Black Books (2000-2004):
The Premise: Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) is the alcoholic, misanthropic owner of a book shop in London. Probably his only friend is Fran (Tamsin Greig), the equally alcoholic but somewhat less misanthropic woman who owns the gift shop next door. When Bernard’s accountant goes on the run, he hires former accountant and recent stress victim Manny (Bill Bailey), a well-meaning buffoon, to keep the store from going under. Wine is consumed. Cigarettes are smoked. Customers are abused. Books, despite Bernard’s best efforts, are sold.
Let me just start by saying that this show is both hilarious and very British. So if you hate those two things, then I guess you should probably leave, and have your friends keep an eye on the site so you can come back when we’ve gotten around to reviewing something serious. I’m terribly sorry for the inconvenience. If you are, however, the kind of person who likes comedy and has at least a faux understanding of British culture, then read on, friend. Read on.
Let me start again by saying that Bernard Black is a contemptible, rotten man. He’s insulting, selfish, needy, and somewhat filthy, in the sense that he has bad hygiene. Many of his lines are witty, biting insults aimed at people who probably don’t deserve it. He’s childish and sarcastic, but damned if I don’t want to grab a bottle of cheap wine and join him in mocking the rest of the world. You know how nerds love people like Iron Man and the hip, new Sherlocks? And you know how those characters are intelligent, sarcastic assholes? Well, Bernard is a bit like that, except not so insufferably smug all the time. He’s smart and scathing, but not once have I wanted to slap him in the face.*
Let me continue this write-up by saying that not all of the one-liners go to Bernard. Manny and Fran both get some excellent lines, and possibly less than half of those are insults. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. On top of the biting—and in other ways verbal—humor, there is also a fair amount of what I believe is called “situational comedy,” as well as a healthy dose of surrealism. It all combines to make an excellent, unique black comedy with weird, lovable characters and what is certainly the best use of a white suit that I’ve seen in quite some time.
If you’re still not convinced, then I leave you with this:
Just watch the show, already. The episodes are only half an hour long, and there’s only three seasons. You nerds can burn through it in a weekend. God, nerds. You’re always taking.
*I’d say that was just a personal thing, but we should all know by now that my word is law. If you want a different word to be law, then please write to your Congressman requesting that I be put on some kind of government kill list.