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4.8 out of 5 stars
Black Books: Series 1 [DVD]
Format: DVD|Change
Price:£2.95+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 January 2015
Somewhere in London, there is a tiny indie bookstore run by the rudest and most misanthropic Irishman since Father Jack Hackett.

Nobody in their right mind would actually shop at Black Books. But watching it? That's a whole other story -- "Black Books - The Complete First Series" is one of the funniest and most underrated Britcoms in history, mixing gloriously wacky dialogue ("I ate all your bees!") with characters so dysfunctional that it is amazing they can even stay alive. This is one of those rare shows that is practically perfect in every way.

Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) runs Black Books in the heart of London... except he seems to have started his business without the awareness that PEOPLE come to bookstores. As a result, he does whatever he can to avoid selling or buying books because that would be work he doesn't want to do. His only friend is Fran (Tamsin Greig) who owns a pretentious junk store two doors down.

But when his accountant runs from the police, Bernard has to do his own taxes -- and after failing miserably, he tries to find a way around it. Self-mutilation and hanging out with door-to-door missionaries are some of his options. His saving grace might be Manny (Bill Bailey), an overstressed accountant who accidentally swallowed and absorbed "The Little Book of Calm," turning him into a holy avatar of relaxation advice.

Bernard drunkenly asks Manny to work at his store, and with some violent intervention by Fran, Manny settles into the filthy little apartment behind the bookstore. Of course, there's immediately lots of comedic mayhem -- they must recreate a bottle of unique wine for the pope, Manny becomes a 70s cop and a beard-prostitute, Bernard ends up wandering the streets all night, and Bernard and Fran swap stories about how he broke his arm (drunken dinner party) and she broke her neck (relationship drama).

"Black Books" was co-created by Graham Linehan, who also made "Father Ted" and "The IT Crowd. It's honestly a shame that it hasn't gotten the widespread love that those shows have -- this is one of those comedies where everything is just RIGHT. The cast, the characters, the writing, the mundane situations blossoming into sheer absurdity -- this is comic gold in every vein.

This is one of those shows that takes something mundane -- house-sitting, taxes, dinner parties, getting locked out -- and explodes it into absurdity. For instance, Bernard's attempt to do his taxes leads to him shrieking "What? What?" and gibbering about his mother. To avoid doing them, he ends up entertaining door-to-door evangelists, tries to get a customer to kneecap him, and eventually starts provoking skinheads in the street. And this isn't even the weirdest thing he and Manny get up to -- they practically act out the whole Frankenstein scenario while trying to create a wine out of household items.

It doesn't hurt that the dialogue is gutsplittingly funny ("Right now I'm eating scrambled eggs, with a comb, from a shoe!"). Every scene and subplot is packed with this sort of interplay, like Bernard hanging out in a porn shop asking for the most obscure kind he can think of ("Senior Administrative Nurses"), just so he won't have to pennilessly wander the cold wet streets for a few more minutes.

But the real crowning gem is the cast. All three of them have superb chemistry with each other, and they fill their roles out nicely -- the hardcore misanthrope, the nice guy, and the sensible person who deals with them both. Series co-creator/star Moran is absolutely hysterical, with his mad-scientist hair and his constant efforts to keep people out of his store, but there's something weirdly endearing about Bernard's grumpy-cat face and constant complaints. Maybe he just voices some of the less-tolerable thoughts we all have ("You know what you are? You're a beard with an idiot hanging off it").

But don't downplay how much Greig and Bailey bring to it -- Bailey plays a sweet innocent guy who balances out Bernard's sourness while sometimes living in his own little world, while Greig plays a hilarious woman who has a disastrous love life and a shop full of useless gadgets she can't even identify. And if you squint, you can find early appearances by pre-fame Martin Freeman and Nick Frost.

"Black Books - The Complete First Series" is one of those rarest of sitcoms: the ones that are actually good and funny almost all the time. No one can truly call themselves a Britcom fan unless they've seen this one.
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on 18 March 2002
I first saw Black Books properly for thhe first time when the recent second series began and found it to be a highly inventive and original take on the sitcom format, the three leads; Dylan Moran, Tamsin Greig and Bill Bailey work exceptionally well together and the funny lines just keep on coming.
Anyone who has seen this first series on T.V. will know that no other actor can play a drunk like Dylan Moran's 'Bernard Black'
This dvd has some funny out-takes, but it's the cast audio commentary that is absolutely fantastic ! Moran, Greig and Bailey are so self-deprecating about their performances and are constantly ribbing each other. Moran keeps commenting on how badly written the script is and seems to act exactly like Bernard Black would if he was asked to do an audio commentary ! Tamsin Greig makes fun of Bill Bailey's hair and says that Dylan Moran looks like he was on drugs during the series.
This could very well be the best comedy dvd on the market, i just could'nt recommend it more highly. Buy Now !
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on 11 February 2002
When I first watched "Black Books" on the television, it was by accident. I was flicking through the channels and happened upon this, and so decided to watch it. I was not disappointed in any way, shape, or form. Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey make the perfect partnership, respectively the owner and employee of a small bookshop. These two and the owner of next door's shop, Fran, then get into various hilarious situations in each episode. Tremendous comedy and well worth buying if just for the security door episode. Fantastic!! Buy it now!!
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on 7 March 2002
I Pre-orderd the DVD and it arrived through my letterbox on the day of release. I couldn't wait to get home from work to watch it.:)
The series is great, one of the funniest I have seen for ages. I laughed out loud more times than I can count.
On top of that, it has some great extras. The cast commentary is very amusing and there are out-takes. It's nice to get some extra material for your money.
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on 27 January 2002
Bernard Black is the only man in the world who should not run a shop at all, let alone a book shop. From begining to end he is rude, obnoxious, dirty, fowl and drunk so he is absolutely perfect for the role of the book shop owner in this comedy situation.
Dylan Moran (Bernard) is brilliant really capturing the essence of top notch comedy and revolting and idiotic behavior. When Bill Bailey (Manny) turns up on the scene he tries, to no avail to get on with Bernard and to fit in with his Strange world. His friend fran from next door helps with the consumption of the wine and adds some of the best laughs of wich there are many.
Enough to last all week easy in this series with Bernard, Manny and fran drinking all the wine in the country. Having visits from troublesome customers, jahovas witnesses, old friends, cleaners and all the men that fran makes her way through. This one is a real gem of a show and one you will watch again and again.
Its BAFTA winning stuff that will have your sides aching and the tears rolling, but its tricky to tell you how good this programme is without letting on any of the plots. You will just have to buy it and will not be dissappointed, trust me.
Fans of Spaced, Big Train and We Know Where You Live will really apreciate this one as well.
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on 18 July 2004
Whoever decided to put Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey together as a sort of dysfunctional 'Bert and Ernie' deserves a medal; Bailey's upbeat, enthusuastic Manny is the perfect foil for Moran's sulky, deadpan, drunken Bernard - owner of the 'Black Books' store where most of the action is set.
The plots are sometimes almost non-existent but the scripts are always funny and it is difficult not to fall in love with the main characters, even when they are being obnoxious to one another. The extra's include cast commentaries for every episode (in which they constantly take the **** out of themselves) and outtakes.
Black Books is clever, funny and quirky and better than any other TV comedy in recent years. Do yourself a favour and buy it.
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on 11 February 2002
Black Books is a brilliant comedy with very clever plots and one liners. Bernard says all the things that you want to, but would never dream of actually saying them.
It takes a while to adjust to the characters but once you are there they are very easy to relate to.
Black books is easy to follow and excellent to bung on if you need a good chuckle for half an hour. Every thing I look for in a comedy series is here.
The best comedy since spaced. Roll on series two!
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on 12 February 2002
I've been rewatching the series on Channel 4 recently, and it's as good as I thought it was ( I have a habit of remembering a series as funnier than it actually was).
When they collected the BAFTA one of the cast said "I guess this means we get a second series" It had better!!
the series didnt do as well as Spaced or League of Gentlemen, but I think it will be a slow burner that will pick up more and more people as word gets about.
All I need now is a wicker toilet, some esspresso, and an all night Sweeny marathon.
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on 6 June 2011
If you like comedy you love this Bill Bailey and Dylan Moran are hilarious. Black Books is a second-hand bookshop in London run by an Irishman named Bernard Black(Dylan Moran). He is probably the planet's least-suited person to run such an establishment: he makes no effort to sell, closes at strange hours on a whim, is in a perpetual alcoholic stupor, abhors his customers (sometimes... More physically abusing them) and is often comatose at his desk. Help comes in the lumpy shape of Manny Bianco(Bill Bailey) , a hairy, bumbling individual who becomes Bernard's assistant. Manny is not exactly great at the job either but he is a million times better than Bernard. Next door is Fran (Tamsin Greig), an anxious, frustrated woman who runs a sort of new-age shop selling the most unlikely bits of arty junk. Fran is friends with Bernard and, through him, with Manny; together the trio become embroiled in escapades that are sometimes extreme, fantastically ludicrous, and always bizarre. The show has won two BAFTA awards and one Bronze Rose award.
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on 15 January 2009
There has not been such a great classic comedy series since the days of Blackadder or Fawlty Towers. Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig star in this hilarious comedy about bookshop owner Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) his assistant Manny Bianco (Bill Bailey) and their friend Fran (Tamsin Greig) who owns the shop next door. Bernard loves wine and books , but hates customers and following a drinking session reluctantly hires Manny. Manny accepts and moves into the shop, despite advice from Fran to run away. The relationship between Manny and Bernard is one of the key comedic themes of the series developing into one of mutual dependence, though neither would admit it, with Fran stuck in the middle as a mediator, with a some bizarre adventures of her own thrown into the mix.. My favourite episodes are "Cooking the Books "and the bizarre "The Grapes of Wrath" which sees Manny and Bernard attempting to recreate vintage £7000 a bottle wine in a hysterical scene reminiscent of the creation of Frankenstein . Two more series followed and my advice would be to watch all three back-to-back frequently.
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