Mr Bean is a British sitcom created by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis, produced by Tiger Aspect and starring Atkinson as the title character. The sitcom consisted of 15 episodes that were co-written by Atkinson alongside Curtis and Robin Driscoll; for the pilot, it was co-written by Ben Elton. The series was originally broadcast on ITV, beginning with the pilot on 1 January 1990 and ending with “The Best Bits of Mr. Bean” on 15 December 1995.
Based on a character originally developed by Atkinson while he was studying for his master’s degree at Oxford University, the series centres on Mr. Bean, described by Atkinson as “a child in a grown man’s body”, as he solves various problems presented by everyday tasks and often causes disruption in the process. The series has been influenced by physical comedy actors such as Jacques Tati and those from early silent films.
During its original five year run, Mr. Bean met with widespread acclaim and attracted large television audiences. The series was viewed by 18.74 million viewers for the episode “The Trouble with Mr. Bean” and has received a number of international awards, including the Rose d’Or. The series has also been sold in 245 territories worldwide and has inspired an animated spin-off and two theatrical feature-length films along with Atkinson reprising his role as Mr. Bean for a performance at the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, television commercials and several sketches for Comic Relief. Besides the acclaim of the show, another reason for the show’s appeal in hundreds of territories worldwide is that the show uses very little intelligible dialogue, making it very accessible to people who know little or no English.
The character of Mr. Bean was developed while Rowen Atkinson was studying for his master’s degree in electrical engineering at “The Queen’s College, Oxford. A sketch featuring Bean was shown at the Edinburgh Fringe in the early 1980s. A similar character called Robert Box, also played by Atkinson, appeared in the one-off 1979 ITV sitcom Canned Laughter which also featured routines used in the motion picture in 1997.
One of Bean’s earliest appearances occurred at the “Just for Laughs” comedy festivals in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in 1987. When programme coordinators were scheduling him into the festival programme, Atkinson insisted that he perform on the French-speaking bill rather than the English-speaking programme. Having no French dialogue in his act at all, programme coordinators could not understand why Atkinson wanted to perform on the French bill instead. As it turned out, Atkinson’s act at the festival was a test platform for his character’s physical comedy would fare on an international stage with a non-English speaking audience.