I almost always write my pieces for this feature on a videogame. This time, however, I’m picking a TV show. Is it because I have run out of videogames? Maybe. Let’s talk about Black Books!
For those who don’t know, Black Books is a BBC show that aired from 2000 to 2004 with three seasons. It was created by Dylan Moran and Graham Linehan of The IT Crowd and Father Ted fame. It focuses on Black Books, the bookshop owned by Bernard Black (Dylan Moran). It also stars Bill Bailey as his employee Manny Bianco and Tamsin Grieg as Fran Katzenjammer, a childhood friend.
As with a few other of my favourite shows, there are sadly few episodes of Black Books. Eighteen episodes in total, but what fantastic episodes they are. Bernard is a spiteful man who seems fed up with everything and everyone. He only takes pleasure in smoking, drinking and spending time with childhood friend Fran.
The general premise involves Fran and Manny trying to get Bernard to be more social and friendly with people. These events usually end in comical failure as life decides it doesn’t want to play along. Most of these failures come from Bernard just being such a child. Throwing tantrums and pouting when he doesn’t get his way.
The show is just ridiculous, a kind of dark comedy that just ends up being hilarious. Moran once said of the series that they tried to “cram as much elaborate stupidity into a half-hour that could make it be coherent and that you would believe.” It’s also stuffed full of moments that I never forget, many of which make me feel like re-watching the show when I call them to mind.
Sometimes it’s Bernard asking for his lolly, only for Manny to hand him a bottle of wine with a stick. Bernard proceeds to smash it against a bookcase reveal a full frozen bottle of wine inside. Other times it’s remembering the time Manny places a call to a cleaning service in attempt to clean up the shop/their house as he is tired of “eating scrambled egg with a comb out of a shoe!.”
Considered a sister show to Spaced, a Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright helmed sitcom airing at the same time, Black Books even features a cameo by Pegg. Several other actors from that circle including Nick Frost, Peter Serafinowicz and Lucy Davis also appear.
There’s something about the show, which reminds me of older classic BBC shows that I love. Fawlty Towers and Blackadder in particular, it shares that sort of ridiculousness at times. Father Ted is another show it feels similar to, but that one is sort of obvious given the connection between the two. The situations are totally dumb and make no sense, but I can’t bring myself to care about it because it’s too much fun.
There’s another bonus to the show as well, despite being very popular at the time and considering the writing pedigree behind it. Quite a lot of my friends had never seen it somehow. Normally I don’t like showing people things I like, too much pressure in case they don’t like or won’t pay attention. Black Books however never gives me that problem. Three different times I have sat down with various friends to watch a few episodes, and every time they have loved it. Laughing at it even more than I do.
Black Books is one of my ultimate go-to TV shows. Whenever I have a free evening and I look to my DVD shelf to find something to watch, I usually find something to stop me watching lots of them. Maybe I don’t feel like an action movie, or I’m not up for suspense. Very rarely, though, am I in a mood where I would be against watching Black Books.
Now, all that has put me in the mood. I’ll see you again in about 8 hours. I will leave you with one of my favourite clips from the show, so enjoy.