Black Books: Series 1, Episode 6 “He’s Leaving Home”

Wherein everyone is talking at Manny, and Fran and Bernard confront a harsh reality.


Being alone and cynical has its merits. You can concentrate on yourself, do the hobbies you like to do, the world’s your oyster, why, you even have time to perfect that world-weary shake of the head at every stupid thing humanity does! Yet it rarely endears you to other people. The funny thing about Black Books, and sitcoms in general, is that these characters wouldn’t be funny in real life. Bernard would  be an anti-social weirdo, Fran would be an alcoholic shopkeeper with a wreck of a social life.  Yet it’s all somehow made okay by the connections they have with each other, and more importantly, with Manny. Connections make us feel more alive, more engaged, they make us feel normal. We are social animals, genetically designed to seek some degree of companionship, no matter how stand-offish we put ourselves out to be.

So it’s no surprise that the end of the first series comes back to how much these characters need each other. It’s interesting that it’s the final episode of the first series that revisits the earlier Odd Couple dynamic. When Manny is shown to be branching out into other social circles, Bernard’s neediness rears it’s head and he becomes extremely jealous, taking on the persona of the disapproving parent. Bernard’s own insecurity that the person he’s invested even a sliver of emotion into could leave at any time could leave, goads him into chasing Manny away. Bernard and Manny’s relationship is glorious to behold largely because Bernard wouldn’t admit to having an actual friend. It takes on so many forms, it runs the gamut from coworkers to roommates, a Frankenstein to his Igor, a Blackadder to his Baldrick, to a parent and their child. It cannot be defined, it just is.

Which leads to the other blow-up of the episode. When Fran learns that Manny’s left she’s furious and not like in a fun sort of way. Despite going to the police (where they are mistaken for a grief-stricken if acrimonious couple looking for their missing child) there’s no sign of him. Fran’s genuinely sad that a new, good part of her life is gone. When Bernard tries to cheer her up by dressing up in loud, flashy clothing and serving her cocktail sausages*, it just makes her sad and mad. Indeed, Manny filled a new role within their lives and it’s something that Bernard alone cannot fulfill.  The two confront the fact that while they were friends, they mostly just sat together drinking. They weren’t necessarily together, they were just alone together in their misery. Fran resolves not to see Bernard for a while.

Without Manny, life is just a Yo!

Manny, in the meantime, gets to have his own Midnight Cowboy homage. Yes, Manny, despite being a (sometimes) intelligent thirty-ish adult, is getting  groomed by the shady photographer Trebor (Omid Djalilli) into men with great big bushy beards. I wonder if he ever knew Sergeant Popwell. We get a requisite “Everybody’s Talkin” scene while Manny wanders alone in the city and another of Manny living it up as a Beard Boy  set to “Gold” by Spandau Ballet. Alas, Manny’s days as a rich dish come to an end when his photographer friend attempts to sell him off for a night with some shady Japanese businessmen.

Manny’s return to the shop largely left unremarked. Fran sees him stocking books again, and the trio are back together where they belong.

This episode is an excellent wrap for Series 1. While delivering some excellent laughs as always, it also makes a strong case for why these characters should even be around each other. They are all in some way elevated by their interactions with each other, but mostly Fran and Bernard. Manny brings a lightness to their lives that might otherwise be drowned out by their mutual negativity. All he asks for in return is to be sheltered from the world’s dangers in some fashion until he matures. Huh.

Streaming? How Do?

Black Books is available for online streaming via Hulu, Vudu, Amazon Prime, or via the Channel 4 website for UK viewers.

Stray Observations

  • Title references the Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home”
  • Fran asks for white wine at the Police Station when filling out a missing child report.
  • Bilingual Bonus Points!
    • The magazine that Trebor sells photos of Manny to is 夫きいひげ (The subtitles have it as Big and Beardy). Though I think what they meant to use was             大きい ひげ lit: Big Beard.
    • 「大丈夫!心配ありません!ドウゾ!ドウゾ!」

It’s okay. There’s no problem! If you please!

  • 援助交際 or Enjo Kosai is the concept of compensated (though not necessarily sexual) dating. Manny would appear to be familiar with this.
  • Where. Can. I.  Purchase. Bernard’s. Ridiculous. Cufflinks.
  • Omid Djalilli who plays Trebor has appeared including, amongst many other things were two terrible things like Notting Hill and Sex and the City 2. But what I was not aware of was an episode of Harvey Birdman!

Quotable Quotes

  • Fran: Well, where is he? How can I find him?Bernard: Well, you could become a terrible event and happen to him.
  • Fran: You said he had a funny smell.Bernard: He did. He did. He had a living beetroot smell.
  • Fran: Goodbye Bernard, I don’t think I want to see you for a while. <slams the door>


Fran: Forgot my bag!


And that will do it for Series 1! Comment and quote away, feel free to point out any trivia you are privy too!