Black Books (2000–2004)
User ReviewsReview this title
Bernard Black - an anti-social, boozing and smoking sarcastic pessimist - runs his own book store. He doesn't like people who buy books and hates his customers. He has one employee: Manny. Manny looks more like a bum, never stands up for himself when he is the target of Bernard's sarcasm and is always full of stress. Next door to Bernard's shop is the Nifty Gifty gift shop run by Fran, probably the only friend Bernard has.
The humor is perhaps not to everybody's taste. I guess not everybody will understand and appreciate the sarcasm and surrealism in this series, but I loved it. I would give this series a 10/10 if we could vote on it.
In real life Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) the owner of his own book shop would be horrible. He'd be hated the world over, but in this natty little sitcom he's thigh-slapping hilarious. Most of the time Manny (Bill Bailey) doesn't need to say anything, his facial expressions are enough to have you rolling on the floor with tears of laughter. I once saw Bill Bailey doing stand up and thought he was great so I'm pleased to see him in something like this. Fran (Tamsin Grieg) is almost the straight man of the group. She's not as cranky as Bernard and she's not as out there as Manny, she's a nice blend. The episode in which she did yoga and declared she was 'so relaxed you could pour me into a bowl' was a definite highlight.
As a reviewer said before - the more you watch it the funnier it gets! My friend and I regularly have email conversations during the day just consisting of Black Books quotes and who can remember the funniest ones! A little obsessive I'll admit, but the show deserves such a following!
If you can, get hold of the DVD of the first series. Apart from the wonderful out-takes, there's also a running commentary from all three of the excellent actors involved. Their insights into the series will make you appreciate this unique show all the more.
This series (soon to return for a second series!) was poorly promoted by channel 4 (usually so good at getting great little comedies recognised - Spaced, Father Ted etc), and didn't get seen by anywhere near the audience it deserved. The storylines are always pretty wild - Manny absorbing the Little Book of Calm into his system in the first show - and never set in reality, ever. However they are never stupid because they are so wildly funny! The surreal adventures of Bernard and Manny are excellent - full of movie references, full of great dialogue and surreal action. As a sitcom it just sparkles with ideas, energy and imagination - for the first showing Ch 4 had it following Friends and it totally showed Friends up to be mass-produced, thoughtless entertainment. Sure, BB doesn't have the gloss of Friends and can feel a bit rough round the edges but you can't beat the fact that it feels fresh and new compared to all that gloss.
The chemistry between Bernard and Manny is great - even if their dialogue is mad at times. Bill Bailey is very funny doing stand-up and here he is really suited to Manny. Moran as Bernard is also great as the abusive drunk Irishman and is just so manically funny - not manic like Phoebe in Friends but manic like Jack in Father Ted. Tamsin Greig is also good as Fran, despite being a smaller character.
Overall this is a flagship for all that is good about channel 4 comedies - British, clever, imaginative, daring and very funny. Well done channel 4!
Manny Bianco (Bill Bailey) is a kind hearted accountant with a stress problem. After accidentally swallowing 'The Little Book of Calm', Manny wanders aimlessly into a London book shop. Meeting eccentric, miserable Bernard L Black (Moran), Manny begins a new and infinitely more torturous life. Teaming up with Bernard's old friend Fran Katzenjammer (Tamsin Greig), the two spend their days hanging around the shop, getting drunk and above all else, trying not to sell books.
From the first moments of the opening episode through to the last moment of season three, nothing prepares you for the wit and visual humour of this series. Often ridiculing the types of people you see on the street, Moran's series has always thrived on it's dark character.
Led by a brilliant performance by Moran himself, the series is well stocked with performances by British televisions finest sitcom comedians. Graham Linehan, Simon Pegg, Martin Freeman, David Walliams and Kevin Eldon, all wonderful comedians in their own rights, all make cameo appearances throughout the series. Ultimately though, we watch it to see how Manny will suffer next and how Bernand will respond to a perfectly harmless comment. Bernard L Black is an anti-hero of the finest calibre.
The series is self contained as well. A fan of "Fawlty Towers", Dylan Moran has suggested that the series would follow that route and finish on a high. So with no more episodes after the known 18, it's possible to examine "Black Books" as a completed article.
Every comedy series does have it's low points, and sadly "Black Books" is no exception. Just like the later series of "Red Dwarf" or the final few years of "Allo Allo", this wonderful comedy dropped a bit in it's standards during it's middle season. With a group of episodes that, while occasionally funny, were mostly badly thought out, the second series is a permanent blip on this masterful series.
Luckily for fans however, unlike those series which do get increasingly worse after a cut off point, Moran released a third series of "Black Books" which was admittedly different in tone to it's predecessors, but which is rejuvenated and fresh. Beginning with a masterful episode called "Manny Come Home", series three gets off to a brilliant start and rides the waves to an equally hilarious conclusion.
Overall, "Black Books" is mostly hilarious. With plots which dipped during the second series, it still managed to keep the humour throughout. This is mostly due to a masterful performance by Dylan Moran as the miserable and alcoholic Bernard L Black. Supported by excellent performances by Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig, Moran thrives in the dank and dirty world of "Black Books". Whether this series will last as long as other classic British comedy remains unknown, but for now it's absolutely wonderful.
Black Books is a bizarre mix of comedic styles, but the whole thing somehow manages to work together. All three main characters have great chemistry and that is probably the real secret. From the commentary and outtakes on the DVDs, they seem to really have fun being silly together.
Black Books is a great deal of fun and well-worth renting. Here's hoping that this comedic team keeps on creating work of this caliber.
This is one of the funniest shows I've seen in a long time, and, in my opinion, ranks alongside Spaced. The humour is brilliantly surreal, the first episode featuring Bernard picking a fight with a group of skinheads to avoid filling out his tax returns "Which one of you bitches wants to dance?", and Manny accidentally swallowing and absorbing "The Little Book of Calm". This leaves him wandering the streets in a peaced-out fugue, wearing a hospital gown and sandals.
It's only a shame I missed the first two series when they were broadcast, as the third series is about to start and I've not seen the second.
The cast is grate, the character superb and the script is first rate. Going from satire to insane in the time it take to drink bottle (or ten) of wine.
I for one can put up with a few more series of this.
The storyline found within Black Books is fairly straight forward, following the lives of three characters: Bernard Black, an alcoholic, short-tempered bookstore owner (the bookshop in question being the show's title, Black Books), Manny, his employee/slave and Fran, a friend of Bernard's that regularly hangs out with them. The show follows of life of Bernard's book-shop, with the series almost exclusively set within or around the bookshop. The various plots revolve around the idea that Bernard is, for all intents and purposes, a cranky alcoholic bastard that treats his only employee, Manny, terribly and expects him to wait on him hand and foot. The group go through life trying to be cool and trying to succeed and this leads to quite a few funny situations.
The acting is just superb, in fact after watching this it would be difficult to see Dylan Moran (who plays Bernard) in any other role than a cranky, alcoholic bookshop owner. Bill Bailey's portrayal of Manny is equally amazing, with neither actor breaking character for even a second. The third key character (and, indeed, the only time another character is ever seen they are around for one episode and vanish, giving the whole show the entire focus on just the key characters), that of Fran, is equally played well, though the character herself is not quite as interesting, as such she often comes off as somewhat of a less significant character than the two men.
The humour found within Black Books is, at times, very odd. In fact, unless you can laugh at the mistreatment of a character to the extent of Manny's suffering or find the constant and never-ending failure of their lives entertaining then you may not find much to laugh about in this show. The main focus on the humour is rather downtrodden, there is rarely any success of joy found in the show and even when there it is inevitably leads to even greater failure. However this is also compelling and actually makes for great comedy, despite how absolutely dull it may seem.
If you are somewhat on the fence about this show then I'd highly suggest watching an episode or two, regardless of in which order as nothing really progresses in an overall sense. The humour can be rather bizarre at times and the overall feeling is that life is depressing, but it somehow combines to make an almost charming comedy about a grumpy bookshop owner and a lively, eager assistant. There is never a moment that feels forced and even when the humour doesn't work it still adds something. I highly recommend this, there is almost no reason not to at least give it a try!
RATING: 9/10- An almost must watch for fans of British comedy.
These 3 characters all compliment each other well and provide the audience with plenty of laughs. Some of the stuff they go through is hilarious as well as something that most can relate to. I would say it's a mix between Bottom and The IT Crowd.
The 1st and 2nd series where extremely funny and it felt like it was a laugh a minute. The 3rd series was also very good apart from 1 or 2 episodes which didn't quite hit the spot for the entire episode. One of my favourite scenes is Manny making toast in the bath! Overall it is a great comedy series with 3 lovable characters who all add something to the show. You can buy all 3 series on DVD for a cheap price so I would highly recommend.
There's Bernard Black, the owner of a small bookshop in London, a grumpy irish man who loves to drink, smoke and complain about life. He hates customers and his only contact with the world outside is his best friend, Fran Katzenjammer who owns Nifty Gifty, the shop next door (at least, for the first series). Finally there is Manny, Bernards accountant/assistant. He cooks, cleans and does about everything else for Bernard. He is usually happy but is sometimes quite immature (cutting his toast into soldiers and putting them into rank!).
Black Books, aired on Channel 4 (as far as I know) in 2000, followed their hilarious, drunken and stupid adventures in and outside Bernard'd shop. Brilliant.
Manny..."This is lonely soldier.....my co-ordinates are...bookshop!"
Fran..."I do sell a lot of w*** don't I?"
The book-lover...."Hello.....I'd like to buy a book" Bernard..."What book?" The book-lover..."I dunno....I'm just in the mood to buy a book"
Manny..."What's that you're eating?" Bernard..."It's some kind of.. delicious biscuit" Manny..."It's a coaster!" Bernard..."What?!?....Are there any more?"
We did manage to tape 2 episodes, and despite the poor quality of the tapes that the kids used to record them, we (me and the older kids) watch them about twice a week!
The 13 year old can imitate Bernard uncannily, and when I am grumpy, he just needs to 'do' the above quote and I fall about laughing.
I hope it comes back for a third run. I saw Dylan Moran at the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago and fell about at his 'stand up' act.
I love Bill Bailey with his innocent look and his flowing hair. And Fran's little cameo pieces are wonderful. By the way, she plays Debbie in 'The Archers' She plays a very different sort of character!
Further good news, series 1 is now out on DVD and video and also a third series has been green-lighted.