Black Books

⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on 3 reviews.

tl;dr: A classic of British irreverent humour, in no small part because of the excellent cast. Inventive, always entertaining, and downright hilarious at times, even if some episodes have aged a little (though, thankfully, rarely in a gross way).

Season One

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I recently learned that Alison had completely managed to avoid Black Books whilst we were at university. Considering that my house had a regular ritual of watching the show and I've likely seen every episode dozens of times, that was both impressive and in immediate need of fixing. I double-checked that our mini-moon accommodation would have a DVD player, and secretly packed the boxset to take with us – which turned out to be the ideal way to wind down at the end of a day 😏

I must admit, I had been a little concerned that the show wouldn't have aged that well, but the pilot is so damn strong that was put to rest immediately. In fact, I'd say my one irritation on rewatch is that the first episode is just too good; they never really meet that standard again. It introduces the characters well, sets up some fun running gags, and the final twist with the Jehovah's Witnesses and Bill Bailey is just *chef's kiss* 👨‍🍳😘

Which isn't to say the rest of the season isn't still good fun, but that moment is hard to beat. In fact, several of the best episodes are scattered in here, including the Doctor Frankenstein homage and The Big Lock-Out, where Bernard has to survive a night locked out of the shop, whilst Manny is locked in. Overall, though, still a very easy-to-watch comedy, now feeling very much like a slice of a particular era in British television, and hilariously packed with cameos.

Season Two

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

What better than to spend an evening binging Black Books and slowly making our way through our own tasting session of local whiskies 😉 There are a few moments where the writing dips this season, and several episodes that do little to advance anything, but it always has great fun taking a specific joke and running it out. The gangster episode is a great example, and one of the best of the season. Still, some slower moments don't quite hit the same heights, such as the heatwave episode, where Fran and Bernard both get fun, intertwined arcs, but Manny's "Dave's Syndrome" is just a bit, well, weird. Very of-the-era absurdism though, I guess.

Season Three

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Finally addresses a few of the narrative issues, such as what has happened to Fran's store, but also feels like the show was running out of money a little at times. Still, there are some great episodes and the finale does a good job of tying things together, even if they do end up repeating the "Manny is leaving, Bernard is a bully, Fran is destructive" plot a little too much. A few solid cameos and some excellent moments though remind you that, when the show hits its stride, it is hard to beat.

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