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Black Books DVD

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How can the concept of a drunk owning a bookshop be surreally funny? Well, Black Books may be owned by Bernard Black on screen, but off screen it belongs to writer/director Graham Linehan of Father Ted fame, that’s how. His writing partnership with Dylan Moran (Black) produced the strangest situation comedy of 2001, fully deserving its BAFTA. The almost blissfully vague plotline begins when stressed out office worker Manny Bianco (Bill Bailey) accidentally swallows The 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 neighbouring 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 cop Sweeney spoof and a cameo by Nick Frost (Mike in Spaced) as a more than slightly OTT Security System Installer. The standout episode is "The Grapes of Wrath" when Bernard and Manny agree to baby-sit 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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