Mr. Bean is a British comedy television series of 14 half-hour episodes starring Rowan Atkinson as the eponymous title character. It was written by Rowan Atkinson, Robin Driscoll, Richard Curtis and Ben Elton. The self-titled first episode was broadcast on 1 January 1990, with the final episode, “Goodnight, Mr. Bean”, on October 31, 1995.
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”. It was the recipient of a number of international awards, including the Rose d’Or. The show has been sold in over 200 territories worldwide, and has inspired two feature films and an animated cartoon spin-off.
The title character, played by Atkinson, is a slow-witted, sometimes ingenious, and generally likeable 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, though he has been shown in the first episode to have a strong knowledge of trigonometry. (In the first film adaptation, on his passport “Mr.” appears under the “first name” field and he is shown employed as a guard at London’s National Gallery. In Mr Bean’s Holiday, “Rowan” is seen on his passport name field.)
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 taking an exam. The humour largely comes from his original 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; later, in the animated series, he was shown to be an alien. Atkinson himself has acknowledged that Bean “has a slightly alien aspect to him”.
Mr. Bean’s Teddy
Teddy is Mr. Bean’s teddy bear, generally regarded as Mr. Bean’s best friend. Although inanimate, the bear is often privy to Mr. Bean’s various schemes and doubles as a good dish cloth or paint brush in an emergency. The bear is a dark brown, knitted oddity with button eyes and sausage-shaped limbs and invariably ends up broken in half or in various other states of destruction. Occasionally, Teddy seems to be almost animate, for example when Mr. Bean hypnotizes Teddy, snaps his fingers and the bear’s head falls backwards as if he’s fallen asleep instantly.
Certainly, Bean behaves as if the bear is real, for example buying it a Christmas present or trying not to wake it in the mornings. Mr. Bean seems to have a supply of Teddy bears, as in cases his bear has been destroyed, either it was decapitated (“Mr. Bean in Room 426″) or shrunken in the wash (“Tee Off, Mr. Bean”), and has been revived in later episodes.
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 a 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), luminous lime green/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.
In Mr. Bean Rides Again, he also hid the ignition key under the car bonnet, the key for the bonnet was kept in the boot, the key for the boot was attached to the sun visor above the driver’s seat. The key to the car door was the only key Bean kept with him. 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
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 in Mr. Bean’s world
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, David Schneider and Richard Wilson.
Origins and influences on Mr. Bean
The character of Mr. Bean was first developed when Rowan Atkinson was studying for his PhD at Oxford University, with a sketch featuring the character first being performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in the early 1980s. However, 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.