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How can the concept of a drunk owning a bookshop be surreally funny? Well,Black Booksmay be owned by Bernard Black on screen, but off screen it belongs to writer-director Graham Linehan ofFather Tedfame, that’s how. His writing partnership with Dylan Moran (Black) produced the strangest situation comedy of 2001, fully deserving its British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award. The almost blissfully vague plotline begins when stressed-out office worker Manny Bianco (Bill Bailey) accidentally swallowsThe Little Book of Calm. Somehow his beard and Bernard's booze get on well enough for them to work together in the shop. They're ably assisted/distracted/confused by the hormonal interruptions of neighboring storeowner Fran (Tamsin Greig). And that’s about it. But across six episodes, this first year crammed in an enormous amount of insanity and sight gags. Definite highlights include Fran's over-the-radio seduction by Shipping News broadcaster Howell Granger, a good cop/bad copSweeneyspoof and a cameo by Nick Frost (Mike inSpaced) as a more than slightly over-the-top security system installer. The standout episode is "The Grapes of Wrath," in which Bernard and Manny agree to babysit a valuable wine cellar. No prizes for guessing what happens! Kevin Eldon guest stars as The Cleaner, declaring the shop to be "dirty." Manny already knew that. When he made the appointment he had to confess, "Right now I'm eating scrambled egg with a comb out of a shoe."--Paul Tonks
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review by . February 08, 2006
I hate sitcoms. Let me tell you why I hate sitcoms: the viewer is expected to suspect -- for the most part -- all disbelief at otherwise reasonably intelligent characters performing utterly insane activities all for the sake of a laugh. In the end, people of modest know-how are knocked a few pegs down the evolutionary ladder, landing somewhere near the chimpanzee, and I'm supposed to find that laughable.    Enter BLACK BOOKS. Here, a curmudgeon of an intelligent man wears the …
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