Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

The Genie From Down Under (1995 - 1998)

Children's series
26 episodes x 30 minutes

Series synopsis:

The Genie from Down Under is a 26-part comedy drama about a clash of class and cultures. The Hon. Penelope Townes (Alexandra Milman) is thirteen years old and lives with her widowed mother, Lady Diana Townes (Anna Galvin), in ‘reduced circumstances’ in their decaying ancestral home 'Townes Hall’ in Wiltshire, England. Penelope wants to be rich so when she finds a magic opal with not one but two genies, she thinks all her dreams will come true.

Unfortunately for Penelope nothing ever quite works the way she’d like. Despite being the Master, Penelope can’t quite control these Australian genies, Bruce (Rhys Muldoon) and Baz (Glenn Meldrum), who desperately want to go home. At every opportunity he can get, Bruce grants Penelope’s wishes in a way that transports her to Townes Downs, a run-down farmhouse in the middle of the Australian outback. Penelope hates Australia and is always trying to get home to Wiltshire. Bruce longs for freedom for himself and his son Baz, and when he falls in love with Lady Diana he’s even more determined to get back to Australia to try to set himself and Baz free. This is not what Penelope wants at all and she will do all she can to stop it. In a constant battle of wills, Bruce and Penelope try to trick each other to get what they want.

To complicate matters, shonky Aussie outback tour operator Otto von Meister (Mark Mitchell) also believes the opal is rightfully his and isn’t prepared to let Penelope keep it without a fight. The opal changes hands many times, with disastrous and hilarious consequences that take place in wild and unexpected ways as they bounce backwards and forwards across the globe.

In Series Two (1998), Bruce (Sandy Winton) continues to try and free himself and Baz, but to do so he must win the heart and hand of Lady Diana. She doesn’t know he is a genie and of course Penelope is not about to let her genies go free, so there are many comical hiccups along the way. Finally, Penelope realises that she can’t stop true love, so she sets her mind to trying to have the best of both worlds – Diana and Bruce married, but Bruce still her genie.

Curator’s Notes:

Made in 1995, The Genie From Down Under was developed as a topical satire on the relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom during the time of the republican debate in Australia. While the story is half set in the UK and half set in Australia, it was shot in Australia with a British lead actor, Alexandra Milman, and one British director, Jeremy Swan.

The Genie From Down Under is a truly delightful comedy series playing on culture and class differences, mining a plethora of dramatic and comic potential with archetypal battles between master and servant, upper class and working class, and of course, Australians and the English. A lovely mix of rich characterisation, humorous caricatures, national stereotypes, slapstick, magic, the unexpected and the ridiculous, The Genie From Down Under is also intelligent viewing with layers of complexity and meaning underpinning many of the stories including issues such as Indigenous land rights, cultural ownership and the law and family.

Series Two was made three years later in 1998. The lead character of Bruce was recast as original actor Rhys Muldoon was unavailable for the series. Visually, Sandy Winton slotted in well and the transition was a smooth one. A key support character, Trish Emu (Kylie Belling), was replaced with a new character, Darlene (Bobbi Henry).

Titles in this series

The Genie From Down Under – It’s my Opal … (and I’ll cry if I want to) 1995

Posh English schoolgirl The Hon Penelope Townes (Alexandra Milman), possessor of the magical opal, is magically whisked away by her Australian genies, Bruce (Rhys Muldoon) and his young son Baz (Glenn Meldrum) – from her grand home in Witshire England ...