How Well Do You Remember “Black Books”?


By: Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: Big Talk Productions / Channel 4

About This Quiz

To be in someone's "black books" means to be on bad terms with them. "Black Books" was a series largely about being in someone's black books. Sometimes this meant the protagonists were trying to ingratiate themselves to someone, and occasionally someone from the core trio would try to repair the relationship of the other two, having fallen out. Most of all, the programme was about people who can see their flaws but don't want to or are incapable of fixing them.

The quirks of the core characters complement each other, and the comedic byplay is rooted in both wordplay and physical comedy. Bernard Black is often inscrutable, expressing himself through vitriolic, rhythmic dialog. Manny's emotions are visually expressed through his posture and his physical reactions, especially to Bernard's outbursts. Fran is a bit of both. Into this rotating maw of needs, vices, and opinions, enters a host of guest characters played by comedic actors who can be seen on some of the top television series and feature films today. "Black Books" is a time capsule of the genesis of the comedy that came to dominate the last two decades and gave rise to the entertainment landscape we enjoy now. Test your knowledge of it, and see how your memory measures up!

How many times did Bernard hit on Sarah, Gerald's girlfriend?

Bernard's ability to remember all the social faux pas he committed in the course of his social life is hampered by his vices. With some prodding, Fran gets Bernard to admit his transgressions.


Can you recall the name of Fran's shop?

Fran's shop, which can be best described as a store that sells ... "things" ... is called Nifty Gifty. From this and her inability in the pilot episode to understand what objects she sells, it is clear why her shop fails.


How does Manny dress for his visits to his psychotherapist?

Bernard's abuse drives Manny to see a therapist, whose method is, apparently, to say nothing. Manny comes out of his session energised and full of confidence. He returns to Bernard, standing up for himself so effectively that it drives Bernard to go to therapy himself.


Do you remember the combination to arm the high-security door Manny had installed in the shop?

Locking the door is easy, especially since the combination is so incredibly simple, but the combination to unlock isn't just long and complex — it is unknown. When Manny receives the combination, he is distracted by a toy in the security company man's hair and doesn't pay attention.


What was the name of the girl who moved into the new room created by Fran's awful landlord?

When Fran's landlord wants to squeeze more money out of the property, the landlord does this by moving the walls in on Fran's space, creating a spare room that is rented out to a girl named Alice. When Bernard comes to confront the situation, he promptly falls in love with Alice.


Here's something that slipped Bernard's mind: a piece of information about his mother. Can you say what it is?

Bernard isn't a detail oriented person. When asked on a tax form for the name of his mother, he is left without a clue as to how to fill in the section asking for his mother's name.


Which of these has Bernard called Fran?

When Fran needs a job to look good on the application for another job, she asks Bernard for short term employment in his bookstore. When Bernard responds with a resounding "no," and Fran inquires as to why, he explains she is unemployable.


How does Fran get Bernard to give her a job in his bookstore?

Fran usuallly knows how to push Bernard's buttons. When Bernard turns Fran down for a job, knowing that he is obsessed with gambling, she offers him a bet that she will never find another job. Bernard takes the bet and gives her a job, to win.


What is the first name of the character played by the actor who voiced Darth Maul?

Peter Serafinowicz, who recorded the voice of Darth Maul in the "Star Wars" prequels, played the role of Howell Granger in "Black Books." Howell is a former classmate of Fran who, despite her loathing of his personality, melts her with his voice.


Do you recall which year the first season of "Black Books" premiered?

"Black Books" premiered in 2000. That year was a time of tremendous change, with the ubiquity of mobiles, the reign of New Labour, and the rise of the comedy stars now making up the entertainment firmament.


What is "The Elephant and the Balloon"?

Great authors are often strange people, but Bernard and Manny take this to a new level. When inspired to write a book for children, they pen "The Elephant and the Balloon," a book with adult themes and nothing a child would enjoy or understand.


A cat inherited the building in which Black Books rents space. Can you remember the cat's name?

Bernard's landlady dies, leaving her property to her cat. Bernard is desperate to rid himself of the cat. He even resorts to offering an exterminator £1,000 to kill the cat.


In what other bookshop-related film has Dylan Moran appeared?

Dylan Moran played a character very similar in demeanor to Bernard Black in the film "Notting Hill," in which he played a shoplifter in the bookstore owned by Hugh Grant's character. In the movie, he is caught.


Which of the following is not a hidden meaning of Fran's surname?

Fran Katzenjammer's surname is a German expression with several meanings. On the one hand, it means the awful wailing of cats. It also means, colloquially, a thing that brings one back to reality, or a hangover, which can really be the same thing.


Where is the real-life bookshop owner on which Bernard Black is based?

Dylan Moran, who created "Black Books," cites a bookshop owner he met in Dublin as the inspiration for the programme's protagonist. He is quoted as saying this man "has this green bilious expression, years of displeasure have shaped his face."


Who played the doctor who diagnosed Manny's internal injuries from swallowing "The Little Book of Calm"?

When Manny winds up in the hospital from accidentally swallowing "The Little Book of Calm," which fell into his soup, it is a doctor played by Martin Freeman who gives him the news that the book will either kill him instantly or slowly. In the end, Manny and the book become one, and he lives.


During the filming of which season of "Black Books" was Tamsin Greig pregnant?

Tamsin Greig was pregnant during the filming of season one of "Black Books." She and her husband, Richard Leaf, who she wed in 1997, had their first child in 2000, followed by two more.


What is "Dave's Syndrome"?

During a heatwave, Manny complains about how he suffers from "Dave's Syndrome," which kicks in when the weather is hot enough. Bernard does his best to make Manny as hot and miserable as possible, with cataclysmic results.


How does the final episode of "Black Books" end?

Bernard does not like to go out and socialise. To get him to do this often requires some sort of inducement or trick. In the final episode, Fran and Manny trick Bernard into going out, where he meets a woman he is interested in, and they go home together.


Do you know the name of the song Bernard and Fran claim they can play together on the piano?

With Manny hiding in Fran's piano, she is able to convince a blind pianist that she and Bernard can play exceptionally well, but when Manny leaves, exhausted, things take a turn for the worse. Fran and Bernard are caught on their lie when they claim to be able to play the duet "Flight of the Seven Million Bumble Bees."


What does Fran do to avoid spending time with family?

Genealogical research leads Fran to the family she did not know she had, who live nearby. In the end, she cannot stand them, and to escape their need for favors, specifically being driven about, she sets fire to her own car.


Into what type of business is Black Books turned for a brief time?

After a renovation that draws in many new customers, Bernard and Manny get ahead of themselves and decide to turn the bookstore into a restaurant. The restaurant is a complete failure.


Manny placed two bets on The Grand National. Which horse won the race?

Manny's bet on the Grand National is an each-way bet, meaning that it does not matter if the horse bet on comes in first or second in order to win. The bet Manny makes on behalf of Bernard is on Inner Space, the horse that comes in second.


How much was Le Vin du Rosier worth?

When house-sitting, Manny confuses his instructions on which wine is for drinking and which wine is for collecting. The result is that the pair down a bottle meant for The Pope, called Le Vin du Rosier, worth £7,000.


What is the name of the bookstore that moves in next door to Black Books?

One of the largest wedges driven between Manny and Bernard is when Manny leaves to work at Goliath Books. There, Manny's manager, played by Simon Pegg, tortures him with every conceivable piece of corporate new-speak.


What act does Bernard find most difficult?

Bernard loves to be miserable. He loves to rage against tormentors. It isn't so much that Bernard is a martyr, but rather that he genuinely loves misery. When Bernard bungles a relationship, he refuses to apologise both because he is too proud, and because he enjoys it when things don't go well.


In which episode does a star from the series "The Crown" appear in a guest role?

Olivia Coleman appears in Season 3, Episode 2, "Elephants and Hens" as Tanya, one of Fran's friends, at the hen night she attends. Upbeat and optimistic, she has no idea what the night has in store for them. Later, Tanya accuses Fran of being jealous of all her friends.


A travel writer makes Manny jealous when he flirts with Fran and refuses to take Manny on his adventures. What is the travel writer's name?

Jason Hamilton, who Manny calls "a giant in his field," is a special guest at an event at Black Books. Jason puts down Manny's "adventures" and quickly turns his attentions to Fran. Fran is skeptical at first but is quickly won over by Jason's charm.


Which skill is not possessed by Danny Spudge?

When Gus, an old friend of Manny's, calls in a favour, it involves ex-con Danny Spudge. Spudge, a former enforcer for organized crime, is trying to clean up his image with a ghost-written autobiography. The problem is that though Black Books will host a reading of the book, Spudge cannot read. Bernard and Manny must teach him how.


What activity does Fran cite as having changed her life?

When Fran takes up yoga, she temporarily gives up all her vices and comes off as insufferable to Bernard when she turns down anything he deems fun. When offered her favourite cake, she turns it down, tells Manny to close his eyes and relax, and eats the cake.


Bernard frequently violates Manny's personal space. Do you remember what Bernard put under Manny's bed?

Bernard is protective of his home and shop and controlling toward Manny. He predicts Manny's behaviour when Manny quits, spies on him through peepholes, and at one point, hides a baby monitor under his bed.


For what is the restaurant "The Mortuary" known?

When Bernard, Manny, and Fran are on the hunt for a restaurant to which to go, Fran brings up The Mortuary as a possibility. She explains how it is very new and very cool, and how they serve no vegetables, only dead animals on little headstones.


What wordplay is at work in the names of Bernard and Manny?

Bernard Black is a strong character, thus needing a strong counterbalance. That foil is found in the form of Manny Bianco, whose surname means "white" in Italian.


When did the final season of "Black Books" first air?

The third and final season of "Black Books" aired in 2004. Following the end of the series, several cast members, including Dylan Moran, Peter Serafinowicz, Nick Frost, and of course, Simon Pegg, appeared in the film "Shaun of The Dead."


As what animal is Manny dressed when reading to children?

When Black Books hosts an event for children, Manny dresses as a "book worm" for the sake of the children, who spend his performance pulling at his beard and demanding things of him. After suffering this abuse, Manny proposes to Bernard that they write a children's book together.


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