Not since the stellar DVD set of "Mr. Show" came out have I anticipated a comedy release like I have with "Mr. Bean – The Whole Bean." Approximately ten years ago while flipping through the channels, I stumbled upon HBO's newest comedy series. The show was based in England, and centered around an amazingly selfish yet strangely witty man only known as Mr. Bean.
In every episode, Mr. Bean (played by the accomplished Rowan Atkinson) would be confronted with an unusual situation (usually his fault), and somehow get around it to accomplish his goal. For instance, Mr. Bean decides he wants to go to the beach, but doesn't want to go back to his car to change into his bathing suit. So, he puts his bathing suit over his trademark brown trousers, and then tries to take the pants off, leaving only the bathing suit.
The beauty about Rowan Atkinson's performance as Mr. Bean is that an entire episode can go by without him even muttering a word. His use of physical comedy, including body language and facial expressions, is amongst the best I've ever seen in my life. He can be the most obnoxious person in the world one second, and an empathetic person in the next.
Rounding out the often-mute Mr. Bean character is his best friend, a plush teddy bear he calls "Teddy" and a mysterious, three-wheeled blue automobile. Though it doesn't make much sense to include them in a DVD review, these two "characters" stood out the most. For instance, in almost every episode, Mr. Bean does something awful to the enigmatic blue car, whether driving recklessly and causing it to tip over, or nudging it out of a parking space. And don't forget about his teddy bear… I won't give away anything else, but rest assured, watching Mr. Bean treat his teddy bear like it was a small baby is one of the funniest ongoing gags I've ever seen.
"Mr. Bean – The Whole Bean" features 14 episodes, each having a running time of approximately 25 minutes. Below are episode summaries broken down per disc. Be forewarned, there are some potential spoilers in their descriptions.
Mr. Bean - Mr. Bean takes a mathematical exam, gets undressed at a beach, and goes to church.
The Return of Mr. Bean - Mr. Bean goes shopping for housewares, orders the wrong dinner at a restaurant, and meets the queen.
The Curse of Mr. Bean - Mr. Bean goes swimming, tries to leave a parking garage without paying, makes his own "fresh" sandwich, and goes to the movies.
Mr. Bean Goes to Town - Mr. Bean sets up his new TV, looks through a line-up, searches for a lost shoe, attends a magic show, and goes out dancing.
Mr. Bean Goes to Town - Mr. Bean administers first aid, packs for a trip, deals with a rowdy passenger on a train, and tries to entertain a sick child on a turbulent flight.
The Trouble with Mr. Bean - Mr. Bean is in a hurry, and gets dressed while he drives. Mr. Bean goes to the dentist, and gets hassled by a fly at a picnic.
Merry Christmas Mr. Bean - Mr. Bean does some holiday shopping, and cooks one of the largest turkeys I've ever seen.
Mr. Bean in Room 426 - Mr. Bean wrecks havoc in a hotel, bringing things from home to make it more quaint, and eventually being locked out of his room, running around naked.
Mind the Baby Mr. Bean - Mr. Bean ends up with a baby at an amusement park, but finds that it's hampering his level of fun.
Do It Yourself Mr. Bean - It's New Year's Eve, and Mr. Bean is an awful host. He also looks to do some "home improvement."
Back to School Mr. Bean - Mr. Bean goes to a school fair, and manages to wreck havoc everywhere he goes.
Tee Off, Mr. Bean - Mr. Bean does some laundry and makes an enemy in the process. The rules of miniature golf prove too much for Mr. Bean.
Good Night, Mr. Bean - Mr. Bean tries to cut ahead in line at a hospital, annoys a security guard, and prepares himself for bedtime.
Hair By Mr. Bean of London - Mr. Bean becomes a barber, goes to a fair, and loses his train ticket.
"Mr. Bean" is presented in full frame 1.33:1. Originally filmed in England, it has the "British Look" to it (if you ever watch British programming in the United States, you know exactly what I'm talking about). Some scenes are shot differently than others, so the level of video quality differs from skit to skit. Some scenes have a grainy look to them, but overall it doesn't hamper my enjoyment of the show in the least. In fact, I would even venture to say that the video quality is slightly better than when it originally aired on HBO.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital Surround 2.0. "Mr. Bean" is definitely not a show you would need a 5.1 mix for, as it's not so much what Mr. Bean says, but rather, what he does. Regardless, the 2.0 sounds good, and possibly better than it did when it originally aired on HBO nearly a decade ago. There are no audio dropouts, and the sound levels are perfect (in some television shows, the audience laughter sounds louder/quieter than they should be). Overall, I'm extremely pleased with A&E's effort on this set.
Every DVD has essentially the same menu, with the exception being that the Special Features are only present on disc 3. The Mr. Bean choir theme plays in the background and we can select which episode we'd like to watch. When an episode is selected, a chapter stop breakdown of the episode is given.
"Mr. Bean – The Whole Bean" has a lot more extras than I originally thought it would. Unfortunately, there are no commentaries on this set (it would have been great to hear Rowan's comments on he came up with certain ideas, but oh well).
"The Story of Bean" is a really good featurette on Rowan Atkinson's career, from his early days, to present day. Intertwining interviews from Rowan and his friends, as well as clips from his other comedic performances, this featurette helps to give insight on the madness, and meticulous effort from Rowan that helped give birth to the Mr. Bean character. This featurette clocks in at around 40 minutes, and is well worth your time.
"More Sketches" is a real treat, as we are given four never-before-seen bonus sketches. Two of them looked to have been cut from the television show ("The Library" and "The Bus Stop"). The other two are inclusions from "Comic Relief U.K." Those skits are called "Blind Date" and "Torvill & Bean."
Also included is a "Rowan Atkinson Biography", a "Rowan Atkinson Filmography" and a "Mr. Bean: The Animated Series Trailer."
If you like "Mr. Bean", then go out and buy this DVD set immediately. Featuring episodes and skits that never aired on HBO, this DVD set is truly "complete" (some series use that as a marketing gimmick, but in this case, it's not). The audio/video are better than its broadcast version, and the supplements are must haves for Rowan Atkinson and "Mr. Bean" fans. The only thing that prevents me from giving it the coveted "DVD Talk Collector Series" moniker is its MSRP. $49.95 seems kind of high for less than 6 hours of television. In my opinion, its well worth the money. "Highly Recommended."