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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Three's a Crowd

The Bounder (1982-1983) on IMDb

Plot Overview

“The Bounder” is a series of seven ½ hour segments of a 14 segment 1980s British TV show featuring Howard Booth (Peter Bowles) who has just been released (“He's out”) from a two year stint in a country club prison. He has come to live (“Where else could he go?”) with his sister Mary (Rosalind Ayres) and her husband Trevor Mountjoy (George Cole). His was a white collar crime of embezzle­ment, and it soon becomes clear he hasn't reformed, but he's good at putting on an act. It's like that “simulated log effect” in their fire­place: they all enjoy watching it glow as if it were real but they know it's not. To spice up the action, their next door neighbor, “I'm Laura Miles” (Isla Blair), is a widow who's still well off despite having lost a bundle investing in guess whose scam. We follow these characters around as they inter­act with each other and with the community as long as the joke stays fresh enough for us to return, or for seven episodes, which­ever comes first.


The least I can do as an American reviewer is look up the title The Bounder in my Pocket Oxford Dictionary as printed in Hong Kong (when part of the UK): (colloq.) cheer­fully or noisily ill-bred person. That describes Howard to a tee. The intro­ductory episode is titled: He's Not Heavy – He's My Brother-in-Law being a play on a 1960s song describing the long road of inte­gration of one's brother Negro into main society. Howard was integrated into the Mountjoy house­hold, whence the analogy.

While we are considering breeding and brotherhood, we do well to look at origins, (Gen. 6:10) “And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth,” and these three fathered the human race alive today. From Shem, for instance, came White Europeans (and others). Ham's descendants settled largely in Africa becoming the black races. Researcher Mark DeWayne Combs posits that, “Although Jasher specific­ally references the births of Japheth and Shem, there is no such reference to the birth of Ham. … that Ham may have been much younger than his brothers and that he may have had a different mother” (389). (See my review of “Project Almanac” for a fuller explanation.) The integration song might have been better titled: “He's Not Heavy – He's My Half- Brother” a better match for the intro “He's My Brother-in-Law.”

Combs also observes, “Fathering a child, particularly a son, through a hand­maiden or servant girl would not have been an uncommon or forbidden practice in that time period” (165). (I've discussed this possibility in my review of “Project Almanac.”) In “The Bounder” Howard is acknowledged the best man for Trevor at his wedding, which is a kind of a servant. Howard also recounts various occasions when he served his sister when they were younger. This Howard is comfort­able in the skin of a servant and we respect him for it.

Researcher Bodie Hodge confirms that “As a general trend, Ham is the father of many peoples in Africa” (122). Dr. Ide adds, “Ham sired four sons: Cush (translates as ‘black’) … and Canaan the youngest” (62). Names get passed down through the generations, and Cush being Hebrew for ‘black’ eventually becomes, (Acts 13:1) “at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as … Simeon that was called Niger.” Niger is Latin for ‘black’, eventually becoming nègre French for ‘black’ and Negro Spanish for ‘black’ (and similar words in Italian and Portuguese.) There are various ‘nrsquo; words in English, or just plain black. As a matter of political cor­rectness the (PC) term of choice here in the USA is African-American being a moniker that doesn't go back as far as Cush, Ham, or his servant mother. In our movie when­ever asked about his recent past, Howard is said to have been travelling in Africa. It's not PC to mention his prison days. Thus we are given a safe vehicle to laugh at the foibles of integration.

Since we are being introduced to a man of ill-breeding, for contrast let's look at an example of good breeding. From the fiction of Sean Doolittle, a house­guest is out to enjoy a mid­night snack when: (211)

Soft footsteps padded across the tile of the kitchen floor. Heather appeared in a tank top and panties, hair disheveled, tangled strands hanging in her eyes.

She saw him and stopped. Andrew put the candy sack back where he'd found it. She brushed the hair out of her face. They looked at each other. …

Andrew … watched her a moment.

“Please don't stare at me.”

He didn't have anything to say to that. So he turned and left her be.

There are some conditions a person doesn't wish to be found in. A man of good breeding will turn away, not stare, leave the other be. The opening intro to every episode of “The Bounder” shows a jail cell door opening and the shadow emerge of some­one off-screen. Then the scene switches to a hand reaching and signing for personal items, the body still off-screen. There's a neatly folded suit w/gloves in the fore­ground. Finally, exiting the prison is Howard dressed to the nines in that suit. The camera as an extension of the audience is demonstrating good breeding by not observing the man in his prison togs. There is an analogy in the brother-in-law/half-brother parallel:

After the Flood there was an incident, Gen. 9:20-22, where Noah got drunk on wine and was exposed in all his glory to his son Ham who brazenly viewed him so. Noah's other two sons, Shem and Japheth, covered him up, Gen. 9:23. Ham had violated him in some way, Gen. 9:24. Noah's curse puts Ham's youngest grand­son Canaan in a position of servitude, Gen. 9:25. Noah's other two sons Shem, Gen. 9:26, and Japheth, Gen. 9:27, were blessed by Noah. Writer Bodie Hodge (134) quotes “Bible Questions and Answers,” The Golden Age (July 24, 1929): p. 702.

Question: Is there anything in the Bible that reveals the origin of the Negro?

Answer: It is generally believed that the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the Black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren,” he pictured the future of the Colored race.

The getting-out-of-jail footage precedes every episode in this movie, making the reminder of good breeding some­thing that carries through to the end. The second episode, We'll Go No More A'Roving, has Howard claim, “I've always earned my own living by the sweat of my brow,” but in the following episode Raising the Wind, he turns down the only job avail­able to him though it be “honest toil, a good honest slog”: sewage. In her pristine house Mary is not going to want to let any smelly over­alls in, much less clean them. Working a bottom-tier job requires segregation.

In 1960s America one Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) speechified that Thomas Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence about all men being created equal meant they should all have equal station (or at least opportunity) in this democracy—MLK didn't mention Noah's plan. That was not what was meant at the time by equality. One may merely read George Danger­field, The Era of Good Feelings, about the Missouri debate leading to the Missouri Compromise: (217f, 234–5)

Thus we can hardly blame the members of the Sixteenth Congress if … their assault upon Missouri should have failed because they could not bring themselves to believe in the equality of the Negro. The most humane philosophers had been unable to reach this conclusion.

MLK's concept of racial equality was a later one as expressed by President Lincoln in his Gettys­burg Address. In his Emancipation Procla­mation, he went on to, “hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence unless necessary self-defense.” In my review of “Project Almanac” I showed the paradoxes of time travel leant them­selves to illustrate the paradoxes of a people engaged in a Lincolnesque freedom while trying to consolidate their position through acts of violence. Here in “The Bounder” we can further apply Lincoln who to the newly liberated would “recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed they labor faith­fully for reason­able wages.” The comic format of the movie lends itself to humor when they don't.

In Minnesota where the unemployment rate is down to 3%, and men go for the lucrative jobs in the oil fields, the dairy farmers are having trouble retaining enough help to milk their cows. Migrant workers aren't enough as those cows must be milked every day, not just season­ally. In a society that still needs a menial work force at the lower end, we've got a black president who is obsessed with letting in as many Latinos as possible. While this is hardly a laughing matter, when the situation is suit­ably portrayed in a disguised TV series, we might find it funny.

The fourth episode Howard at the Majestic shows him trying to get served at a restaurant (a historical problem for blacks in the days of segregation.) He crashes a private rugby party and when called upon to give a speech, he holds forth that, “When life becomes a scrum, remember that the great Referee in the sky is watching you.” It may be true one cannot let people crash a private party, but that doesn't mean we should abuse them, because there's to be a final accounting. As Fr. Zacharias has written, “We acknow­ledge God as the giver of all things; any depri­vation we suffer in this life will be made good in eternity, for God is our rewarder. There­fore we can never claim to have been treated unjustly” (249). Maybe the manage­ment can turn a blind eye and the party crashers can make do on the terrace.

Howard continues to have the same problems as blacks did who wanted to integrate: In On Approval he tries to get a loan from the bank, in Suspicion his cronies draw attention from the cops, and in The Rival words are exchanged. Howard refers to the Italian (“We didn't fight the war to put up with this kind of thing”) Count Monte­fiore as “Count Ravioli” who devours spaghetti and pasta, much the same way as in America blacks some­times refer to Caucasians as "white bread."

Production Values

“The Bounder” (1982–1983) was produced and directed by Vernon Lawrence. It was written by Eric Chappell. It stars Peter Bowles, George Cole, and Rosalind Ayres. They all played their uni- dimensional parts pretty well. The staging and costumes were gorgeous. Howard consistently dressed to the nines. Some of the striped shirts he wore caused parallax distortion—that's why they tell TV guests to wear solids. The movie shows in a square format as for British TV. The language was replete with Britishisms. It's rated (Australia): PG.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I thought the humor was silly, but I found myself laughing from time to time anyway. At some deep level it helps us to laugh at our own society, at least British society in the 1980s, but that's close enough. Anytime it stops being funny, you can always not look at any further episodes.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for children ages 9-12 and above. Video Occasion: Better than watching TV. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Suspense: Predictable. Overall product rating: two and a half stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Combs, Mark DeWayne. End the Beginning. USA: Splinter in the Mind's Eye Pub., 2014. Print.

Dangerfield, George. The Era of Good Feelings. New York: Harbinger Books, 1963. Print.

Doolittle, Sean. Burn. Los Angeles: Uglytown, 2003. Print.

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homo­phobia and Hetero­sexism in the Flood Story and its Writing. Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.

Zacharias, Archimandrite. Remember Thy First Love (Rev. 2:4-5) The Three Stages of the Spiritual Life In the Theology of Elder Sophrony. Dalton, PA: Mount Thabor Pub., 2010. Print.