Part of the success of Black Books (2000-2004) is the winning combination of actors: Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, and Tamsin Greig. Moran, creator and head writer for the show, is a successful comedian across the globe and has gone on to do films like Shaun of the Dead and Run Fatboy Run, both with Simon Pegg, who guest stars in one episode of Black Books. Bill Bailey is another successful comedian/comic who has played many roles on TV and film, such as in Hot Fuzz. Tamsin Grieg is the star of basically all the best current TV, including Friday Night Dinner and Episodes. Of course, it’s hard to miss super star guest appearances by Martin Freeman as the doctor in episode 1, Nick Frost who installs the alarm system with a figurine in his hair, Jessica Hynes as Fran’s yoga-loving buddy, Green Wing‘s Julian Rhind-Tutt as the adventurer/author Fran falls for, Peter Serafinowicz’s deep voice, Johnny Vegas as the sleazy landlord, or Rob Brydon as Fran’s new boss. But did you notice these…?
You’ve seen him in Game of Thrones, Spaced, Miranda, Hardware, Derek, Doctor Who, Not Going Out, High-Rise, Inside No. 9…I mean, the list of things Tony Way hasn’t been in is probably shorter. In “The Big Lock-Out,” Manny has accidentally locked Bernard out of the bookstore (and his apartment), leaving Manny trapped indoors and Bernard trapped out of doors. He spends all his money at the cinema where Way’s character works. Without any money, Bernard takes up a temp job at a fast food joint… where Way’s character also works.
Co-writer of season 1 Graham Linehan appears in the first episode as the customer who loves books! Linehan appears again in “The Big Lock-Out” as a man struggling to put up with Bernard’s poor skills as a burger clerk. Linehan is, of course, famous for writing Father Ted and The IT Crowd.
In “He’s Leaving Home,” Manny runs away from home, and like a young, naive girl, winds up in the home of a pronographer, played by famous standup comic Omid Djalili, who you’ve seen in many things, including American films like The Mummy.
In the same episode, a customer comes in and complains to Bernard, “You know, I’m probably getting a lot of secondhand smoke from you,” to which Bernard replies, “Don’t worry about it. Buy me a drink sometime.” This customer is, of course, the Walliams half of the David Wallliams/Matt Lucas double act.
In “Travel Writer,” Bernard meets Purcell LeHarding LeTouche (Alice Lowe), his landlord’s lawyer who confirms that Hanley, now dead, has left everything to his cat. Lowe has a tremendous filmography, including Sightseers, Hot Fuzz, Sherlock, and the underrated My Life in Film. She also has two stories in the book Dead Funny Encore.
Perhaps one of the most obvious ones, comedian/ventriloquist Nina Conti plays Bernard’s true love, Kate, in “The Entertainer.” Unfortunately, his attempts to win her over with his (pretend) piano skills not only exploits Manny’s kindness but is also foiled by Fran’s intervention. “She thinks I’m the Renaissance!” complains Bernard. “I’ll have to go along with all this reclusive genius stuff. She’s going to be very upset when she finds out I’m a reclusive wanker.”
In the best-ever episode “Grapes of Wrath,” Manny invites around a cleaner to get the jam off the ceiling and the beans out of the spiderwebs. The creepy cleaner, who shows up in a mint-green suit, is played by Kevin Eldon, who has appeared in, well, everything, from Hot Fuzz and Spaced to It’s Kevin and Big Train. At the end of the episode, after Fran discovers her date is gay, she finds a new date with the cleaner.
“A Little Flutter” is an episode jam-packed with cameos, first up, Mac McDonald, an American who comes in with his whiny wife. He’s looking for modern warfare books and epitomizes the rude American attitude, not least of all calling Bernard a “Scotchman.” You have, of course, seen McDonald in numerous things, including Red Dwarf as the captain.
Same episode, Justin Edwards, who you’ve seen in The Thick of It, The Trip, Skins, and even Veep, is a customer kidnapped by Bernard to first play poker and then play live jazz.
Same episode, Bernard gets addicted to gambling and winds up in a cardshark den where he meets a variety of interesting characters with ridiculous nicknames, like Dave “Mouse Ears” Smith, played by Keith Allen. Yes, the Keith Allen from, like, music and stuff. Comedian, actor, broadcaster, father of Lilly Allen. With mouse ears on.
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