sun 07/08/2022

Man vs Bee, Netflix review - or should it be Bee vs Bean? | reviews, news & interviews

Man vs Bee, Netflix review - or should it be Bee vs Bean?

Man vs Bee, Netflix review - or should it be Bee vs Bean?

Rowan Atkinson's new comic character is no Blackadder

Crass incompetence: Rowan Atkinson as Trevor Bingley

Rowan Atkinson’s strange little comedy (written by Will Davies) is the story of Trevor Bingley, a rather pitiable late-middle-aged man who finds a new job as a house-sitter for a disdainful and ridiculously wealthy couple, Nina and Christian Kolstad-Bergenbatten (Jing Lusi and Julian Rhind-Tutt, pictured below). They live in a high-tech superhome in countless acres of lush green countryside.

Little bits of back story filter into the narrative as the show ambles through its nine cartoon-like, slapsticky, 10-minute episodes. We learn that Trevor is a doting father to his daughter Maddy (India Fowler), but has driven his long-suffering wife Jess (Claudie Blakley) to the end of her tether. A dismal husband, he’s barely competent at fatherhood. He has now ruined his own plan to take Maddy on holiday by landing his new job. Employment seems to be a rare and novel experience for him.

One of the running jokes is that the Kolstad-Bergenbatten house is so ludicrously stuffed with over-specified labour-saving technology that not even a fairly capable person, let alone Trevor, could hope to master its countless secrets without the aid of a thick instruction manual. Taps can only be turned on, and the water temperature adjusted, by making a sequence of hand-waving gestures in front of them. Trevor gradually masters the knack of opening drawers by sitting in front of them and scratching his ear. Fortunately, after he blunderingly incinerates the instruction book by leaving it on a gas ring, he implausibly manages to impersonate Nina K-B’s voice in order to trigger voice-operated locks.Man Vs Bee, NetflixThe theme round which this slender fare is spun is Trevor’s ongoing struggle with a persistent bee, which follows him into the house and proves impossible to get rid of. Perhaps the guiding philosophical notion is that however much mankind masters technology and considers him/herself the master of the Universe, mother nature will always have the last laugh. Although Man vs Bee doesn’t have quite enough of those.

Anyway, the bee proves a doughty adversary. Trevor sucks it up in a vacuum cleaner, traps it in the microwave and even tries to blow it up with explosives, but the resourceful insect keeps bouncing back. An elaborate plan to annihilate it with a barrage of aerosol sprays ends up by anaesthetising the family dog, Cupcake, prompting a Mr Bean-ish romp in which mayhem is wreaked upon Christian K-B’s priceless E-Type Jaguar (allegedly the first one ever manufactured).

You might subtitle Man vs Bee as “Mr Bean gets older and discovers vocabulary”, and Bean’s legions of fans might find themselves on Trevor’s wavelength. Yet there’s something dispiriting about Atkinson’s determination to play idiotic characters incapable of accomplishing routine tasks without burning down the house or ruining very valuable works of art (though his repair of a priceless Mondrian painting with sticky tape and a bottle of tomato ketchup is one of the show’s best gags). It’s a peculiar universe where crass incompetence rubs shoulders with attempts at extreme violence, and where both police and thieves are bumbling nincompoops.

Atkinson was once the cynical and fiendishly cunning Blackadder, one of Britcom’s most indelible characters, and more recently made a decent stab at Inspector Maigret for ITV. Now, though, he seems to feel that his true métier is playing the clown at children’s parties.

Atkinson seems to feel that his true métier is playing the clown at children’s parties

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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