Bernard And The Genie is a highly enjoyable festive comedy which has the ability to evoke the feeling of Christmas in an instant, it is a great example of British Christmas Television done right. Back in 1991, the BBC aired this hugely funny TV Movie, but despite the fact that this was one of the greatest Christmas Films ever made, it has sadly never been aired on the British TV since.
The film follows the misfortunes and fortunes of Bernard, an Art Dealer who is given the sack from work and whose girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend. When his girlfriend Judy moves out of their flat and takes her belongings, Bernard finds a lamp amongst the empty shelves and out comes a Genie who grants him unlimited wishes. Alan Cumming plays the lead of “Bernard Bottle”, and in my opinion gives his best comedic performance to date. Rowan Atkinson is always hilarious, but he is absolutely fantastic as the evil money-grabbing Boss “Charles Pinkworth” (who has some of the best lines in the film), and Denis Lill is wonderful as the tall-tale-telling Elevator Operator “Frank Kepple”. Lenny Henry is marvellous as the Genie “Josephus”, and outside of “The Lenny Henry Show” from the eighties, this is probably the funniest and most entertaining thing he’s made. All in all the cast is great, and the plot which incorporates adventure, revenge, love, religion, and time travel, makes for a delightfully charming and witty TV Movie which has yet to be matched by the BBC some two decades later.
Watching Bernard And The Genie more than 20 years after it first aired, gives anyone from the nineties a sense of nostalgia, but the fact that it still successfully entertains today; makes this film a classic. Other than “Not The Nine O’Clock News” this is probably the best thing Richard Curtis has ever written, and despite both “Blackadder” and “The Vicar Of Dibley” being shown on the BBC this Christmas, once again Curtis’ masterpiece Bernard And The Genie is missing from the schedule.
People on British TV seem to go on and on about “Morecambe & Wise” or “The Office Christmas Special”. They seem to continually bring up these so-called “classics” on various lame countdown shows, but unfortunately everyone from the decision makers down to the TV personalities themselves, seem to forget this particular Christmas gem; and this year marks yet another occasion when Bernard And The Genie goes unaired on British television.
Since its initial VHS release over two decades ago, Bernard And The Genie has yet to be released in any “modern” format. Sure you can get the poor quality, unofficial bootleg DVD from America, but it looks so awful you might as well watch it on YouTube and save your money. God only knows why the BBC have never aired it on TV since 1991, or released it on DVD (or Blu-ray for that matter). It is a travesty that companies like BBC, Attaboy, Talkback (now part of Freemantle) have collectively dismissed and forgotten about their greatest achievement. Can someone at the BBC get their finger out and either release it officially or air it on the telly? I’m sure the viewers at home would rather watch Bernard And The Genie than crap like “The Choir: Military Wives” or “Strictly Come Dancing” this Christmas.