Black Books was a British sitcom broadcast on Channel 4 starring Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig. It was written by Dylan Moran, Graham Linehan, Arthur Mathews, Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley and produced by Nira Park. The show won the BAFTA for Best Situation Comedy in 2001 and 2005, and won a Bronze Rose at the Festival Rose d'Or of Montreux in 2001.
The series is set in the eponymous "Black Books", a small, independent bookshop in the Bloomsbury area of central London. The show is based around the lives and often surreal antics of its foul-mouthed, eccentric, misanthropic, alcoholic Irish owner Bernard Black (played by Moran), his assistant Manny (Bailey), and their friend Fran (Greig).
The series revolves around Bernard's loathing of the outside world and all the people who inhabit it, except his oldest friend, Fran Katzenjammer. Bernard displays little enthusiasm or interest in retail (or, indeed, anything outside drinking, smoking and reading) and refuses to interact with anyone outside his bookshop. Many episodes are driven by Manny and Fran's attempts to force him into a more socially acceptable lifestyle. However, despite their attempts, and Manny's strong social skills, their efforts usually result in chaos, sucking them back into Bernard's nihilistic
view of the world.
The series is notable for its surreal, and off-beat, sense of humour, particularly when regarding the state of the shop: It is frequently depicted to be in an unhealthy state of dirtiness, indicated in one episode by sea-water molluscs living on the water pipes and, in another episode during a particularly bad state, a dead badger on the floor.
- The show's concept came from a second hand bookshop in Maldon, Essex named Allbooks.
- Black Books is considered by the makers, as stated in the Shaun of the Dead audio commentary, to be a sister-show of fellow Channel 4 sitcom Spaced, which was also produced by Nira Park. Numerous comic actors have appeared over the three series, including Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jessica Stevenson and Peter Serafinowicz.
- The show started as a pilot at a 1998 Channel 4 sitcom festival in Riverside Studios. In this early version, Fran was 'Valerie', a philosophy lecturer, and Manny (whose surname was then Zimmerman - a reference to the original name of musician Bob Dylan) was a professional depression-o-gram. The show was also decidedly darker, the pilot revolving around Bernard and later Manny's decision to commit suicide.
- The exterior scenes of Black Books were filmed outside a real bookshop, albeit rather a smaller one, called Collinge & Clark, located in Leigh Street, Bloomsbury. The pub that is seen in the earlier episodes is now a 'gastropub' restaurant called the Norfolk Arms. The fictional address for the shop (as seen on a letter at the start of "Travel Writer") is "Black Books, 13 Little Bevan Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1". Also in episode 6 of series 1 Manny cites the shop as being located "just off Russell Square".
- Manny's name came from Emmanuel as he was originally going to be Jewish.
- There have been three series of Black Books, each with six episodes. Moran has hinted that there will be no more series , and The Times reports the series has been "killed off" .