Monday, 4 July 2016


“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” - Charlie Chaplin

We’ve recently finished watching the 2000-2004 British TV series Black Books created by Dylan Moran and starring Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig. In the 18 episodes of the series the cast manages to survive creating and playing this eccentric, offbeat and surreal comedy, which sometimes touches on the extremes of cartoon character capers.

Bernard Black (Moran) runs his own (mainly) second-hand bookshop even though he doesn’t like people who buy books and hates having customers, as well as detesting most other people in general. Next to Bernard’s shop is the Nifty Gifty gift shop run by Fran (Greig), who looks like she is the only person in the world who can tolerate Bernard and his bizarre behaviour. When Bernard’s accountant goes on the run because of shady dealings, Bernard employs stress victim and equally unconventional Manny (Bailey) to help him in his shop. This leads to mayhem and quite unbelievable (but often hilarious) misadventures with the mismatched trio managing to survive each precarious predicament they land themselves in.

The series is a typical British comedy series with much black humour, erratic and overdone plot lines, much slapstick, but also full of witty one-liners and occasionally great pathos, which is quickly defused by cartoon-like violence and lines that fall into the bathos of questionable taste. Overall it’s a crazy sit-com with unpredictable, fast-moving action, breathless repartee and a maddening pace.

The leads have great chemistry, with Moran as the alcoholic, chain-smoking, socially inept, misanthropic bookshop owner, Bailey as the anxious, long-suffering, sometimes talented and always capitulating shop-assistant, and Greig as the lonely, insecure and compromising hanger-on who acts as the adhesive to bring together everyone and everything into a tightly-knit comedic success.

Watch it if your funny bone is tickled by British black comedy and surreal dialogue/plots, but also be warned that there is much foul language, alcohol and tobacco use, drunkenness (with the positive aspects of being blotto extolled!), sexuality – in fact nothing much is sacred! We found it curiously addictive and found ourselves laughing often and being quite amused more often. I do hate the canned laughter in all of these shows… Why do they do it?

1 comment:

  1. My goodness, was it that long ago? I used to really enjoy it! Now I want to see it again; I will try You Tube. Thanks for the reminder.
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