‘Bernard’s Watch’: My childhood nemesis

❉ Sam Michael sets his sights on the “do-gooding bastard” with time on his hands.

‘Bernard’s watch’: It’s a phrase those of us who grew up watching the CiTV science-fiction show use today. When adult life gets too much and we find ourselves short on time and struggling to meet deadlines; we often think or say to ourselves – “If only I had Bernard’s Watch!”

Bernard’s watch could stop time you see, it would freeze everything except the person who was holding the watch and thus, it’s one of the coolest fictional super-powers of all time. This means that a show in where its protagonist, a young, relatable school boy like you and I (…were) has the ability to stop and start time with the click of his watch – SHOULD be the greatest kids show ever. But it wasn’t. In fact it was pretty frustrating to watch. I’d go as far to say I hated Bernard and his poxy watch!

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The first episode was a feature-length pilot in where Bernard goes to school and forgets to put his trousers on (somebody get this kid to a neurologist) along with forgetting his homework – nightmare. He recovers from his predicament by bumping in to an old lady (while still not wearing his trousers) who gives him a magic watch that can stop time. With his watch, he freezes time, goes home, puts his trousers on, collects something for his homework and… yeah, that’s about it.  Sadly that’s about as exciting as the series gets as the most exciting concept for a kids TV show ever, is given to the most bland and boring character of all time.

I will mention at this point, that in the running series, the pilot is re-made and instead of a kind old lady giving him the watch, they re-write it so that it is first given to him by a strange man in a white van . So you know kids, if you’re ever approached by a man in a van, he’s not dangerous – he’s probably going to give you the gift of time travel!

Every week, you would tune in, just hoping for Bernard to do something cool, anything, kids always wanted to run away, right? Punch somebody in the face with no consequences? Look up Miss Fox’s skirt in year 5? Guys..?

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All he does is act a bit clumsy like forget homework (again) or his trousers (again, worryingly) and the whole episode would be him correcting his clumsiness, or even worse spend the whole episode being a nauseating do-gooder!

For example, in one episode he forgets some girl’s birthday present, so seconds before the party starts he clicks his watch, freezes time and attempts to put things right.

He goes down to the shops, picks a present and then DOESN’T JUST WALK OUT WITH IT?! There are literally no consequences in a universe without the laws of the fourth dimension, he picks up a £9.99 over-priced piece of tat for a present – made by slave-working orphans in China no doubt – and doesn’t steal it as a Fuck You to capitalism! No, instead the wet blanket leaves a crisp £10 note along with a letter to the shop-keeper reading, and I quote “I have bought a £9.99 toy from your store, you were too busy and I was in a rush but here is £10.00 to cover what I owe you, please put the 1 penny change in the charity box. Yours sincerely, Bernard”

One: every child who ever walked in to a toy-store has fantasised about being about to just go ape-shit and run around the place taking as much as their little hands could carry, how dare you not live out the childhood dream, Bernard! Two: if that isn’t bad enough you’re one of those “Keep the 1 pee change” pricks and the fact you want it in a charity box, doesn’t make you Geldolf, Bernard! Three, what child ever ended a note on “yours sincerely”?! Pretentious little…

The show would leave me and others raging, seeing a child with the coolest toy and not making good use of it! It’s like when you have that rich kid at school who owns every games console, a trampoline and a pool. Then you go round that same kid’s house for dinner after school and he doesn’t want to touch them!

Every week this do-gooding bastard waved his magic powers in front of us, while refusing to do anything cool, like a kid that won’t share. Seriously, take a look at the opening titles… look at the smugness in his face!

He angered a nation; it would be like watching a ‘Harry Potter’ movie in where all we saw were the professors and dark-arts teachers filling out yearly report-cards. Or a ‘Die Hard’ film where all we saw was the hours of admin an internal-investigation in to the events that took place at the Nakatomi Plaza.

I’d forgotten about ‘Bernard’s Watch’ until I amusingly found out that my friend shared his hall of residents at Sheffield University with the actor who portrayed Bernard, James Peachy. Maybe it’s my warped mind but I couldn’t help but wonder what a teenage Bernard would get up to these days with the power of freezing time… *imagines* Oh no, oh god no! Oh Jesus, Somebody stop him!

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❉ If you are so inclined, you can relive your 90s childhood with selected clips from ‘Bernard’s Watch’ on the YouTube channel ITV Children’s Classics.

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