Man vs Bee review – Rowan Atkinson channels Bean and Baldrick in his new slapstick sitcom | TV and radio
Rowan Atkinson’s latest comedy is full of life lessons. You can not hope to catch a bee in a grand piano. Bees, as we know, are already endangered, so do not microwave them.
Should you find yourself in a mercy cast to the vet with a dog that is in a coma, do not be distracted and take off your shoe to beat a bee inside the car. If you have managed to destroy a Mondrian while trying to hammer a bee, it will not fool anyone to repaint the red patch with tomato sauce; The same goes for using old CDs and triangles you have cut from blinds to restore a Kandinsky mobile you hit with a tennis racket.
Man vs Bee (Netflix) replaces Nicolas Cages The Wicker Man retool as my favorite bicomedy. Do you remember what happened at the end of that movie? Nic, allergic to bees, gets his head pushed into a portable hive. “No, not the bees!” he shouts. «Not the bees! Aaaaghhh! “I still laughed at it days later. Atkinson, on the other hand, is intentionally funny in all nine episodes of this sitcom.
Atkinson, along with his writer Will Davies and director David Kerr, realize that comedy is not tragedy plus time, but things plus idiot. Man vs Bee could just as easily have been called Man vs Himself or Man vs House. Atkinson plays Trevor, a man who was fired from Asda after an argument with a trolley and from an office after ending up on the losing side of a fight with a shredder. His wife has divorced him and his daughter longs, perhaps in vain, for father-daughter bondage on a camping trip to the Isle of Wight (proving that strangeness exists in the family).
Trevor is not the best guy to look after a house with voice-activated security systems and a manual that is so thick that instead of a tennis racket it should have been the weapon that was chosen for a long-lasting bee smackdown.
Julian Rhind-Tutt and Jing Lusi literally ring in their heroically grotesque appearances as awful vacation homeowners relaxing by the pool in monogram espadrilles, calling the man they foolishly entrusted their block to find out about their belongings – an E-type Jag , priceless artwork, Cupcake the dog – is still intact. Meanwhile, their pristine house is destroyed in a rage with flamethrowers. Bee is of course not as much as sung.
I’ve always felt, I now realize wrong, that Atkinson’s best comedy was verbal and that Mr Bean and Johnny English were primarily interested in the lucrative dimwit demographic. What I should have appreciated is the continuity of Atkinson’s oeuvre. Blackadder’s violent nihilism (“Baldrick, believe me, eternity in the company of Beelzebub and all his hellish instruments of death will be a picnic compared to five minutes with me – and THIS pencil”) is repeated here. So is the man-out-of-time mood of Atkinson’s Inspector Fowler from A Thin Blue Line (“Looks, as we shall see, are like bus routes: often very misleading”). That said, there is one important change: here Atkinson has become Baldrick.
When he is bitten while stuck in a dog flap in the middle of a bee hunt while wearing a magnetic collar for reasons that do not make sense, he looks surprised – as if his cunning plan has unraveled. But really, what did he think would happen?
I would give this series five stars, but for two things. First, the bee is sadly undercharged. What is the motivation? Should we take seriously the implicit claim that male bees, driven from the hives, are homeless and friendless, and that this one only seeks shelter and company? If so, why is it bothering Trevor?
The only explanation that makes sense is that it is furious at the continuing lack of bee representation in entertainment. Think about it. Jerry Seinfeld played the titular insect in the Bee Movie; The Simpsons’ Bumblebee Man was a human mutant who put the bee release back decades. You can not be what you can not see, especially if you are a bee.
Second, product placement is incessant. For example, all the state-of-the-art gadgets of the absurd house are supplied by the German electronics company whose name sounds like the French word for honey. I would like to think that it’s a cute bi-related gag – but it seems unlikely.