red riding hood). Luckily for them, they can count on protection from their crafty grandmother (who also knows all about being in the showbiz spotlight), a big bear called Bob and a Wolf hating dog who looks and sounds like a giant version of the popular Studio 100 dog Samson, but goes by the name of Bruce (though is sometimes identified as Broes or even Bronson). At the start of the series, some well known fairy tales were given a new interpretation (The forester sowed a brick into the Wolf's stomach for punishment, leaving the three little pig's stone house one brick short) but as the series progressed, the characters there was more time to develop the characters, as well as introduce new ones like Bob the bear's girlfriend, Martha, who is the only female puppet character not to be voiced by a man. In fact it took a while for me to figure out that both Rita and Lulu were meant to be female.
Each show featured one song, and for this (and also the opening and closing titles) some incredibly ugly gnome characters would come out to sing back-up vocals. That part still puzzles me. I guess Mailard couldn't help himself but include at least some of his patented ugly puppets (see the Eighties shows 'Liegebeest' and 'Carlos & Co'). Luckily the gnomes appearances are kept to a minimum. The show always ends with Willy, foiled again, lying in bed and saying goodnight to the viewers (not unlike Kabouter Plop at the end of his show). Oh, and of course as every good children's show needs a lot of poo-poo and pi-pi jokes, and in the GBWS they can be found all over the place. Even though Ketnet had an instant cult hit on ti's hands that attracted a wide audience well beyond it's target audience, the powers that be still decided that one 13 episode season was enough and that they could show endless reruns instead. Not to be outdone, Jan Mailard went on to produce the highly successful and almost unbearably cute show for toddles 'Bumba', got himself a marketing and distribution deal with Studio 100 and had an international hit on his hands (of course it help that there is no dialog in Bumba). Still, it would have been nice for to see Willy mess up more fairy tales. As he would say: Wat Een Show!
8 out of 10