Black Books: Season 3
April 30, 2005
Channel 4 is home to many of the greatest comedies on British terrestrial television, and although most are American, one British made funny-fest shines above all others. After the sad demise of ‘Father Ted’ Channel 4’s comeback was ‘Black Books’. Black Books, is a tiny little shop somewhere in London and is so called, because it is a bookshop, owned by despondent eccentric and alcohol lover, Bernard Black, masterfully played by Irish stand-up comic Dylan Moran, who also co-writes.
Dylan Moran’s back up hasn’t changed from the previous seasons and still comprises of stand-up comic Bill Bailey, who plays shop assistant and general slave, Manny Blanco. The two comic geniuses play well off each other as Bernard’s wine consumption and open ‘Basil Falwty-esqe’ hostility towards customers clashes with Mannys hippie placid nature and efforts to lead a normal life.
The comedy is offbeat as Bernard makes ludicrous demands to ‘hover the roof’ and ‘don’t you dare use the word ‘party’ as a verb in this shop!’ The surreal wackiness ensues in the style that fans of ‘Bottom’ ‘Father Ted’ or ‘Fawlty Towers’ will appreciate. Most accurately demonstrated in the scenes where Bernard and his friend Fran find a fully stocked cocktail bar under a table in an Italian restaurant or where he tries to kill a cat that’s recently inherited the bookshop.
The special guests in Black Blacks are plenty, but none come better than in the episode ‘Manny Come Home’. Manny has accepted a job at the rival bookstore next door, Goliath Books, which comes complete with all mod-cons and potential psychotic team leader, Evan, played brilliantly play Simon Pegg. Other guests to watch out for are Annette Crosbie, Sam Kelly and Manny’s parents in ‘Moo-Ma and Moo-Pa’. Also look out for Lucy Davis as well.
The plots are not structured in any particular arc, so anyone could jump on at any episode in any season and immediately understand what they were watching. Surprisingly, in the last episode, ‘Party’, there’s a brief attempt to put some soul and development into the Bernard character, which is then spoilt for the sake of a gag, but let’s hope this is an indication for the future of Black Books.
Watch the nonsensical, surreal and sometimes slapstick comedy through 6 episodes, with the bookend episodes being the best and the sandwiched middle episodes really letting the side down. After winning a BAFTA in 2002 for Best Situation Comedy, the third season of Black Books is nowhere near as good as the others, but if you’re sick of or unimpressed by ‘The Office’ this is the way to go.
After the depression, following the fact that season three wasn’t up to scratch the extras will put that smile back on your face starting with the delightful menus. Using the exterior of the bookshop, the windowpanes and shop signs to manoeuvre around the disc, we find that selection of the extras takes us into the shop and to the grotty shelves. Now using the spines of the volumes that sit upon the shelves we can browse through some hilarious deleted scenes for each episode and the gag reel is none too bad either.
There is also a picture gallery and feature called ‘Bernard’s Letter’, which is a small piece that looks like an arty student film. In this Bernard receives a letter from a publisher, rejecting his novel and then responds in true Bernard fashion. Any devoted fan will really appreciate this extra.