Mr. Bean was 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 31 October 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 19 million for the 1992 Christmas episode, “Merry Christmas Mr. Bean”, and was the recipient of a number of international awards, including the Rose d’Or. The show has been sold in over 200 territories worldwide, as well as inspiring two feature films and an animated cartoon spin-off.
The title character, played by Atkinson, is a childlike, sometimes ingenious, and generally likeable buffoon who frequently gets into hilarious situations due to his various schemes and contrivances. 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. (In the 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.)
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. Indeed, some of Bean’s actions occasionally have a particularly malevolent aspect to them.
At the beginning of episode two onwards, Mr. Bean falls from the sky in a beam of light. 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”.
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.