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If there ever was an argument for cancelling your Netflix subscription, it might be this.
In Man Vs Bee Rowan Atkinson plays Trevor, a hapless divorcé down on his luck who is hired to house-sit for an extremely posh couple with one of those houses that gives off a manicured and fragile vibe: their walkthrough of all the expensive artwork is an exercise in pointing out the several primed Chekhov’s guns in the vicinity. Then Trevor is left alone, and chaos, naturally, ensues, in the form of a bee that won’t leave him alone.
That’s it. That’s the premise, and my god, does it wear thin even before the end of the first 20 minute episode.
Atkinson plays Trevor with the kind of bumbling goodwill of a Mr Bean who has suddenly discovered he has the ability to talk. There are some thin attempts to conjure sympathy for him via an estranged daughter and exasperated ex-wife; they don’t work.
Instead, we are forced to watch as he takes a hammer, a screwdriver and ultimately a flamethrower to the couple’s house in his quest to kill his tiny CGI tormentor.
Their rivalry (which takes the form of the bee buzzing menacingly at him from behind glass windows and making several Houdini-like escapes from various receptacles) is not funny so much as painful.
There are classic cars, because of course there are (in fact, auto-enthusiast Atkinson will likely be able to buy a new one with the cheque from this show). Trevor is locked out of the house and has to crawl in through the dog flap, because of course he does.
Every calamity is signposted so far in advance and with so much nudging and winking that it ceases being funny and becomes more like waiting for a teetering boulder to fall off a cliff onto a main road.
At every turn, Trevor makes stupid and inexplicable decisions that do not explain why he has become so obsessed with this fuzzy Freddy Kruger.
Why does he take a microwave out of a kitchen wall? Why does he pursue a bee with a electric whisk? Why does he think attempting to whisk said bee inside a valuable vase is a good way to kill it?
After a certain point, you stop questioning things and instead enter a fugue state. Is time passing, or are you just stuck in some horrendous ten-minute long Groundhog Day (that’s how long the other episodes are. It’s too long)? Either way, you’re acutely aware that there are many things you could be doing instead, most of which are more enjoyable and don’t involve looking at dog poo.
In fact, it’s remarkable how many so-called comedies believe that what audiences want to see and hear most in the world is good dollop (pardon the pun) of scatological humour.
And oh boy, do we get a lot of it in Man Vs Bee. From almost the very first line, where Trevor calls his employee “Mrs Bergen-Bottom” (much to her understandable annoyance), we’re treated to gallons of the stuff.
Want to see a dog attempt to eat a man’s crotch – or for a man to use the words “doggy doo doo” more times than you usually hear at Crufts? You’ve come to the right place. Want to finish a series feeling like your soul hasn’t been smeared with it? Not so much.
At the start of the show, Trevor is shown in court, facing charges for dangerous driving, the destruction of artwork, criminal damage and arson. Even before the action begins via flashback, he’s found guilty.
Honestly, good. Prison is where this show belongs.