Black Books

Season 1 Episode 1

Cooking the Books

Aired Friday 9:00 PM Sep 29, 2000 on Channel 4
out of 10
User Rating
102 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

In this first episode we are introduced to Bernard, the alcoholic Irish book shop owner. But, Bernard has a problem. His taxes need doing, he's mathematically illiterate, and there's no avoiding it. His accountant turns out to be a wanted felon, and has gone on the run, and no one seems to be willing to help him. His salvation could be an exemption clause which gives him an out if he's injured. Fran is busy trying to discover what a particular item in her shop actually is whilst Manny, working as an accountant has an 'incident' with 'The Little Book of Calm'. Their coming together could be the start of a beautiful relationship.moreless

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  • In one word: Brilliant. One of those episodes that gives you the hiccups because you've laughed too much (or too little depending upon your perspective) ;)

    Fantastic piece of comedy. From Bernard being willing to saw off his own arm to avoid doing his tax returns, to Manny swallowing and reciting 'the little book of calm', in the process doing an impressive impersonation of 'Jesus', and Fran trying to decipher the purpose of an item in her shop; this is one of those episodes that will have you in tears of laughter from the silliness of it all. A+ and well done!

    As a pilot episode, this one has been done spectacularly well. Usually, pilot's don't do so well as they are an introduction to the show and it's characters. As a result the plot line's usually rather thin. Not so for 'Cooking the Books'. the creators made it in such a way, that it could easily have been one of the other episodes. ie, it doesn't come across as being a pilot for the sake of a pilot. It introduces the characters smoothly and remains one of the more hilarious episodes in the show. One of my personal favourites, I give it 5 stars.moreless
  • This first show shows us an agigated Bernard dismissing customers who wish to buy books, a ditzy Fran who is neither here nor there, and Manny, an overly worked accountant come prophet. What a season opener.moreless

    The show opens on Bernard sitting at his desk, being annoyed by a customer. The customer then wants to pay £200 for some books, but Bernard refuses him, insulting him too. This shows us the basic character of Bernard, an annoyed, stressed, pesimistic, easily agitated irish-man full of cyniscism.

    We meet Manny next, a very stressed Manny, but it is only a brief encounter.

    Fran is the next person we meet. The ditzy owner of Nifty Gifty, the shop next door. She seems to be a happy person, but her alcohol consumption may say otherwise.

    We then finally meet Manny, overworked and very stressed, he relies on a little book to keep himself in order. As the episode progresses, he becomes the Manny we will see in future episodes; laidback, relaxed, happy and optimistic.

    And that's the gang, and a fine bunch they all are. This opening episode leads us on to what we will see in the next episodes and seasons, hilarity.

    A stunning first episode, and a stunning show.moreless
Tony Bluto

Tony Bluto

Nick the Accountant

Guest Star

Daisy Campbell

Daisy Campbell


Guest Star

Dominic Carter

Dominic Carter

First Hooligan

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (12)

  • QUOTES (24)

    • Bernard: (to aggressive skinheads) Hey, you know when you're doing the usual threesome thing you do on a weekend, and the moonlight's bouncing off your bald heads and your bare arses and everything, does that not get a bit confusing?

    • Bernard: (on Fran being birth partner to pregnant friend) Yuck. That's going to be intense, a lot of blood, a lot of shouting, and urm...
      Fran: Oh, no no no, I'll just get drunk. In fact, she'll be on drugs, I'll be drunk, it'll be just like the old days.

    • Bernard: (waking up) What time is it?
      Manny: Half ten.
      Bernard: Half ten? Half ten?! I've never been up at half ten! What happens?!

    • Fran: Bernard? Finished with your accounts?
      Bernard: Yes. I've turned them into a rather smart casual jacket.

    • Manny: (reading from The Little Book Of Calm} Let let let let... let go once in a while, you're a loose lily floating down an amber river. Ahhh.

    • (Bernard is checking the price of a book for a customer)
      Bernard: We've got a special offer on this one.
      Posh Customer: Really?
      Bernard: Yes, it's free if you break my legs.
      Posh Customer: Fair enough!
      Bernard: Great! I'll just get the hobbling post.
      Posh Customer: Wait! I've read this one. That's the problem with Wodehouse…
      Bernard: Yes, it's terrible, now hurry up and break my legs.

    • Manny: Well, I could do your accounts.
      Bernard: What?
      Manny: I'm an accountant - well, was an accountant. It's the least I could do.
      Bernard: You mean you could do more?
      Manny: Well, yes.
      Bernard: Could I have a glass of wine?
      Manny: Yeah, sure.
      Bernard: And a ham sandwich?
      Manny: If you like.
      Bernard: (Excitedly) With pickle?!
      Manny: Alright.

    • Manny: Add a dab of lavender to milk. Leave town with an orange, and pretend you're laughing at it.

    • Manny: Be on the look out for things that make you laugh. If you see nothing worth laughing at, pretend you see it, then laugh.

    • Doctor: Ah, Mr. Bianco, there's been a bit of a problem. We went in to remove the book and, to put it in medical terms, it's gone. Or, to put it another way, it's not there. I don't know how this could have happened, the only logical explanation is that you've somehow assimilated it into your system, which is, of course, impossible.
      (Manny is sitting up in bed, supernaturally calm, with a halo of light surrounding him and a beatifically peaceful expression on his face)
      Doctor: How do you feel?
      Manny: Add a drop of lavender to your bath, and soon you'll soak yourself calm.
      Doctor: I'm sorry?
      Manny: If you want to feel calm, eat more raw fruit and vegetables, yoghurt, milk and seeds.
      Doctor: Um, maybe I should let you get some rest...
      Manny: When you rest, you are a king, surveying your estate. Look at the woodland. The peacocks on the lawn. Be the king of your own calm kingdom.
      Doctor: ...Yes.

    • Doctor: Sorry, I'm going to have to go. We'll operate tomorrow, see if there's anything we can do about it. There's a good chance you'll survive - a thirty percent chance, I'd say - so try not to worry about it. As the book itself says... (Holding the X-Ray up to the light) ..."Whenever you're in a tight spot, try to imagine yourself marooned on a beautiful desert island".

    • Doctor: Well I'm afraid it's bad news Mr. Bianco. The Little Book Of Calm has become lodged between the small intestine and the pancreas. If it rotates a centimeter or two to the left, you'll be dead in seconds.
      Manny: Oh my God!
      Doctor: No no, hold on a moment, that's just the worst case scenario. The other possibility - and this is far more likely - is that 'The Little Book of Calm' will move to the right, where it will enter the renal canal. If this happens, you could live for anything up to, ooh, ten years, one year, who knows?
      Manny: Oh my God!
      Doctor: Because of the massive scarring caused by 'The Little Book of Calm', however, it is possible that you will be in a massive amount of pain...
      Manny: (Interrupting) Oh my God! Oh, sorry.
      Doctor: ...during that time.

    • Jehovah's Witness #1: Well, to be honest... we've never actually thought this far ahead. (Looks around) It sure is nice... indoors.
      Bernard: So, so what's your favourite story about Jesus?
      (Pause. The two Jehovah's Witnesses think very hard)
      Jehovah's Witness #1: Oh yes! The one where Jesus rescues the Samaritan.
      Bernard: No, that's a story Jesus tells about a Samaritan who rescues someone else.
      Jehovah's Witness #1: (Surprised) Really?

    • Bernard: 'If you live in a council flat... beside a river... but are not blind...' - WHAT?!?! ...'What is your mother's maiden name'? What's her first name?! I just knew her as 'Ma'! Ma. That'll have to do.
      writes it down
      Bernard: 'Ma... Possibly deceased'.

    • Bernard: Yeah, I'll give it a go. I'm sure I'll muddle through.
      (Sudden cut to much later, as he's actually trying to do them:)
      Bernard: What?! WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!?!?!

    • Bernard: I'm not doing my accounts.
      Fran: Why not?
      Bernard: Because you can stick it up your arse.

    • [On being asked to explain his 'filing system' to his accountant]
      Bernard: (Pulling screwed up paper out of his jacket pockets) This is March to... oobely-boo, this is misc, and this is, other.
      Nick: Other? Other what, what does other cover? Other weeks, other years?
      Bernard: Other... times. that's it. This is this week, very recent, and all... other times.
      Nick: What do you mean, other times?
      Bernard: I don't know, Nick, I'm not... (long pause) ...Wonder Woman!
      Nick: This new system, it's modeled quite closely on the old system isn't it?
      Bernard: Oh, I'd go further than that, Nick. I'd say they're exactly the same.

    • (After Manny has left the bookshop)
      Bernard: What a strange man.
      (Bernard picks up a megaphone and proceeds to shout through it)
      Bernard: Right, the shop is closed, everybody get out.
      Old Woman: What?
      Bernard: Sorry, we're closed. Get out.
      Old Woman: But it's only quarter to three!
      (Bernard picks up a broom and starts shooing people away with it)
      Bernard: Come on, out out out.
      Refined Customer: (Standing up to Bernard) You know, I expect better service -
      Bernard: Well, expect away. Come on, you time-wasting bastards, back on the streets, out out out, back to life, back to reality, thank you.
      (He kicks the door shut on them.)

    • (Fran looking at indeterminate object in her shop).
      Fran: I do sell a lot of wank, don't I?

    • Jehovah's Witness: Hello, we'd like to talk to you about Jesus.
      Bernard: GREAT! Come in. I'd love to hear about Jesus. What's he up to these days?

    • Manny: (to woman giving birth) When you're feeling under pressure, do something different. Roll up your sleeves, or eat an orange.

    • Customer: Those books, how much?
      Bernard: Hmm?
      Customer: Those books. Leather-bound ones.
      Bernard: Yes, Dickens. The collected works of Charles Dickens.
      Customer: They're real leather?
      Bernard: They're real Dickens.
      Customer: I have to know if they're real leather because they have to go with a sofa. Everything else in my house is real. I'll give you two hundred for them.
      Bernard: Two hundred what?
      Customer: Two hundred pounds...
      Bernard: Are they leather-bound pounds?
      Customer: No...
      Bernard: Sorry, I need leather-bound pounds to go with my wallet. Next!

    • Bernard: (addressing skinheads) Which one of you bitches wants to dance?

    • Bernard: Do you know this chant? Millwall, Millwall... you're all... really dreadful and all your girlfriends are unfulfilled and alienated...
      (Bernard is punched in the face by three skinheads simultaneously)

  • NOTES (4)


    • The Little Book Of Calm

      Genuine small volume of helpful hints of how to remain relaxed , written by Paul Wilson.

    • Cooking the Books

      A common phrase used to mean creative accounting.

    • Jesus

      As Manny is walking through the halls of the hospital, he visits Julie, and bestows upon her a calming metaphor. This is a link to how Jesus Christ healed the sick and the poorly.

      Manny then walks through the streets, stopping a dog from barking and a car alarm from screaming out. Again, references to 'healing'.

      After retrieving a beaten up Bernard, Bernard's missionary friends return to the shop. The night before, Bernard had been teaching THEM about Jesus, sorting out confused facts. Manny answers the door, and the missionaries run away screaming. Manny is dressed in a long flowing hospital gown, similar to the dress of Jesus, and has a beard and long hair, like Jesus is portrayed to have.