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Western Animation / Little Bill

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"Hello, friend!"
Little Bill is an animated children's series created by Bill Cosby. It is based on Cosby's book series of the same name, which featured illustrations by Varnette P. Honeywood. The show stars William Glover Jr., or "Little Bill" for short, an inquisitive and imaginative five-year-old living in Philadelphia. He lives with his father "Big Bill", mother Brenda, siblings Bobby and April, and great-grandmother "Alice the Great." He also has a pet hamster named Elephant.

To replicate the books' paper cut-out illustrations, the show was animated in Flash with a construction paper style. Each episode is underscored by a calm, jazz-inspired soundtrack. Episodes typically involve Little Bill overcoming a problem at home or at school, and they end with him breaking the fourth wall by summarizing his day to the audience before going to bed.

The show originally aired on Nickelodeon from 1999 to 2004. Reruns were seen on Noggin and Nick Jr. until 2014, when the show was pulled from the air. Due to the accusations against Bill Cosby, it has never aired since then. In recent years, the show has suffered Creator Backlash from Nickelodeon, which has tried to bury it, going so far as to retroactively remove the show from past schedules that originally included it.

Tropes, tropes, zoopity zopes!

  • Argument of Contradictions: Little Bill and Andrew have one in "Copy Cat" over if Little Bill is a copy cat or not because he wanted to be a rooster like Andrew.
  • Artistic License Biology: Averted heavily in "Mr. Moth", which manages to go over the common differences between a butterfly and a moth. The titular moth is even based off a real-life North American moth specimen (the Polyphemus moth, which is a very large one), and two of the butterflies Little Bill's classmates hatch include a Tiger Swallowtail and a Monarch butterfly, along with a exotic-looking blue butterfly that doesn't appear to be based off an actual North American specimen.
  • Audience? What Audience?: Every episode ends with Little Bill in bed, talking to the audience about his adventures that day. It always ends with a member of the family (varying each time) calling in from the hallway: "Little Bill! Who are you talking to?"
  • Batty Lip Burbling: In "Buds", Little Bill and his friends do this after looking at a blooming bush during recess. They start saying the word "Buds" really fast, then burble their lips.
  • Beach Episode: "A Day at the Beach" where Little Bill and his family spend a day at the beach together.
  • Big, Stupid Doodoo-Head: Michael calls Little Bill a "poo-poo diaper baby" in "The Meanest Thing to Say".
  • Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: From "I Got a Letter":
    Big Bill: Here's one for me, and another for me... and another for me... Oh! Little Bill! Here's one for you!
  • Birthday Episode: Split in two: "The Birthday Present" and "The Birthday Party", both pertaining to Fuchsia. Another episode has Alice the Great's Birthday.
  • Bookends: "Copy Cat" opens and closes with Little Bill and Andrew pretending to be firefighters, except the episode opens with them arguing over whose turn it is to drive and it ends with Little Bill letting Andrew drive since Little Bill went first the day before after having made up.
  • Camping Episode: "The Campout" where Little Bill and Andrew pretend to camp out in Little Bill's backyard along with Bobby and "Going Camping" where Big Bill takes Little Bill camping in the backyard after he is disappointed with not being able to join Bobby and April on their camping trip.
  • Characterization Marches On: Tiny is introduced in "The Practice" and is implied to be a rival to April but later episodes show her to be nicer and is best friends with April.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Dr. Winthrop Klinkscales is introduced as Ms. Murray's fiance, and he is said to work at the children's hospital. Guess who is charged with treating Little Bill's broken arm in a later episode?
  • Chickenpox Episode: The episode "Chicken Pox" is about Little Bill having chicken pox and feeling disappointed that everyone else can do things while he has to stay in bed.
  • Christmas Episode: "Merry Christmas, Little Bill" which features Little Bill celebrating Christmas Eve and Alice The Great being snowed in at an airport with chances of not being home for Christmas in time. Luckily, Little Bill writes a letter to Santa and he is able to get her home early Christmas morning.
  • Cool Old Lady: They don't call her "Alice the Great" for nothing.
  • Creator Cameo: Bill Cosby himself, in the title sequence, as well as a few guest spots as Captain Brainstorm.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: The end of "The Bills Go to Work" foreshadows the episode "Dad Goes to School." Both episodes feature Bill explaining his work.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Little Bill, in one episode: "I'm going to find my thing!"
  • A Dog Named "Cat": Little Bill's pet hamster is named Elephant. The reason for this is because Little Bill originally wanted an actual pet elephant but settled on a hamster.
  • Episode Title Card: Someone reads it, and someone else who is with them repeats it.
  • Eye Glasses: Bobby, as well as Ms. Murray, Little Bill's teacher.
  • First-Name Ultimatum:
    • Bobby gets them a lot, and usually because he has spoken out of turn.
    • In one episode, Little Bill's classmate, Dorado gets this when his mother, Valencia, brings him along to a hair appointment.
      Valencia: Now, how do we behave at the hair salon?
      Dorado: Like a clown?
      Valencia (sternly) Dorado...
      Dorado: (contritely) Like a good boy.
  • Forgiveness: "When Friends Get Mad"s moral. In the episode, Kiku accidentally ruins Little Bill's picture by spilling water on it. She apologizes but Little Bill retaliates by crumpling up her picture on purpose. He refuses to apologize to her and has to sit in time out. At home, his parents help him understand that what Kiku did was an accident and she didn't mean to. The next day, Little Bill apologizes for what he did and they become friends again.
  • Good Parents: Little Bill's parents are patient, caring, and understanding of Little Bill's questions and problems and are always willing to give advice.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: Bill Cosby wrote an original birthday song for this show as "Happy Birthday to You" was still under copyright at the time.
  • Halloween Episode: "The Halloween Costume" and "The Haunted Halloween Party."
  • Hurrying Home for the Holidays: The Christmas Episode has Alice the Great attempting to make it back home in time for Christmas, since she was in Cincinnati.
  • Imagine Spot: Little Bill has a stylized one about Once an Episode that ties into the story in some way.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Monty. Unlike most examples of this trope, Monty is introduced in the first episode, and he has a recurring role.
  • Meta Guy: At the end of every episode Little Bill sums up the episode's aesop to the viewers, prompting a member of his family to ask him who he's talking to.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Little Bill is almost always never called by his real name. He even signs his library card as "Little Bill Glover."
  • Parrot Exposition: The title of almost every episode is said by one of the adults, and then Little Bill and/or his friends or siblings will repeat it. The exception is The No-Talking Contest; Bill is accompanied by April, Bobby, and Little Bill, who silently exchange stubborn glances.
  • Performance Anxiety: "The Stage Trick".
  • Potty Emergency: Michael and later Little Bill suffer this in "Lavatory Story."
  • The Quiet Game: "The No-Talking Contest" involves all three of the kids being disruptive while trying to do their chores, so Little Bill suggests to start one of these to help them be productive. It ends up spiraling out of control enough that it continues even after they finish their chores, and ends up being problematic after Bobby's watch falls in the trash, and nearly taken to the dump until Little Bill makes a last-minute attempt to break the rules and say something about it.
  • Rain, Rain, Go Away: In "Are We There Yet?" there are threatening-looking storm clouds as the family prepares to leave for their day trip to Super Family Fun Land. Alice the Great tells Little Bill not to worry about rain, but Bobby keeps insisting that it's going to rain anyways. Sure enough on the drive, a thunderstorm begins, and they pull over into a gas station. Just as the storm gets worse and Brenda says they might have to turn around and head home, Little Bill gets the whole family to sing "Rain, Rain, Go Away" together, and the storm shortly passes and they are able to continue their drive to the park.
  • Sequel Episode: It is normal for this show's two eleven-minute shorts to be directly connected. For instance, one episode ("Are We There Yet?") covers a ride to the amusement park, and the following episode shows what happens at the park ("Super Family Fun Land.")
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sick Episode: Elephant and Little Bill each get one.
  • Slice of Life: Since this is a show for young children, it's no surprise.
  • Slumber Party: Little Bill has Michael over for one in "Michael Sleeps Over" which has them playing in the snow in the next episode.
  • Stop Copying Me: Subverted. In the episode "Copy Cat", Little Bill and friends are playing farm. Andrew wanted to be a rooster and so did Little Bill. When Little Bill pretended to be the rooster to wake everyone up, Andrew got mad at Little Bill and called him a copycat, believing that Little Bill was copying him. Little Bill wasn't really copying him. He just wanted to do the same thing because they're friends and they have similar interests.
  • "Stuck at the Airport" Plot: The main problem of the Christmas Episode, where Alice the Great is stuck at the Cincinnati airport and is unable to come home for Christmas due to the big snowstorm there. Luckily, Little Bill saves the day by asking Santa Claus to pick her up and bring her home.
  • "Take Your Child to Work Day" Plot: In episode "The Bills Go to Work", Big Bill brings Little Bill to his job at the Department of Housing. Little Bill thinks it will be just like school. In some ways, it is, and in other ways, it isn't.
  • Title Drop: In a show with a five-year-old protagonist, it can't always be helped.
  • Title Scream: In the Title Sequence, Little Bill's siblings, his classmates, and finally, Little Bill himself.
  • Token White: Andrew and his family.
  • Two-Timer Date: The book "Little Bill's Big Choice" has Little Bill being invited to a baseball game with Monty the next day but he already has plans to go on a picnic with Kiku on the same day. He doesn't want to upset either of his friends but Brenda encourages him to be honest with them. At school, he tells Kiku about Monty's invite and while she understands and tells him to go, Little Bill decides to choose Kiku since she asked first. When he brings it up to Alice the Great, she asks him if he can be at both places at different times. In the end, Little Bill goes to the baseball game with Monty and then they both go to Kiku's picnic since Kiku also invites Monty.
  • The Unapologetic: Little Bill is this in "When Friends Get Mad". Kiku accidentally spills water on Little Bill's picture. After he ruins her picture, he is told by everyone that he should apologize for his actions, but he refuses because he thought that Kiku did it on purpose. He later learns that what she did was an accident and he does apologize in the end.
  • Unwanted Assistance: In the episode "Monty Joins The Class", Monty is joining Little Bill's class and Little Bill decides to be his "super helper" which Monty agrees to. However, Little Bill takes it literally and he talks for Monty, doesn't let Monty try and get a fish from a fish game, and takes a dump truck that Monty is playing with to show him how it works. This causes Monty to not want to play with Little Bill. That night, Alice The Great offers to help Little Bill with his pajama shirt but Little Bill claims that he doesn't need it. She helps Little Bill learn that Monty can do things for himself too and he apologizes to Monty the next day.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: One episode had Little Bill and his friends begging their parents for a Captain Brainstorm video game. When he finally got it, he and his friends were rather disappointed at its primitive nature, preferring to use their imaginations to create their own Brainstorm adventures instead.
  • Wedding Episode: "The Ring Bear"; "Ms. Murray's Wedding".
  • World of Snark: Little Bill's whole family.
  • Youthful Freckles: Andrew has these.