Bernard and the Jehovah’s Witnesses
The paralysis of the Jehovah’s witnesses never gets tiring to watch. The scenario is quite simply genius. One must not forget that sitcom stands for situation comedy. All too often the situational aspects are replaced with dramatic ones (Black Books risked this with one or two suggestions of a romance between Bernard and Fran, but thankfully never strayed down this path). The series always retained the comic situation at the centre of every episode, and this example has to be one of the greatest. The extras clearly love it too. Sheer brilliance!
No one will deny the mess Bernard and Manny live in. It is part of their shared kingdom, and the objects with growths are merely paraphernalia. The threat on their kingdom by the cleaner incites fury and panic in our heroes. So much so that cutting remarks are constantly made, in this instance “I don’t trust him; he has no nasal hair!” It is beautiful to watch with what exuberance Bernard is willing to defend his lifestyle, partially because of his ego and partially because he has known nothing else. In the logic of Black Books, there is nothing strange about a table that lifts with a coffee cup.
I ate all your bees!
Both hilarious and touching, this scene with the bees must be one of the most quoted in the entire series. In its most fundamental formation, all it is is bizarre. There is, essentially, nothing funny about it; the humour comes into play with the seriousness each of the characters puts onto the situation — in a way, parodying the melodrama cliché of overemphasizing and overacting absolutely everything — and the facial expressions of the talented cast, which harks back to a purer time in comedy when Charlie Chaplin was king.
Fran’s confused attraction towards Hal is so well portrayed that the power of his ridiculous voice comes across as a universal truth. This scene exhibits Tamsin Greig at her finest, in my opinion, showing absurdity with honest competence and proving once again that she was perfectly cast in the role of our unambitious and (unfortunately) underachieving heroine. Shameless as ever, Fran comes up with a pathetic excuse to get out of the awkward situation without bothering to stick around for any explanation. There’s something admirable in that, isn’t there?
All children look surprised!
Perhaps from the greatest episode of all, The Blackout, which has multiple recurrences of the phrase “What happened to you?” A really important question when you remember as little as Bernard or suddenly appear with a broken neck like Fran (another amazing moment). The cherry that sweetens the entire scene is Bernard’s accusation of the child being a smoker in an attempt to transfer blame — just another instance of his own touching childishness. This marries good acting, a great situational set-up, and very quotable one-liners: winner.
Have You Watched Black Books?
Please, let us know in the comments! What are your favorite scenes of Bernard and Manny and Fran? Or maybe you haven’t watched the saw yet in which case there’s only one thing left to say…
Stop what you are doing.
Start watching Black Books. Seriously.