Black Books: Series 2, Episode 2 “Fever”

Wherein Fran find the walls closing in on her, Bernard tries to find a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and Manny desperately tries to avoid his own Tempocalypse

Original Air Date: 3/8/2002

Heat can do things to people. There’s nothing worse in the summer than an unrelenting heat wave. It’s too hot to sleep, it’s too hot to think straight, and if gets too hot then you might be liable to go crazy. It’s an amazing coincidence indeed then, that all three of these things happen to our hapless shopkeeps. Fever sets our main characters at odds with each other while having to deal with outside forces.

Of the three subplots, I probably liked Fran’s the most. Poor Fran finds herself in a pretty awful situation. While the heat rages on, she finds her flat slowly shrinking in size. Her sleazy landlord created a new flat solely to creep on a young woman. First enlisting Bernard(whom poses as a lawyer) to scare the young woman off, then utilizing her feminine wiles to trick her landlord into putting things back the way they were. Fran’s really done nothing wrong here, she doesn’t deserve any of this she just wants to sleep. Yet, she lost most of her apartment thanks to the lust of a landlord, she’s betrayed by ‘her oldest friend’ for that same woman, and her last resort is to turn that same lust against her landlord to get things back to normal.

Bernard is seeking distraction from the heat and his lolly isn’t helping.

wine lolly.gif

Since increasing the heat on Manny only takes up so much time and having Fran around creates an assumption amongst his customers that Fran is his girlfriend, Bernard decides to find a someone to date More specifically, he wants to find a ‘Summer Girl”. He finds it in Fran’s new neighbor. Naturally, Bernard’s awkwardness is turned up to 11 in the heat and completely overdoes everything. He puts her on a pedestal, gives her flowers and wine, Bernard so fully given to the idea of dating this girl that she’s not even aware that’s what he’s trying to do. She thinks he’s just an overly involved lawyer.

I find this interesting because I do think that what he is describing here is essentially to prototypical Manic Pixie Dream Girl. A girl who’s alive and wants you to feel alive and dance in the grass without shoes and one whom you dump because she’s your summer girl. It goes to show the concept had been out there in the ether, but it didn’t have a Nathan Rabin to give a name to it yet.

Manny gets the slightest story among our characters this time around. Though it has perhaps the best ending the show has ever produced. His ominous pleas to Bernard to not let him get above 88 degrees, only prompt Bernard to torture Manny by increasing the temperature in some way, just to see what happens. The best gag is a neat reversal of an earlier innovation in the episode: whereas earlier they were handing out chilled copies of “Tempocalypse” to customers, Bernard puts the last few copies in foil in the oven to put Manny over the edge. While we don’t see immediately what happens, we do know it ends with Manny shirtless, ‘Eat Me’ written on his chest on top of a car, having wrecked the neighborhood. “Dave’s Syndrome” they call it.

I liked I really liked how the episode sort of brought the worst out in the characters. Fran is driven to violence due to her lack of sleep and the complete indifference to her feelings on display from her landlord, but especially Bernard, whom both seek favor from the woman screwing Fran over. Bernard’s looking for a distraction from the heat so he tortures Manny and tries to do the summer love and romance thing. It is spectacularly shitty, however, of Bernard to screw over Fran for her neighbor and then attempt to hook up with her later while the heat lingers. It is, however, incredibly classy of Fran to brush it off and continue to be his friend. And, while easily the most comical of the plots, Manny’s heat-related mania ties rather nicely into his own earlier characterization as being manic unless he’s calm. Too much hot weather causes Manny to lose his ‘cool’ so to speak. Very fun episode.

Streaming? How Do?

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

Stray Observations

  • Manny has the ability to discern types of sand and geographic location by taste. Presumably a skill developed from Bernard having one too many customers returning trash books after they’re done with vacation,
  • Speaking of trash books, how about ‘Tempocalypse’? She’s 29, she’s a temp, she’s got to balance her life of filing and data entry with a plot to stop nuclear war. Sounds like something an increasingly desperate Janet Evanovich would write.
  • Bernard, for all of his faults, apparently knows wine well enough to send along good bottles to Fran’s neighbor.
  •  “Dave’s Syndrome” mean anything to our UK friends? This an in-joke that’s not scanning for a Yank?

Quotable Quotes

Fran: Okay, if I told you that the walls of my flat were actually moving in, would you think that I was strange?

Bernard: No, I’d ask you to come ’round and look after my small children.

Fran: You bastard! You nine-sided whore!

Manny: Is space hot?

Bernard: Of course it is, where do you think we get pineapples from?

Bernard, on his Manic Pixie Dream Girl:

“No! No! You’re my summer girlfriend – you don’t get angry. You throw your hair back and laugh as we bicycle around the Cotswolds in a taxi. You flick the cherry off the pie and only eat the cream because that’s what Aunty Nibs used to do.”