The very thought of Mr. Bean (the comic character conceived and played by Rowan Atkinson) brings a smile to the young and old alike. The sitcom series that featured Mr. Bean ran successfully in Britain between 1990 and 1995. A total of six seasons of fourteen episodes each was broadcast to a wide followership in Britain and elsewhere in the world. The titular character and the series was such an enormous hit that Mr. Bean is often used synonymously with Rowan Atkinson. Even to this day, the character and the series hold a cult status among sitcom aficionados.
Mr. Bean’s humor is atypical for a British sitcom. For example, British comedy series usually employ satire, parody, sarcasm and dry humor. But breaking away from this tradition, Mr. Bean thrives on a mix of visual and physical humor. While it is logical to believe that this type of slapstick humor appeals to children and adolescents, Mr. Bean’s appeal is near universal spanning across age, gender, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Described as “a child in a grown man’s body”, the endearing character goes about everyday tasks in a disruptive yet funny manner. Mr. Bean, or for that matter any other character in the series, speaks much. This adaption to the ‘silent movie’ genre works very well, as it resonates with classic comic works of Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, etc. Background laughs are added to accentuate the effect and to imply humor.
The recurring motifs of the show, in the form of the troublesome car, the tenuous love affair with Irma Gobb, his most intimate companion the Teddy bear, etc, all help to heighten the humor. Childlike in his behavior and thoughts, Mr. Bean gets himself into various sorts of crises. Though some of the situations he gets himself into are serious, most of them are light and trivial. Moreover, Mr. Bean is always finding new ways of annoying and offending people around him. The plots are constructed in such a manner that comedy takes precedence over realism or credibility of situations. This is not such as bad thing for the audience as they get maximum worth out of the time spent.
It is a testament to the success of the TV series, that movie and animation adaptations followed – Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie and Mr. Bean (animated) respectively. Books and DVD’s inspired by the original show also came forth. The outstanding commercial success of the show and its adaptations is complemented by critical appreciation as well. For example, it won the prestigious Rose d’Or award, as well as winning the Golden Rose award. Some of its episodes were nominated for the BAFTA awards under Best Light Entertainment Programme category.
In conclusion, it is a proof of Rowan Atkinson’s comic genius and his sense of commercial acumen, that such a bold and unusual genre of humor would find approval. Even nearly two decades after its first broadcast, the show continues to grow its fan base and assume a legendary status. Mr. Bean is today a household name in Britain and across the world. The credit for this success should largely belong to Rowan Atkinson, who masterminded the project and excelled onscreen.