Black Books Wiki
Bernard on phone
Cooking the Books
Episode information
Episode No.




Original airdate

Friday, September 29, 2000


The rules

Cast and crew information
  • Dylan Moran
  • Graham Linehan
  • Graham Linehan
  • Nick Wood
  • Nira Park
  • Julian Meers
  • William Burdett-Coutts
Main cast
  • Dylan Moran
  • Bill Bailey
  • Tamsin Greig
Guest stars
Next episode

Manny's First Day

Cooking the Books is the first episode of the first series, and hence is the first ever episode, of the British sitcom, Black Books. It introduces the main characters in the show and sets a backbone for future episodes.

Plot synopsis[]

In the bookshop, Black Books, Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) goes about his daily business when Manny Bianco (Bill Bailey) rushes into the shop, looking for The Little Book of Calm. Manny is late for work and, after much stalling from Bernard, rushes out of the shop in a hurry. Bernard, however, must see his accountant and asks Fran, owner of the shop next door, to look after Black Books while he's gone. Fran suggests to Bernard to get an assistant, as she will not be able to look after his shop in a few days time as she is being birth partner to a friend. When Bernard arrives to see his accountant, Nick Voleur (Tony Bluto), he learns that Nick is a fugitive and has fled from the police.

Meanwhile, Manny tries to relax under the pressure put on by his job as an accountant. When frightened, he drops The Little Book of Calm into his soup and accidentally swallows it. As a result, he is sent to hospital. A confused Bernard returns to his shop, where he finds Fran debating with a customer over what purpose a peculiarly-shaped item serves. Bernard sits down and talks with Fran about what happened. He suddenly realises that, as Nick has fled, he must do his own accounts. That night, Bernard attempts to do his accounts; after distracting himself by pairing his socks, calling his mother and talking to a pair of Jehovah's witnesses, Bernard finally does something constructive and turns his accounts into "a rather smart casual jacket".

Meanwhile, Manny is told that The Little Book of Calm has become lodged between his small intestine and pancreas, and if it rotates a centimetre or two to the left, he will be dead in seconds. However if it turns a centimetre or two to the right, he could live anywhere up to ten years, and that he has a 30% chance of surviving the night. The following morning, Manny is still alive and amazingly calm. He is told that The Little Book of Calm has been absorbed in his system, and he is released from the hospital.

Meanwhile, Bernard, after much researching, finds a way of not doing his accounts: by suffering from a long term or short term injury or ailment. He starts paying customers to break his legs, and at one point prepares to cut his hand off using an electrical saw. While visiting Black Books, Fran suddenly remembers that today is the day she agreed to be birth partner for her friend, and desperately searches for a phone book to ring a taxi. Meanwhile, an incredibly calm Manny is walking down the road beside Black Books when he is called over by a bunch of skinheads. After they punch him, Manny returns to his original, stressed state, but when the skinheads prepare for a second punch, Bernard spots them from the window and has a plan. He hopes that if he makes them punch him, he won't have to do his accounts, as he will be too injured. Bernard rushes out and insults the skinheads, impersonating them and telling them that their girlfriends are unfulfilled and alienated. Bernard gets punched many times and is eventually dragged back to the shop by Manny, who, once Bernard has gained conciousness, agrees to do his accounts for him. Bernard looks for a lighter to light a cigarette. Manny lights the cigarette with the "bald furby", which turns out to be a lighter, much to Fran's shock and revelation.

Cultural references[]

  • 'The Little Book of Calm' is a real book written by Paul Wilson and first published by Penguin Books in 1997. Although the concept of the book is correct (the size and the use of it), the sentences Manny reads from it (eat an orange, roll up your sleeves) were written by the writers and not actually by the author of the book himself.
  • One of the skinheads is wearing a Millwall F.C. hat and scarf, a reference to the Bermondsey football club.

Behind the scenes []

  • Bill Bailey had the flu during the filming of this episode.
  • On the side of the boxes of the "bald furby" lighters, there are the katakana characters "rai-ta", meaning "lighter".
  • The title of the episode, 'Cooking the Books', is a phrase meaning the deliberate distorting of a firm's financial accounts.

External links[]