July 20, 2012
Slideshow: TV’s top bookstores & libraries
by Nick Davies
The nominations for the 2012 Emmy Awards were announced on Thursday morning, with literary adaptations such as Game of Thrones, Game Change, and Sherlock in the mix for the top prize in their respective categories (Drama Series in the case of Game of Thrones and Miniseries or TV Movie for the others).
In the spirit of honoring the best that television has to offer, we’ve collected some of the more iconic bookstores and libraries that have been featured on TV over the years.
This is a brief list and hardly exhaustive—which of your favorite small-screen libraries & bookstores should be on here too?
Black Books – Black Books
This is the only show I can think of that’s entirely about a bookstore. British sitcom Black Books centers on a cluttered secondhand book shop and its misanthropic owner Bernard Black, who is far more interested in using the store as his personal library than dealing with customers. The show won two BAFTA awards during its three-season run, and it’s available online for Americans who haven’t had a chance to check it out yet.
Women & Women First – Portlandia
The feminist bookstore and its extremely serious proprietors frequently turn up in IFC’s sketch comedy show spoofing Portland’s creative hipster culture. Sharply written, these bits often provide the funniest moments of the show.
Sunnydale High School Library – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
It’s somewhat surprising that an action show like Buffy would center so strongly on such a staid and academic setting. But in the early years of the show’s run, when the characters were still in high school, hardly an episode went by without the library playing a central role, thanks to its rather convenient collection of ancient tomes about the occult and supernatural. The show also gets bonus points for what is certainly the most heroic portrayal of a librarian on television in Rupert Giles.
The Android’s Dungeon – The Simpsons
A frequent haunt of Bart Simpson and the other children of Springfield, the Android’s Dungeon sells rare copies of comics like Radioactive Man and Mary Worth and is run by the fascist nerd known to most people simply as “Comic Book Guy.”
Pawnee Public Library – Parks and Recreation
It’s not the most positive representation of libraries, but the irrational and weirdly intense rivalry between the library and parks departments on P&R is hilarious. It’s also given Amy Poehler some great lines, including: “The library is the worst group of people ever assembled in history. They’re mean, conniving, rude and extremely well read, which makes them very dangerous.”
Honorable mention for a single episode: Brentano’s – Seinfeld
The former real-life bookstore chain made a few appearances on Seinfeld, but none as noteworthy as the episode that first aired toward the end of its final season, aptly titled “The Bookstore.” Two of the episode’s three storylines take place at the store, first as Jerry catches his Uncle Leo shoplifting and alerts store security. Meanwhile, George deals with the embarrassment of trying to return a book that he’s been forced to buy after bringing it into the restroom—only to find that it’s been “flagged,” as unreturnable, and that not even a charity for the homeless will take it.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.