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Mr._Bean

Mr. Bean

Mr. Bean was a British comedy television series of 14 half-hour episodes starring Rowan Atkinson as the title character. Different episodes were written by Rowan Atkinson, Robin Driscoll, Richard Curtis and one by Ben Elton. The self-titled first episode was broadcast on 1 January 1990, with the final episode, "Goodnight, Mr. Bean", on 31 October 1995

Based on a character developed by Rowan Atkinson at university, the series followed the exploits of Mr. Bean, described by Atkinson as "a child in a grown man's body", in solving various problems presented by everyday tasks and often causing disruption in the process.

During its five year run the series gained large UK audience figures, including 18.74 million for the 1992 episode "The Trouble With Mr Bean, which was the recipient of a number of international awards, including the Rose d'Or, and has had an enduring effect on popular culture. The show has been sold in over 200 territories worldwide, and has inspired two feature films and an animated cartoon spin-off.

Origins and influences

The character of Mr. Bean was first developed when Rowan Atkinson was studying for his MSc at Oxford University. A sketch featuring the character was being performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in the early 1980s. A similar character called Robert Box, played by Atkinson, appeared in the one-off 1979 ITV sitcom Canned Laughter, which also featured a routine used in the film version. In 1987, one of Mr. Bean's earliest appearances occurred at the "Just For Laughs" comedy festival in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. When program co-ordinators were scheduling Atkinson into the festival program, Atkinson insisted that he perform on the French-speaking bill rather than the English-speaking program. Having no French dialogue in his act at all, program co-ordinators could not understand why Atkinson wanted to perform on the French bill. As it turned out, Atkinson's act at the festival was a test platform for the Mr. Bean character and Atkinson wanted to see how the silent character's physical comedy would fare on an international stage with a non-English speaking audience.

The name of the character was not decided after the first programme had been produced, with a number of other vegetable-influenced names, such as Mr. Cauliflower, being explored. Rowan Atkinson has cited the earlier comedy character Monsieur Hulot, created by French comedian and director Jacques Tati, as an influence on the character of Mr. Bean. Stylistically, Mr. Bean is also very similar to early silent films, relying purely upon physical comedy, with Mr. Bean speaking very little dialogue. This has allowed the series to be sold worldwide without any significant changes to dialogue.

Characters

Mr. Bean

The title character, played by Rowan Atkinson, is a slow-witted, sometimes ingenious, selfish and generally likable buffoon who brings various unusual schemes and connivances to everyday tasks. He lives alone in his small flat in Highbury, North London, and is almost always seen in his trademark tweed jacket and skinny red tie. Mr. Bean rarely speaks, and when he does it is generally only a few mumbled words. His first name (he names himself "Bean" to others) and profession, if any, are never mentioned. Atkinson has said, at the time of the first film's release that he imagines Bean's first name to be Julian, thus making Julian Bean a reference to famous guitarist and lutenist Julian Bream. He has been shown in the first episode to have a strong knowledge of trigonometry. (In the first film adaptation, the 'name' "Mr." appears on his passport in the "first name" field, and he is shown employed as a guard at London's National Gallery. In Mr. Bean's Holiday, however, his name is listed on his passport as "Rowan".)

Mr. Bean often seems unaware of basic aspects of the way the world works, and the programme usually features his attempts at what would normally be considered simple tasks, such as going swimming, redecorating or going to church. The humour largely comes from his original (and often absurd) solutions to any problems and his total disregard for others when solving them, his pettiness, and occasional malevolence.

At the beginning of episode two onwards, Mr. Bean falls from the sky in a beam of light, accompanied by a choir singing Ecce homo qui est faba - Behold the man who is a bean. These opening sequences were initially in black and white in episodes 2 and 3, and were intended by the producers to show his status as an "ordinary man cast into the spotlight". However, later episodes showed Mr. Bean dropping from the night sky in a deserted London street, against the backdrop of St. Paul's Cathedral. Atkinson himself has acknowledged that Bean "has a slightly alien aspect to him"; in the animated series, he was actually shown to be an alien.

Teddy

Teddy is Mr. Bean's teddy bear, generally regarded as Mr. Bean's best friend. The bear is a dark brown, knitted oddity with button eyes and sausage-shaped limbs, invariably ending up broken in half or in various other states of destruction and disfiguration. Although Teddy is inanimate, Bean occasionally pretends it is alive. For example, when Mr. Bean hypnotizes Teddy, he snaps his fingers and the bear's head falls backwards as if it has fallen asleep instantly (Bean used his finger to prop Teddy's head up). Certainly, Bean behaves as if the bear is real, buying it a Christmas present or trying not to wake it in the mornings. The bear is often privy to Mr. Bean's various schemes and doubles as a good dish cloth or paint brush in an emergency; it has been decapitated ("Mr. Bean in Room 426") and shrunk in the wash ("Tee Off, Mr. Bean").

Over the years, Teddy has undergone several changes. When it debuted on "The Trouble with Mr. Bean", it had a smaller head. Two episodes later, its head reached its current size, but its "eye" wasn't present until Bean placed gold thumb tacks on its face. The "eyes" have since been replaced with two small white buttons sewn over Teddy's face, giving it a distinct image.

Mr. Bean's Mini

Mr. Bean's car, a late 1970s MK IV British Leyland Mini 1000, developed a character of sorts. At first, an orange 1969 Morris Mini MK II (registration RNT 996H, although the body of the car was actually from an MK1 car of 1963/64) was Mr. Bean's vehicle of choice, but this was destroyed in a crash at the end of the first episode. From then on, the car was a 1977 model (registration SLW 287R), lime/yellow in colour with a black bonnet. It made its first appearance in "The Curse of Mr. Bean".

The Mini was central to several antics, such as Mr. Bean getting dressed in it while driving or steering it while sitting in an armchair strapped to the roof. It also had a number of innovative security measures; Mr. Bean fitted the door with a bolt-latch and padlock, rather than use the lock fitted on the car, and he always removed the steering wheel instead of the key, which formed a running joke in several episodes, at one point deterring a car thief. The car, confused with another demonstration car of the exact same model (registration ACW 497V), was crushed by a tank in "Back to School, Mr. Bean", but returned in later episodes, perhaps having actually been the identical demonstration car from that point on.

The Mini is often seen in conflict with a light blue Reliant Regal Supervan III, (registration GRA 26K), which will usually get tipped over, crashed into, bumped out of its parking space and so forth. This conflict originated in the first episode, when the three-wheeler held his Mini up on the way to a mathematics exam, and subsequently became a running joke throughout the series.

One of the original Mr. Bean Minis is on display at the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Keswick, northern England. Both the Mini and the Reliant re-appeared as characters in the animated Mr. Bean cartoons, and in the film Mr. Bean's Holiday yet another Mini appears – a lighter yellow/green than the original, registration YGL 572T. Also seen is a French version of his Mini, owned by the character Sabine which wears a Paris registration and is left hand drive. In the animated series his Mini's registration plate number is STE 952R.

Irma Gobb

Mr. Bean's "girlfriend" Irma Gobb, played by Matilda Ziegler, appeared in a number of episodes. She is treated relatively inconsiderately by Bean, who appears to regard her more as a friend and companion than a love interest. However, he does become jealous when she dances with another man at a disco in "Mr. Bean Goes to Town", and she certainly expects him to propose to her on Christmas Day in "Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean", with his failure to do so resulting in her leaving him for good (she does not appear in any subsequent episodes). The character later appeared in the animated series. The spin-off book Mr. Bean's Diary (1993) states that Mr. Bean met Irma Gobb at a local library.

Other characters

Although Mr. Bean is the only significant human character in the programme, other characters appear, usually as foils for his various antics. Other than his girlfriend, Mr. Bean's only friends appear to be Hubert and Rupert, who appear as Bean's New Years party guests in the episode "Do-it-Yourself, Mr. Bean" (although they altered his living room clock and fled to the party in the flat opposite, gaining real friends in the process). However, several notable British actors and comedians appear alongside Atkinson in sketches as various one-off supporting characters, including Richard Briers, Angus Deayton, Nick Hancock, Caroline Quentin, Danny La Rue, Roger Lloyd Pack, David Schneider and Richard Wilson.

Production and broadcast

The programme was produced by Tiger Television, later renamed Tiger Aspect, for the ITV network by Thames Television from 1990 to 1992 and then by Central from 1993 to 1995. After its original run it has been shown repeatedly on satellite channels such as Telemundo in the US, Nickelodeon and Paramount Comedy 2 in the UK, Disney Channel in Asia, and internationally.

The record selling UK videos were withdrawn shortly before the release of the Bean movie and DVDs are being released on an annual basis as of 2004.

Episode guide

Music

Mr. Bean features a choral theme tune written by Howard Goodall and performed by the Choir of Southwark Cathedral (later Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford). The words sung during the title sequences are in Latin:

  • Ecce homo qui est faba – "Behold the man who is a bean" (sung at beginning)
  • Finis partis primae – "End of part one" (sung before the commercial break)
  • Pars secunda – "Part two" (sung after the commercial break)
  • Vale homo qui est faba – "Farewell, man who is a bean" (sung at end)

The theme was later released on Goodall's album Choral Works. Goodall also wrote an accompanying music track for many episodes.

The first episode of Mr. Bean did not feature the choral theme tune, but instead an up-beat instrumental piece, also composed by Howard Goodall, which was more an incidental tune than a theme. It was used while Bean drove between locations intimidating the blue Reliant, and as such, was sometimes heard in later episodes whenever Bean's nemesis is seen.

In the episode "Tee Off, Mr. Bean" Howard Goodall's choral theme tune for another Richard Curtis comedy, The Vicar of Dibley, is heard playing on a car stereo. In Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean, while playing with Queen's Royal Guards figurines and the nativity set, he hums "The British Grenadiers", which was used as theme to Blackadder Goes Forth.

Mr. Bean appears in a music video made for the 1991 Comic Relief fund raising single by Hale and Pace called The Stonk. Mr. Bean also appeared in the music video for Boyzone's single Picture Of You in 1997. The song featured on the soundtrack to the first Bean movie.

Mr Bean also made a Comic relief record in 1992. This was (I want to be) Elected and was credited to "Mr Bean and Smear Campaign featuring Bruce Dickinson" This was a cover of an Alice Cooper song and reached number 9 in the UK singles chart.

Awards

The first episode won the prestigious Golden Rose, as well as two other major prizes at the 1991 Rose d'Or Light Entertainment Festival in Montreux. In the UK, the episode "The Curse of Mr. Bean" was nominated for a number of BAFTA awards; "Best Light Entertainment Programme" in 1991, "Best Comedy" (Programme or Series) in 1992, and Rowan Atkinson was nominated three times for "Best Light Entertainment Performance" in 1991, 1992 and 1994. "Mr. Bean" also won the Norwegian comedy award "Tidleg Sædavgang".

Spin-Offs

Bean movie adaptations

Bean

In 1997, Bean, a film version directed by Mel Smith, also known as Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie, was produced. This broke from the programme's tradition by using a subplot with more developed characters — instead of being the sole centre of attention, Mr. Bean here interacted with a suburban Californian family he stayed with while overseeing the transfer of Whistler's Mother to a Los Angeles art gallery. The movie grossed over USD$230 million globally on a budget estimated at $22 million.

Mr. Bean's Holiday

News broke in March 2005 that a second Bean film, Mr. Bean's Holiday was in development, with Atkinson returning in the title role. The film had been through several changes of name during its development, including Bean 2 and French Bean. Filming began on May 15, 2006 and began post-production in October 2006. It was released in the UK on March 30 2007. On July 17, 2007, the North American premiere was held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, at the Just For Laughs festival; the launching pad for the Mr. Bean character 20 years earlier. The film was then released Nation-wide in North America on August 24, 2007.

The film followed the character on an eventful journey across France for a holiday in the French Riviera, which after a number of misfortunes culminates in an unscheduled screening of his video diary at the Cannes Film Festival. It was directed by Steve Bendelack and according to Atkinson is probably the last appearance of the character.

The Animated Series

Mr. Bean was revived in a 2002 animated cartoon series, again featuring little actual dialogue, with most being either little soundbites or mumbling.

The series, which consist of 26 episodes (with 2 segments each), expanded the number of additional characters, featuring Mr. Bean's unpleasant landlady, Mrs. Wicket and her evil one-eyed cat, Scrapper. Rowan Atkinson provided the voice for Bean, and all of the animated Bean actions are taken from Atkinson himself. Other characters' voices are provided by Jon Glover, Rupert Degas, Gary Martin and Lorelei King.

The cartoon series is notable for following up on the "alien" origin theory for the character, with its final episode revealing a race of identical Beans who come to retrieve their lost friend, only to have him opt to stay on Earth with his girlfriend.

Books

Two books were released related to the original series: Mr. Bean's Diary in 1992, and Mr. Bean's Pocket Diary in 1994. The two books have identical content and differ only in the format in which they are printed. The content of both is a template diary with handwritten content scrawled in by Mr. Bean. They provide some additional information on the setting: for example, they establish that Mr. Bean lives in Highbury and rents his house from a landlady named Mrs Wicket. They confirm the name of Mr Bean's girlfriend as "Irma Gobb", and also give the name of the other man she actually runs off with (Giles Gummer).

An additional book called Mr Bean's Diary was released in 2002 to accompany the animated series; this book was also graded as a children's reader.

Video Releases

DVD Releases

In the United Kingdom (Region 2), episodes of Mr. Bean have been released on a yearly basis by Universal Pictures UK since 2004. The complete collection is now available, including the two feature films and other extras. In the United States (Region 1), the complete series has been available since 2003 on A&E Home Video as "The Whole Bean".

DVD Name # of episodes Release Date Notes
Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean 14 + 4 (special ep) 29 April 2003 Region 1. Contains all 14 episodes, two Comic Relief sketches and two director's cut sketches.

Volumes

DVD Name # of episodes Release Date Notes
Mr Bean - Vol 1 3 [1 November 2004 3 episodes
Mr Bean - Vol 2 3 31 October 2005 3 episodes
Mr Bean - Vol 3 3 13 November 2006 3 episodes
Mr Bean - Vol 4 3 19 March 2007 3 episodes
Mr Bean - Vol 5 2 12 November 2007 2 episodes
Mr Bean - Collection 14 12 November 2007 All 14 TV episodes
Mr Bean - Christmas Collection 14 + 2 (movies) 12 November 2007 All 14 TV episodes, Mr Bean's Holiday & Bean - The Ultimate Disaster Movie
Mr Bean - Complete Collection 14 + 26 (cartoon) + 2 (movies) 12 November 2007 All 14 TV episodes, all 26 episodes of the Mr. Bean Animated TV Series, Mr Bean's Holiday & Bean - The Ultimate Disaster Movie

Best of Mr. Bean

DVD Name # of episodes Release Date Notes
Best Bits Of Mr. Bean 7 23 November 1999 NBC Universal
The Best Of Mr. Bean 7 29 August 2006 A&E Home Video

VHS format

VHS Name # of episodes
The Amazing Adventures of Mr Bean 2
The Exciting Escapades of Mr Bean 2
The Terrible Tales of Mr Bean 2
Merry Mishaps of Mr Bean 2
Perilous Pursuits of Mr Bean 2
Unseen Bean 2
Final Frolics of Mr Bean 2
The Best Bits of Mr Bean Episode clips

Mr. Bean in popular culture

The sale of Mr. Bean worldwide has meant that he has permeated popular culture in several countries. For example, an in-joke coded into the videogame Roller Coaster Tycoon causes characters named "Mr Bean" to drive slowly on Go-Kart rides. More notably, a number of people have been compared to the character, usually as an insult. Tony Blair, then-Prime Minister of Great Britain was identified by Homer Simpson as "Mr. Bean" when his cartoon form greeted the Simpsons to Great Britain in an episode of the eponymous programme, demonstrating the stereotypical view of the English by (some) Americans.

Arthur Batchelor, one of the Royal Navy captives held by Iran during the 2007 Iranian seizure of Royal Navy personnel, claimed that some of his captors had mocked him calling him "Mr. Bean". NRL Referee Sean Hampstead is regularly nicknamed "Mr. Bean" in nationally broadcast commentary by Australian television/radio personality Ray Warren as a result of his similar appearance. In 2007, Vincent Cable, the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats generated hilarity in the House of Commons by describing the recent decline in Prime Minister Gordon Brown's fortunes as his "remarkable transformation in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr Bean".

Several of the visual jokes in the series have been used as experiments on the Discovery Channel's MythBusters series. In episode 52 - "Mind Control", the idea of painting a room with a stick of explosives (Firework, or other) placed in a paint can, as in the episode "Do It Yourself, Mr. Bean", was tested and deemed impossible, as adequate coverage was not achieved.

See also

References

External links

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