Black Books (2000–2004)
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Cooking the Books 

Bernard is struggling to cope with getting down to menial but essential tasks for his book shop, such as the accounts when a chance meeting with a customer, Manny, helps him out. Meanwhile,... See full summary »


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Tony Bluto ...
Nick Voleur
Stephen Boswell ...
Daisy Campbell ...
First hooligan
Jeillo Edwards ...
Policeman (as John MacNeill)
Eamonn O'Neill ...
Jehovah's Witness
James O'Neill ...
Jehovah's Witness
Michael Parkhouse ...
Mr. Blackbelly
Muriel Pavlow ...
Old Woman


Bernard is struggling to cope with getting down to menial but essential tasks for his book shop, such as the accounts when a chance meeting with a customer, Manny, helps him out. Meanwhile, the owner of the shop next door, enlists the help of Bernard and his customers to find out exactly what an object from her shop is and in doing so misses an important appointment. Written by Robyn Cowen

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Release Date:

29 September 2000 (UK)  »

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Did You Know?


The Gag about tax receipts turned in to a jacket was actually used in a "tax time" commercial, with full suit of receipts. See more »


Manny: [frenetically buying the Little Book of Calm] Sorry! I hate my job!
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User Reviews

First Chapter Sets the Scene but Doesn't Entice
26 September 2016 | by (Wales, UK) – See all my reviews

'Finished your accounts?' 'Yes. I've turned them into a rather smart casual jacket.'

Much was expected of this series, given that it was written by Perrier Award winner, Dylan Moran, and the creator of the nation's favourite, 'Father Ted', Graham Linehan. There is nothing as bitingly funny as a misanthrope performing a role where one would typically expect a range of 'people skills' they sadly, but hilariously lack. The 'Fawlty Factor'. This is so wonderfully apparent in the opening scene, where our anti-social bookshop owner, Bernard Black's open distaste for his customers is palpable. The best exchange occurs when one affluent customer has the temerity to enquire as to whether a bound Dickens collection is genuine leather in order to match his real leather upholstery at home. This receives, when Black rejects an offer of £200, the brilliant, snide retort:'I need leather bound pounds to go with my wallet'. This is immediately followed by his highly inappropriate but amusing corralling of his clientele out of his shop, armed with a loudhailer. The title of the episode refers to Black's comedic predicament of painfully having to complete his business accounts, when his dishonest accountant goes on the run for fraud - this character is wittily named 'Nick Voleur', his surname meaning 'thief' in French. What follows is a genial sequence of purposeless distractions Moran's character undergoes to avoid balancing his books, from pairing his socks to entertaining the visiting Jehovah Witnesses. Yet, outside of this one thread of the story-line, much of the episode fails to produce real moments of humour. Moreover, the talents of Tamsin Greig and Bill Bailey are underplayed in rather humourless sub-plots. In the case of the former, as Black's best friend and fellow retailer, Greig struggles with a lame comedic device in which her character fails to ascertain the purpose of an item in her stock, while also having to deliver some of the weakest dialogue. In terms of the latter, as a customer whose purchase of the 'Little Book of Calm' has unforseeable consequences, what promised to deliver much ends up descending into 'over-the-top' and ineffective tomfoolery. Having accidentally digested this miniscule tome, Bailey's character, Manny, is transformed from a stress- ridden, disgruntled, office employee into a sage who has absorbed the book's aphorisms on how to lead a tranquil life. Part of this flimsy sequence features, as the young doctor treating Manny, a 'pre-'Office' and decidedly unfunny Martin Freeman. The only redeeming scene towards the finale being that where Black, having ascertained that only injury can postpone completion of his tax return, decides to intervene in a fracas outside his establishment between Manny and a threatening group of skinheads. This is no 'Good Samaritan' gesture, but rather, Black's desperate attempt via insults to spark a physical beating to serve his ends. Overall, there is potential, for this series to succeed, especially in terms of characterisation, but this first episode only has sporadic moments which truly work.

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