1 9 9 0 – 1 9 9 5 (UK)
14 x 25 minute episodes
2 x 6 minute episodes
Before two blockbuster movies and an animated series, Mr Bean was simply a sitcom. Albeit one that up to 18 million viewers watched, and one that revolved entirely around Rowan Atkinson’s titular character, Matilda Ziegler as his girlfriend, Irma Gobb, and a teddy bear.
“Mr Bean is very, very self-contained,” Atkinson explained, “because he’s so introspective and so selfish and so self-centered that there’s no particular need to have another person in the scene.”
Effectively a vehicle for Atkinson’s mime skills, this near-silent comedy revolved around the gormless, friendless, brainless little chap with a flair for causing havoc.
And with very little dialogue, Mr Bean was closer to the work of vintage comedians Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton than to any contemporary sitcom.
The wonderfully physical Atkinson inhabited Bean’s childlike awkwardness and innocence. The comedy drew on these qualities, as mundane tasks such as going to the laundrette, playing miniature golf, swimming, and cooking Christmas dinner went awry.
The visual style of comedy meant its appeal crossed generations, borders and cultures. Bean is as well known in Shanghai as he is in Venezuela as he is in Wolverhampton.
Such was the international appeal of the character that a feature film, Bean – The Ultimate Disaster Movie, was produced in 1997.