Considering that it went on to win the Rose D’Or, be watched by upwards of 18 million people, and spawned two movies that have grossed half a billion dollars between them, Mr Bean arrived on our screens with a relative whisper.
The first mention of the show appears in this article about Paul Bown, star of ITV’s Watching, in the Staffordshire Sentinel, of all places, on 23rd December 1989.
This is about as much of a write-up that it was getting in most publications, as witnessed in the Birmingham Weekly Mercury, on New Year’s Eve.
Or this, from the Daily Mirror the next day.
The first special aired on New Years Day 1990, and was watched by 13.4 million people, making it the most viewed show outside of the soaps that day.
Peter Freeman, the next morning in the Birmingham Mail, was far from impressed with Bean’s debut.
I’d love to hear Pete’s suggestions for other people who could have played the role. Oscar Sharpe, in the Birmingham Weekly Mercury, displays the most acute of televisual critic’s foresight, predicting confidently that this will be the last we ever see of the character.
And that’s pretty much the extent of the coverage that first special received.
The tone soon changed, after Mr Bean won the Golden Rose in May.
The only mentions of the show before then in The Stage had been in BARB round-ups. The cliched rubber face-pulling is now universally acclaimed and Tati-esque.
I thought I’d check back in with Peter Freeman, over in the Birmingham Mail after this development. This review from the 17th May tells you everything you need to know.
His magnaminity extended to the second special that November …
… and then he never mentions the show again.
I suppose that’s more than Oscar Sharpe did – who after declaring the death of Mr Bean after one show, never even bothered to tell his readers about the awards and the subsequent episodes, animated series, or blockbuster movies.
It wasn’t until the fourth special Mr Bean Goes To Town that The Stage gave over space for a review.
You have to admire the stunning insight that Mr Bean wouldn’t work on the radio.
And as for claiming the show “can best be described as a modest success”?
My maths is terrible, but 14.4 million viewers is what? 50% more than A Question Of Sport on at the same time, and only the second most-watched show that day other than Corrie?