My Favourite Christmas Show: Bernard and the Genie

Cast your mind back to the Christmas TV schedule of 1991 and some of you may recall seeing, perhaps, the greatest piece of festive televisual entertainment ever. Written by Richard Curtis and starring Lenny Henry, Alan Cumming and Rowan Atkinson, Bernard and The Genie has been the number one Christmas film in my house for the past two decades.

2000 years ago an evil wizard imprisons Josephus (Henry) in a magic lamp after he accidentally killed the wizard’s daughter whilst moonlighting as a knife thrower. Meanwhile in an early 1990's present, art dealer Bernard (Cumming) is having the worst day of his life. He gets fired by his fully fledged bastard of a boss (Atkinson) for no good reason and he returns home to find his girlfriend has left him for his best mate and taken everything from the flat except for the gloomy old lamp she'd bought him last Christmas.

Bernard does what any of us would do in this situation, and he gives that lamp a good polish. A small explosion, a severely singed testicle and a trip to A&E later and Bernard returns home once more to find 6' 3" black guy wearing a turban and wielding a sword.

Josephus of course turns out to be a genie, and perhaps best of all there's no three wish limit with this guy either. Bernard begins his wishing spree and before long he has money in his pockets, a Big Mac in his hand and the Mona Lisa on the wall of his flat. In an attempt to repay his new Genie friend, they head out into London to have some fun.
Of course a further hilarity ensues when a 2000 year old genie comes face to face with an early 90's city.

As a child my favourite scene was always where Bernard decides to spread some seasonal joy by taking over from a drunkard of a department store Santa Claus. Instead of a cheap disappointing gift the kids start emerging from the grotto with electric cars, ponies, a real Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and a exploding sister. One child even becomes Gary Lineker. I should remind younger readers that before Lineker became a TV presenter and peddler of savoury snacks, he was actually a pretty decent footballer.

Like all responsible wish based stories our protagonist needs to learn the importance of being careful what he wishes for. When Bernard heads home ahead of Josephus, he is met by his boss and a team of police officers who promptly arrest him for the theft of the Mona Lisa.

I won't spoil the ending for you all but needless to say it's suitably heartwarming, yet cheesy in that brilliant way only a Richard Curtis film can be. Sadly you might struggle to find this one for yourselves as it's never received a DVD release, unless you count the 2007 unauthorised region one release. As far as I'm aware it's only ever been shown on British telly once, so pretty much everyone that has a copy of this has it on an almost worn out VHS, mine being perhaps one of my most prized possessions.

If you're a fan of any of the Lenny Henry, Alan Cumming, Rowan Atkinson, Richard Curtis, comedy, cheesy films, 90's fashion and Christmas then this is a must. If you're not a fan of these things, you may indeed be The Grinch.

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