In Review

Man vs. Bee: Rowan Atkinson’s glossy new Netflix show is no Mr. Bean

Glossy new nine-episode Netflix comedy has received mixed reviews

We haven’t seen much of Rowan Atkinson since 2018, when his third Johnny English film failed to set the box office alight. Now, though, he is back, said Camilla Long in The Sunday Times, starring in a glossy new comedy for Netflix.

To judge by the number of “adverts, gala screenings, special previews and exclusive glossy interviews the man has undertaken for this curious little show”, the streaming platform is “thrilled to have him”. Whether Man vs. Bee will live up to the hype, however, is far from clear.

Atkinson plays Trevor, an accident-prone house-sitter tasked with the upkeep of a mansion “that, for maximum audience reach, could be anywhere from Surrey to Kazakhstan”. Just as he’s settling in to the job, a CGI bee turns up, unleashing chaos. Over the next hour and a half – spread over nine episodes – every “painting, book and piece of furniture” is trashed, which might be jolly to watch if the show were funny; alas, it isn’t.

It is perfectly enjoyable, said Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph. But it lacks “the genius of Mr. Bean”. The set pieces are almost too slick, and the series feels as though it has been “precision-tooled to deliver a satisfying customer experience.”

Well, I loved it, said Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian. Yes, the bee is “woefully undercharacterised” (why does it torment Trevor?); and various high-end brands get rather too much screentime. But Atkinson knows that the best comedy isn’t “tragedy plus time, but stuff plus idiot” – and here he is at his comic best.

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