Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean

Studio: Shout! Factory

Mar 19, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Twenty-five years ago, in 1990—in the same year that Pee-wee’s Playhouse went off the air—another meddlesome manchild made his television debut. Like Reubens’ Pee-wee Herman, Rowan Atkinson developed his Mr. Bean character on the stage. Their similarities diverge there, however: where Pee-wee almost never shut up, Mr. Bean remains almost silent at all times. (In the scarce moments when he speaks up, his choked, Muppet-like voice is funny enough on its own.) And where—on his TV show, at least—Pee-wee Herman was confined to his magical playhouse, Mr. Bean was dropped into the real world. His foibles in everyday locations—such as a public pool, a shopping center, the beach, or the dentist’s office—and the mishaps he got into with the people at those places were the main focus of the show’s humor.

A big part of what makes Mr. Bean so fun is that he doesn’t meet challenges in the same way a normal person would. If his pants won’t fit in his suitcase, he produces a pair of scissors and cuts off the legs. When he has no money to tip a busker, Mr. Bean dances for passers-by several feet away until he earns enough change. His solutions are often unwittingly selfish, and it's not unusual for Mr. Bean's gain to cause someone else's misfortune, but it's always more anarachic than malicious (think Marx Brothers by way of Charlie Chaplin's little tramp.) His backwards approach to problem-solving, the universal settings for his chaotic romps, and the fact that the character was almost non-verbal broadened the show’s international appeal, and made it a success throughout Europe and even across the Atlantic. Rowan Atkinson was a gifted physical performer and could convey a wide range of emotions with his malleable mug, ensuring that there was virtually no language barrier.

While The Whole Bean isn't exactly the whole of Mr. Bean—there were also two feature films and an animated series, which aren't included here—it's a lot of Mr. Bean. All fourteen episodes of the original Mr. Bean series have been remastered for inclusion in this set. Both video and audio quality are pretty good for a 25-year-old show that was shot on a modest budget. (Unlike Shout!’s incredibly crisp Pee-wee’s Playhouse set, there were no high-quality sources for them to restore from.) While the series shows its age, prospective buyers should assume that this is probably the best Mr. Bean will ever look. Bonus features include a trio of deleted scenes and two unaired sketches. There’s also a 40-minute making-of documentary, and “The Best Bits of Mr. Bean,” a 72-minute clip show that lives up to its title by showcasing many of the most memorable sketches from the series’ run. The Whole Bean collects all of the classic U.K. show into one package with a handful of nice extras to sweeten the pot. The modest price makes it an easy recommendation for slapstick comedy fans of all ages.

Author rating: 8/10

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