Het Pleintje

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Het Pleintje
Created by Jan Matterne
Starring Jo De Meyere
Johny Voners
Nora Tilley
Jef Burm
Bert Champagne
Rita Smets
René Verreth
Manu Verreth
Mandus De Vos
Doris Van Caneghem
Emmy Leemans
Machteld Ramoudt
Tuur De Weert
Tessy Moerenhout
Ugo Prinsen
Jenny Tanghe
Alex Willequet
Lia Lee
Theo Hijzen
Jacky Morel
Jeanine Schevernels
Aafke Bruining
Jaak Van Assche
Janine Beschops
Geert Vermeulen
Country of origin Belgium
Original language(s) Dutch
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 27
Production
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) BRTN
Release
Original network BRT1
Original release 1986 – 1987

Het Pleintje, can be translated as The Little Square, was a Flemish television series produced by the former public broadcasting channel BRT, nowadays VRT. It was aired between 1986 and 1987 and contains 27 episodes. The series were written by Jan Matterne and directed by Juul Claes.

Plot[edit]

The series is set around a (fictional) square somewhere in Belgium, most probably around Brussels, and is about the adventures and struggling of its inhabitants. A part of the tenants are catholic such as priest Pol Sickx, sexton Felix Piepermans, pub-owner Poliet Peck and the Stoffels family. Another part is more progressive such as art painter Karel Peers, Barbara Vink and the Briers family. The third group is liberal: the families Delessewege, Aerts and Bank. The local shop is run by Gust and Millie Kerdoens. Although they are liberal, they must act neutral afraid to lose customers.

The series starts when a camera team is making a documentary about the charming square which is to be broadcast on national television. The host of the show - Jan Matterne - introduces the inhabitants and shows its cultural attractions such as the church and the painting "De Rechtvaardige Vrederechters" (translated as The Rightfull Justicers of the Peace) in the law court where Aristide Delessewege runs a Justice of the peace.

The first dispute in the series to be handled before court is the case where the goats of police officer Gerard Briers ate the flowers of his neighbor Harry Stoffels. Stoffels, a catholic, is married with Emmy and they have two children: the around fifteen year old Nico and Nicole who is a few years older. Felix, a gossip, spreads the word Nicole is pregnant of Luc Briers, son of Gerard. As they are not married, this is a scandal the more she is catholic and he is not. When this turns out to be the truth priest Sickx and Aristide are forced to interfere and to convince both families "a mixed marriage" is necessary. Nicole and Luc rent a room above the shop of Gust Kerdoens but are unable to pay the rent. Furthermore, it is rather clear the couple is not in love. He is convinced to go to university and Nicole must stay at home to take care of the baby he doesn't want. She wants him to stay and to apply for some job - even if it is underpaid - so they both can raise the child. As both families are rather poor, they neither have money to buy a wedding dress nor a black tie. That's why Emmy tried to make a dress in which she partially fails. Luckily for her, local tailor and doom predictor Fons offers his services for free and adjusts the dress so it is more comfortable. Luc is forced to rent a black tie but as he feigns a twisted ankle, hoping he misses the wedding ceremony, his father Gerard splits the trouser. Due to the slowing up, the couple arrives late in church so the priest already left meaning the wedding and its party are cancelled. This starts a second dispute in which Harry accuses Gerard to be responsible for the whole incident and that Gerard should pay all bills. Gerard accuses Harry the opposite. Aristide, not fond of Catholicism, convinces both to accuse the priest as he is the one who left and thus responsible for the cancelled wedding ceremony. It is at that point Luc spills out he did not twist his ankle and it was Boniface, the brother of Aristide, who came up with this idea. This results in a verdict Gerard only has to pay 1 Belgian Franc moral compensation to Harry.

Gust is sure his wife Millie has an affair with her Spanish language teacher. This is acknowledged when she is asked by him to be a tour guide and never returns. Gust gets pitty with Nicole since Luc left her so he offers her a job as cashier in the shop.

Art painter Karel Peers is in love with Barbara so is Gentil Bers, a politician, who takes care of his handicapped, demanding mother Eveline. Barbara is interested in both, but does not want a relationship as she has leukemia which she hides. She wants alternative medicines but at the end she is forced to follow a more common therapy. It is in this period she is frequently visited by priest Sickx who finally admits to be in love with her. To avoid to be expelled as a priest, they stop their forbidden romance. However, the extreme catholic Seraphine Sap got notice about the relationship but can't proof it. She is not very happy with the rather broad-minded modern priest so she spies on him and informs the bisshop of every step/decision Sickx took and how a more traditional priest should have solved it.

Aristide is sexually attracted to Aurelia Bank, daughter of Bertha who runs "De Oude Griffie" (translated as: The Old Court Clerk), a chique bistro. The bistro is visited by the more rich people such as Bernard Aerts, a former priest and now Aristide's Clerk, who is married with Justine. Justine is obsessed by cleaning her house, suffers a mental breakdown and absconds. Aurelia is not interested in Aristide at all and calls him "a pig with the neck of a bull". She also abominates the fact Aristide continuously humiliates his brother Boniface and describes him as a plaster garden gnome. Initially Aurelia pretends to fancy Aristide as he is a good customer who frequently pays the bills of others. Later on, she and Boniface start a fake relationship just for pestering Aristide.

One day, Felix and Seraphine find out the painting "De Rechtvaardige Vrederechters" was originally owned by the church and was known as "De Pauselijke Nuntius" (Translated as: the Papal Diplomacy). The grandfather of Aristide, also a lawyer, forced a former priest on his deathbed to donate the painting. The Catholics start up a lawsuit where they question the validity of the property document as the donation was forced. However, it turns out the case is assigned to Aristide who classifies it. Some days later, the painting is stolen presumable by Karel Peers. However, the painting is never to be seen again and the case was never solved.

Cast[edit]

General Reception[edit]

Although many professional critics described the series as "theatre performed by and created for peasants",[1] the series still got one of the highest audience numbers with an average of 2,550,000 viewers. Despite last fact, the department "Drama" was forced by those critics to cancel the series.[2][3]

The huge number of viewers is partially explained as there were only two Flemish broadcasting companies at that time: BRT1 on which the show was aired and currently known as Eén and the more cultural BRT2 (now Canvas) which barely got viewers. It was only until 1989 the first commercial broadcasting company was founded: vtm. In 2006 the series was nominated for "Humo's Awards of the Viewers" and was ranked on the 62nd place in a total of 520.[4]

Het Pleintje is also considered to be the last series with a memorable cast. In fact, there were not that many television actors in Belgium so roles were always given to the same pool of persons meaning they frequently got roles in other series. Furthermore, most of the crew also acted in De Collega's another series created by Jan Matterne. Actually, most actors in Het Pleintje were professional theatre players and were all part of MMT.[1][3]

Another point of discussion was the set. It is clear the series was taken indoors. Panels were used and in many scenes the parting lines of those panels can be seen.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Bespreking Het Pleintje" [Review Het Pleintje] (in Dutch). Retrieved 17 October 2016. 
  2. ^ Dhoest, Alexander; Van den Bulck, Hilde. Publieke Televisie in Vlaanderen: Een geschiedenis [Public Television in Flanders: A history] (in Dutch). pp. 74,291. 
  3. ^ a b Dhoest, Alexander. De verbeelde gemeenschap: 50 jaar Vlaamse tv-fictie en de constructie van een nationale identiteit [The represented community: 50 years of Flemish television fiction and the construction of a national identity] (in Dutch). p. 150. 
  4. ^ "Prijs van de Kijker 2006" [2006 Award of the Viewer] (in Dutch). Retrieved 17 October 2016.