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Black Books



Funny, offbeat Britcom is doused in alcohol.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The three main characters have serious flaws, including various neuroses, anti-social behavior, and drunkenness. But somehow the mixture works for their friendship.


What little violence there is (mostly fistfights) is always played for laughs -- but does occasionally result in bloodiness.


Lots of innuendo and jokes about characters' sexual encounters, promiscuity, and homosexuality.


Occasional use of "ass," "bitch," "damn," and "hell." Exclamations like "Oh Christ!" are more common.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One main character is an alcoholic who's rarely without a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. His friends often join him in his drinking. Much of the show's humor revolves around the ill effects of his dependency, which are always played for laughs.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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.

TV details

Premiere date:December 9, 2001
Cast:Bill Bailey, Dylan Moran, Tamsin Greig
Network:BBC America
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byindependant April 9, 2008


Not much to say. The previous reviewer has laid out the synopsis for anyone who needs exhibition. This program is no longer running, but can be seen on the BBC and DVD.
Teen, 17 years old Written byIan D. March 21, 2012

Hilarious Britcom.

This show is about an Irish drunk named Manny who owns a bookshop, and his friends Manny and Fran. Violence is very mild and slapstick. Language is moderate, "bloody" is used a lot, and some other moderate language. Sex references are also moderate, however never gets to bad. The alchohol is plentiful, HOWEVER parents shouldn't be conserned about it, unless their kids imitate everything they watch on TV. Overall, the show is great for teenagers and up, because it isn't much worst than american sitcoms now. However, I don't think anyone under 10 should view this.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old July 4, 2015

The funniest show in history, is awesome but also pretty inappropriate

The characters are all very inapropriate, they are all alcoholics and they get drunk all the time. They also talk about prostitutes and one drinks a very bad type of alcohol which makes him go crazy and eat bees. Characters also swear nearly every episode and they use a popes death as a joke. One character gets really drunk in a episode and tells a kid about bad things and he also poops in bidet. In one episode a character has too much coffee and goes crazy and fakes being a police man. In one episode a man wants to disable himself to avoid doing his tax. Great series, but not for everyone.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking