When Mr. Bean Was Originally Created, He Didn’t Have A Name

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Rowan Atkinson has had a long and varied career, but he’ll always be remembered in the UK for his two most famous characters: Edmund Blackadder and Mr. Bean. I always preferred the scheming misanthrope to the gurning nincompoop, but it’s hard to deny that Atkinson’s style of physical comedy was pretty irresistible at its best. We tend to remember Blackadder’s wicked way with an elaborately phrased insult, an aspect of his character that helped the show become one of Britain’s best loved sitcoms. But if it weren’t for the contribution of Ben Elton coming in to write on the second series, he might have remained the more Beanlike conniver we met in his debut season (via The Scotsman).

After Blackadder bowed out in the incredibly poignant finale of “Blackadder Goes Forth,” Atkinson went back in the opposite direction with “Mr. Bean,” introducing his long-gestating character of a childish halfwit with a habit of concocting wildly impractical solutions to the most basic problems, inspired by Jacques Tati and Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. 

First shown in 1990, it was a breath of fresh air at the time. While alternative comedians were making their mark with shows like “Alexei Sayle’s Stuff,” and “Red Dwarf” was the hip new show all the teens watched, much of British comedy was pretty stale. Old-school comedians like Benny Hill and Little and Large were hanging in there, while sitcoms were mostly mired in hackneyed formats like “Home James!” and “Brush Strokes.” By comparison, “Mr. Bean” was a bonkers work of genius.

At its height in 1992, 18.7 million people tuned in to watch one episode, “The Trouble with Mr. Bean.” While it seemed fresh and new, Atkinson had been working on the character for many years.