Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Black Books: The Grapes of Wrath - Dr Frankenstein Makes Some Wine

As is most often the case for me, the shows that I love best are short lived.  Whether it be the classic 80's sci-fi cop show, Automan (1 Season, 13 Episodes), the awesome 90's War of the Worlds series (2 Seasons, 43 Episodes) or Black Books, which lasted only 3 Seasons, but carried a scant 18 episodes (only 6 per season).

Black Books is possibly the most hilarious British Comedy I have ever seen.  Actually, let me take that a step further.  It may quite possibly be the most hilarious TV Show, EVER.  Each episode is a masterwork in humor.  A perfect mix of dry British humor and absolute absurdity mesh together in the story of Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) and his second-hand bookstore.  Along with his assitant Manny (the ever hilarious Bill Baily) and next door shop owner Fran (Tamsin Grieg), the trio quite often stumble through the daylight hours in various hungover states while getting themselves into ever more ridiculous situations.  Perhaps someday I will write up a full entry on the series, but
today I really want to talk about one of my favorite episodes, called The Grapes of Wrath.

The episode beings with a monastery in 1900 Bordeaux where monks discover grapes grown from a thorned rose bush.  According to a prophecy, these grapes will be made into a wine which would be fit for the Holy Father himself.  Back in present day, we find that Manny is getting distressed by the filth in the store and the living quarters behind it.  He calls in help from a creepy fellow simply called The Cleaner.  Bernard is not very happy with Manny (as usual) protesting that the apartment isn't that dirty.  When the cleaner arrives, they are told that they will need to vacate the living quarters while he cleans.

As it so happens, their friend Freddie is going away and asks the boys to house sit for him.  Not having anywhere else to go, they agree.  Once at Freddie's they are given the tour.  Freddie takes Manny into the basement and shows him two wine racks.  One large one is full of ordinary wine and they can drink as much of it as they like.  Next to it is a smaller rack with old dusty bottles of wine, which are quite expensive.  One of them, called Le Vin du Rosier is to be presented to The Pope.

Freddie leaves and the boys make themselves at home and get to drinking some wine (which is a very common pastime for them).  When going down to the basement to get another bottle, an inebriated Manny mixes up the wine racks, and grabs the Le Vin du Rosier by mistake.  They drink the entire bottle and it is only afterward that Manny realized his mistake.  Looking up Le Vin du Rosier in a wine book, he discovers that it costs £7,000 (over $11,000 USD)!

The two of them concoct a scheme to replace the wine with a homebrew "Super Wine" by combining different wines, some nutmeg and a branch from an Oak tree.  This is one of the most hilarious scenes in the entire series.  Bernard becomes a vineyard Frankenstein, with Manny taking up the role of his Igor.  Manny (after chipping his tooth on some Taffy and an accident with a neck massager which leaves him with a cricked neck and a limp) shuffles back and forth bringing Bernard his needed ingredients.  Bernard cackles maniacally as he (in his mind) skillfully blends the ingredients.....and even beating him after sending out to grab some Oak from the tree outside.  I must have rewound this scene about 12 times, laughing harder each time.  It is truly comedic gold.

There is a subplot involving Fran's date with a clearly gay man, which is pretty humorous as well.  Fran's failed attempts at being seductive are quite amusing, indeed.  Naturally the date fails and at the end of the episode, the shop and Bernard and Manny's apartment are back to messy status.  Manny shows Bernard a newpaper stating that The Pope has died from ingesting inferior wine and Fran shows up with her new date.......The Cleaner.

Black Books is available to watch streaming on Netflix and on Amazon Instant Video.  If you have not seen this series, do so immediately.  If you love British comedies, then you will undoubtedly love Black Books.

1 comment:

  1. UK residents can also watch all of Black Books for free via '4 On Demand'...