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Borrowers, The/Return of the Borrowers, The

1 9 9 2 – 1 9 9 3 (UK)
12 x 30 minute episodes

The Clock family are ‘borrowers’ – six-inch high people living under the floorboards in a quiet old house, making ingenious use of everyday items that ‘human beans’ won’t miss.

The stories were based on Mary Norton’s novels, the first season adapting The Borrowers and its sequel The Borrowers Afield.

The teenage Arrietty (Rebecca Callard) learns from her father (Ian Holm) the ways of ‘borrowing’, despite the worries of an over-protective mother (Penelope Wilton). He stresses the dangers of venturing from the safety of their home under the floorboards and the importance of never being seen by ‘human beans’ but Arrietty yearns for the outdoors.

Arrietty is seen by George (Paul Cross), a human boy staying at the old house for the holidays, and while he promises to keep her existence secret, the borrowers’ lives are placed in danger when housekeeper Mrs Driver (Siân Phillips) and tinker Mild Eye (Tony Haygarth) also hear about them.

The borrowers flee, trekking across a jungle of fields to find Arrietty’s Aunt and Uncle. Giant birds and snakes threaten them but the Clocks are helped by hunter-gatherer borrower Spiller (Daniel Newman).

A second serial adapted Norton’s later novels, The Borrowers Afloat and The Borrowers Aloft.

When their cottage is vacated, the borrowers seek the village of Little Fordham. Despite obstacles such as storm-lashed rivers and the attentions of Mrs Driver, Mild Eye and Arrietty’s mean and thoughtless cousins Ditchley (Ben Chaplin) and Ilrick (Ross McCall), the borrowers reach Little Fordham – a model village.

But they are soon kidnapped by the Platters, owners of a rival model village who reckon the borrowers can make them rich. The ingenious Clocks escape in a candle-powered hot air balloon.

The stories rely – but are not dependent – on special effects and by television standards these are excellent. Scaled-up sets and props, superb lighting and carefully achieved overlay techniques sustain the illusion.

The series won two BAFTAs and a Royal Television Society award, and a movie spin-off was released in 1997, with Jim Broadbent, Celia Imrie and Flora Newbigin as the Clock family, and John Goodman as their nemesis.

Pod Clock
Ian Holm
Homily Clock
Penelope Wilton
Arrietty Clock
Rebecca Callard
George May
Paul Cross
Mrs Driver
Siân Phillips
David Ryall
Uncle Hendreary
Stanley Lebor
Aunt Lupy
Pamela Cundell
Ben Chaplin
Ross McCall
Victoria Donovan
Mild Eye 
Tony Haygarth
‘Dreadful’ Spiller
Daniel Newman