Black Books: The Complete Third Series

Black Books: The Complete Third Series


Reviewed by: David Stanners

Having been plunged into the world of Black Books' moronic humour - after bypassing the first two outings - the experience was a happy one. In this series, Bernard (Dylan Moran) is still the morbidly depressing bookshop owner, happily subjecting his faithful cohort Manny (Bill Bailey) to all sorts of degrading activities in his tip of a shop. Fran (Tamsin Greig) completes the threesome, vying against Manny for a job, getting drunk a lot and generally doing very studenty things in her thirties.

In episode one, Bernard is forced against the grain into some kind of competition with his next door rivals, Goliath Books, whose squeaky clean manager (Simon Pegg) has pinched Manny as a trainee. Bailey is as wacky as ever here, sleeping over at Goliath's after getting kicked out by Bernard and then explaining to the boss in the morning that he is practising some special yoga positions from his sleeping bag.

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Episode Three, entitled Moo Ma Moo Pa, is ideal for Bailey's zany personality and refers to how Manny greets his mum and dad. Somehow, you wouldn't be surprised if this was a real life trait. Meanwhile, Bernard and Fran are subjected to Manny's hovering parents, who believe that Fran is Manny's girlfriend and Manny is a partner in Black Books. Naturally, all goes topsy-turvy in true melodramatic fashion.

One of the best episodes features Bernard on a gambling binge. After being introduced to the horses by Manny, he heads down to the bookies and meets a hustler who cons him into playing high stakes poker. In a cruel twist of fate, he calls on Fran and Manny for help. They pose as colourful Las Vegas gamblers and end up teaching Bernard's conman a thing or two.

The writers and directors have got it spot on in Series Three. They highlight each of the three characters in different episodes, allowing them all a chance to shine. Bernard's perpetually morbid vagaries could grow tiresome were it not so deftly juxtaposed with cracking physical gags from Greig and Bailey, who seem tailor-made for this kind of comedy. The best example is when Manny and Fran are both competing for the affections of a famous travel writer. Manny's unwavering sycophantic behaviour is hilariously undermined by the cold cynicism of Bernard, who sizes up their visitor as an arrogant, toffee-nosed, I've-been-to-more- places-than-you type of bore, which is what he really is.

This is definitely not everyone's cup of tea. It will appeal to those who liked the anarchic slapstick humour of The Young Ones. Crude physical gags and immature slothful behaviour aplenty, students will revel in it.

Reviewed on: 18 Oct 2004
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Black Books: The Complete Third Series packshot
The Black Book Trio are back with even more morbid humour in their third series.
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Director: Martin Dennis, Graham Linehan

Writer: Kevin Cecil, Graham Linehan

Starring: Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Tamsin Greig

Year: 2004

Runtime: 147 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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If you like this, try:

Black Books: The Complete 1st Series