Bean, Bean, maniacal nut / The more you watch, you bust a gut! First unleashed in 1989, this sketch series was embraced by PBS viewers in the United States. In the tradition of the great silent clowns, Rowan Atkinson created a character with universal and multi-generational appeal (the sketches have little dialogue and are driven by often ingenious physical comedy). Like Bart Simpson, the resourceful, mischievous, and sometimes malevolent Bean is the inner child incarnate who acts on the impulses polite society normally represses. Atkinson has described Bean as "a 9-year-old boy, with an apparent lack of worldly experience, but an ingenuity that is quite clever in dealing with problems presented to him." These problems include not knowing a single answer on an exam, tactfully disposing of a revolting restaurant meal, changing into his swimsuit at the beach without first removing his pants, and, most hilariously, getting a turkey stuck on his head (a classic bit reprised in the ill-conceived 1997 feature film).
Atkinson has enjoyed some mainstream success stateside. He was the nervous minister ("...your awfully wedded wife") in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and the voice of Zazu in The Lion King. But he mainly enjoys cult status among British comedy aficionados as a founding member of Not the Nine O'Clock News and the star of the Black Adder series. Bean is his crowning creation. In addition to all 14 episodes, this generous boxed set contains previously unaired sketches, Comic Relief appearances, and a segment about Bean's creation, which serves as a nifty introduction for the uninitiated. It also contains a preview for the new Mr. Bean animated series. This seems redundant. As this collection hilariously demonstrates, Bean is already animated enough. --Donald Liebenson