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I love British sitcoms, as some of my previous reviews might indicate. They seem so much braver than American ones do, particularly in their willingness to create totally horrible characters, and to put them through the ringer.
"Black Books" exemplifies these two traits very well. Featuring a primary character who's a completely horrible individual (yet somehow strangely fascinating) who more often than not is put into embarassing and horrible situations.
This is Bernard Black (Dylan Moran), a misanthropic drunk who runs the titular bookstore, which he seems to do so he has an excuse to read books when he's not drunk or recovering from a hangover (a rare occurrence), rather than to actually sell books to customers. One of his very few friends is Fran (Tamsin Greig), who runs the knick knack shop next door, and who is almost as much of a drunk as Bernard, although she's less of a misanthrope. Into their lives comes Manny (Bill Bailey), a rather naive and overstressed former accountant whom Bernard inadvertantly saves in the first episode and who becomes Bernard's assistant.
The series takes these three characters and throws them into horrible but funny situations. Manny finds himself mistaken for a police officer after drinking too much coffee. Bernard has to retrace his steps to figure out what horrible thing he did at a dinner party the previous night to cause some friends of his to pretend he doesn't exist. Bernard again has to spend the night wandering the streets after being locked out of the shop by Manny, who inadvertently locks the front door without remembering the code to unlock it. And there is episode after episode like this.
It all mounts up to be a very funny show. Bernard is such a terrible person that it's such a joy to see him act like a total git to a poor customer, and just as much fun to see him totally humiliated or put into a bad situation. The other two main leads are more sympathetic, but it is still fun to have them embarrased by the situations they're forced into.
So far I have only seen the first of three seasons of this show, but if they're all like this, I can't wait to see the other two. This is a gem of a sitcom, and you should check it out if you can get your hands on it.