Complete first series of the situation comedy based on the testing times of Bernard Black (Dylan Moran, who also co-writes), misanthropic bookshop owner extraordinaire. Bernard loves books but hates customers, and his approach to capitalism is only matched by Fran (Tamsin Greig), the owner of the 'Nifty Gifty' giftshop nextdoor. When Bernard's accountant goes on the run he is replaced by oddball accountant Manny Bianco (Bill Bailey) who saves Bernard from the terrors of doing his own book-keeping, and proves a hit with the customers. Further episodes see this mismatched retail duo becoming obsessed with the Sweeney, getting into hot water during some routine house-sitting, and suffer defeat at the hands of the new shop security system.
One of the few genuinely outstanding British comedy shows of the past decade, Black Books
unites excellent comedic performances, very funny scripts, and plenty of rewatch value.
The concept is simple enough. Bernard (expertly played by Dylan Moran) runs a bookshop. The only problems are he can't stand people, hates customers, and would far prefer to be barking out cutting remarks and drinking wine. Still, it's after drinking much of the aforementioned wine that he offers Manny (Bill Bailey, again in terrific form) a job. Manny accepts, and finds his daily life involves taking abuse from Bernard, while remaining strangely and resolutely upbeat. Fran (Tamsin Greig) meanwhile also likes her wine, and finds herself stuck between the two of them, with a few odd encounters of her own thrown in too.
So far nothing particularly out of the ordinary, right? Well, mix in some of the creative force behind Father Ted, combine those aforementioned performances, and simmer to the point where episode after episode garners a cocktail of sniggers and belly laughs, and you have something really rather special. Like many of the best shows, the curtain has come down on Black Books after only three series. But the long-lasting legacy are episodes that are set to be enjoyed for a long, long time to come. --Simon Brew