If you've recently heard a spout of loud laughter and wondered where on Earth it was coming from, I apologize. See, I just got done watching the first season of Black Books, thanks to it (and all three seasons) being available to watch for free on Hulu. It's one hilarious show, and I don't usually find many shows funny. Often, they gotta work real hard to make me laugh, but Black Books can now be added to the list of ones that do, which includes Seinfeld and The Office.
Set in the eponymous Black Books, a used bookstore in all states of disarray, the show focuses on a trio of characters. There's Bernard, a curmudgeon alcoholic who hates just about everyone, especially customers; there's long-haired Manny, a bumbling assistant that is as quirky as he is kind; and there's Fran, man-hungry and fierce, as well as Bernard's only true friend. Together, they have adventures, some more surreal than others.
Season one is a short thing, with only six episodes to its name. "Cooking the Books" is a "get to know" everyone sort of episode, with the funniest bit being Bernard's successful attempt to annoy a local group of skinheads. "Manny's First Day" is well...self-evident, but I highly enjoyed Fran's impression of her best bud, as well as the bar scene where job details were discussed. "Grapes of Wrath" is my all-time favorite, and there's a bunch of scenes that get me chuckling. Bernard eating a coaster, Manny slowly turning into Igor, the dirty bookshop. So great. "The Blackout" is a mystery episode, wherein we are trying to figure out what happened and why to both Fran and Bernard. It's not the best episode of the bunch, but Manny finds himself in trouble when pretending to be a police officer...and it snowballs from there. In "The Big Lockout," Manny has a security system put in for the bookstore, but accidentally locks himself in and Bernard out. Laughs ensue when Bernard is forced to hole up in a fast-food joint to pass the time. "He's Leaving Home" is the last episode of the season, and it focuses on Manny, who is not taking any more crap from his pessimistic boss and heads out into the wild to start anew. Unfortunately, he meets the wrong man, and it's all downhill from there. A good ending though, one where we actually feel like these characters are friends despite everything they do and say.
But yeah...the episodes are very much alike in structure. They like to snowball or convene a lot at the end, often setting up obvious jokes from the beginning, but fitting them in perfectly where needed. Not a ton of pop culture jokes, which is good, considering the show was on the air from 2001 to 2004, and most of them might not have made much sense today. Multiple plotlines jump back and forth, but it's pretty easy to follow. The show has an obscure, down-in-the-dumps humor to it, where the glass is always half full and emptying, but there's a good bit of slapstick, too. Works well with each other.
Anyways, I'm looking forward to finishing up season two soon.
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