A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that one of the main characters in this offbeat British sitcom is a chain-smoking, bad-tempered alcoholic who's rarely shown without a drink and/or a cigarette in hand. Each of the three main characters is afflicted with various eccentricities that are further exaggerated for comedy. Conversations often touch on sexuality (including drunken encounters), homosexuality, and the positive aspects of heavy drinking, but the rolling repertoire of jokes keeps the tone light and the laughs coming. While it definitely isn't meant for general family viewing, teens (and their parents) who can take the rampant bad behavior in stride will enjoy the show's wit, sarcasm, and delightfully flawed characters.
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What's the story?
In the darkly funny British sitcom BLACK BOOKS, Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) is the proprietor of a London bookstore -- which wouldn't be such an odd career choice if it weren't for the fact that he loathes people in general and his store's patrons in particular. Fortunately (according to the show, anyway), he has a high tolerance for alcohol, which he depends on to wear down his rough edges when he's forced to interact with the unwitting customers who wander into Black Books. Drink firmly in hand, he occasionally manages a few decent words before running the literary lovers out the door with his verbal abuse. The store's accountant Manny Bianco (Bill Bailey), on the other hand, possesses the patience of a saint, thanks to a freak incident by which he gained inner peace after he accidentally ingested a tiny, dog-eared copy of The Little Book of Calm -- purchased, coincidentally, at Black Books -- and started spewing the book's nuggets of wisdom to everyone around him. As the two polar opposites cope with the uncertainties of their working relationship, Bernard's pseudo-friend, Fran (Tamsin Greig) -- who runs the high-end curio shop next door -- pops in and out of Black Books to add her own neuroses to the already madcap cocktail of personalities.
Is it any good?
As twisted and alcohol-soaked as it might be, witty writing and a sharp cast make Black Books as much fun as happy hour at the neighborhood pub. If your teens can handle the adult-oriented subject matter -- which often includes jokes about sexuality and the upside of continuous intoxication -- they'll probably get as many laughs as you do out of sadistic social misfit Bernard and his unlikely circle of friends.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the realities of drinking. How does Bernard's apparent addiction affect his anti-social behavior? How does the show make light of alcoholism? What other ways do the media portray drinking and "partying"? Why does drinking play such a big part in social situations? Have teens been at parties/other events where people have been drinking? What did they do? How would they handle it if a friend wanted to drive drunk? Parents can use this as an opportunity to remind teens about the dangers of alcohol abuse.