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The Longevity of Black Books

Updated on March 11, 2017

Since the conclusion of the last episode (sob) in 2004, Black Books has continued to draw audiences through sales and reruns. For those of the uninitiated, the classic comedy series, set mostly in a London bookshop, Black Books ran for three, six-episode seasons and introduced many unsuspecting audiences to the likes of Bernard Black, Manny Bianco and Fran Katzenjammer. Following after television shows that won the hearts of Anglo-comedic-philes such as Monty Python, Keeping Up Appearances, and Blackadder, many critics were saying that the sit com format was a dying art form. Enter the brilliant minds of Graham Lineman, known for co-creating Father Ted and The IT Crowd, and Dylan Moran, an Irish stand up comedian in his own right who has performed to sell out shows around the world. Moran and Lineman managed to make something that brings out the laughs in even the most surly person as is epitomized in the classic Bernard Black Friday night outlook:

Friday Night

A combination of practical slapstick, visual gags and pure randomness is what keeps drawing viewers back to a story which centres around the disassociated-from-society, obnoxious bookshop owner, Bernard Black, and his not-so adventures with his friends. The wit of the writer-director team is joined by Bill Bailey, who is a master of many instruments and a comedian who quite possibly deserves the 'best comedian of his generation' title. He has a huge following of his own with popular shows such as Cosmic Jam, Part Troll and Tinselworm. Lastly, enter Tasmin Grieg in her first major role, who balances the eccentric wit of Moran-Bailey, and who has starred in other great shows such as Green Wing and, more recently, Episodes. One of the best scenes that showcases their chemistry of each of the characters is when Bernard Black pits Manny and Fran together in order to sell books, with Manny approaching the challenge in unusual ways.

All the cast members were brought together and the television show debuted with its first episode back in 2000, which is one of the greatest pilots ever. The set up in 'Cooking the Books' shows us just what to expect of Bernard as he goes through great pains when doing his taxes.

But perhaps, the best and most enduring memory and hook of the show is Manny Bianco's search for 'The Little Book of Calm' to quell his anxiousness amidst his job dissatisfaction, an event that carries through to hilarious conclusion that involve him not only ingesting said book, but leaves him hospitalized and finally sees him venture out into the Burroughs as a slightly baffled, saint-like figure.

It is a rare thing to like each and every episode of an entire series. Just glancing at some popular classics such as Faulty Towers and American sitcoms such as the long winded Scrubs, is a reminder that not every episode sizzles. But Black Books is, as short lived as it was, is the Monty Python of the early 2000s, and remains as the following clip compilation attests.

Which is the best Black Books Episode?

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© 2017 Jesse Short


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