The Best British Sitcom: Only Fools and Horses, Quality from the 1'st Series Till the Last
Make sure you watch this
Some best bits
More than a sitcom
In the UK we love comedy more than any other genre of entertainment. From the remarkably well observed character of David Brent in The Office to the wonderfully silly Mr Bean. And then there is the Royal Family, Yes Minister, Blackadder, Porridge, Red Dwarf, the Young Ones, Drop the Dead Donkey….etc. Oh and of course Faulty Towers. There is one however, that for shear longevity and quality stands out above all others. That is Only Fools and Horses.
Only Fools and Horses was the brainchild of John Sullivan that aired in Britain in the early 1980’s right up to a Christmas specials up to 2003. It’s the story of the Trotter family struggling to make a living as “Trotters Independent Traders” and dreaming that “this time next year we will be millionaires”. The plot develops around the story of the Trotter brothers Derek “Del boy” (David Jason) and Rodney Trotter (Nickolas Lyndhurt) . Del boy is the stereotypical cheeky chap market trader working with the slightly naïve Rodney. It’s implied throughout that the two brothers don’t share the same father. Their constant willingness to make money leads to some dodgy and illegal deals with hilarious outcomes. Such as the episode when they bought sex dolls which turned out to be filled with explosive gas. Or when they got a deal to paint the local Chinese restaurant and painted it luminous yellow.
Only Fools and Horses was more than a sitcom though. It reflected perfectly what working class living was like under a Thatcher government. It also dealt with, and with certain aplomb, the unspeakable truth of Rodney and Del boy having different fathers. These issues will affect numerous families around Britain and it showed how close two brothers can be in spite of parentage. Del Boy, due to the premature death of their mother, took on the mantel of the bread winner and its charming the way he looks after Rodney. As well as being extremely funny, this gives the sitcom a tenderness which all great British comedies seem to have. There is a real vulnerability in these characters that, as a viewer, you embrace and will the brothers to become millionaires.
The Trotters live in a council flat in Peckham South London and provides a platform for Del to use cockney rhyming slang which, being the early 1980’s, had not reached the corners to the UK. Phrases like ruby meaning Curry (Ruby Murray) and rhythm meaning shoes (rhythm and blues) become common slang around the country. Also in the Trotter flat was grand dad and latterly Uncle Albert after grand dad, played by Lennard Pearce, passed away in 1984. Uncle Albert fought in the World War 2 in the navy and there is an ongoing joke about how many boats were sunk whilst he served on them.
When the Trotters aren’t in the council flat they can be found down the local boozer called the Nags Head where they will meet peripheral cast members such as Trigger (the village idiot), Boycie (arrogant, pretentious car salesman) or even Marlene (Boycie’s wife.)
Marlene adds comic value as there is a strong “hint” that, prior to her marriage to Boycie, she may have been “fond of the men”. There is also a beautiful subtle hint of a past relationship with Del boy. With the referencing of the Trotter’s late mother, Rodney’s mysterious father and Marlene’s past, the writers have given the sitcom a depth. You can just imagine the lads down the Nags Head going to school together. Every sitcom must give their characters a context in the form of a background story however few manage to express a community backstory.
Running for more than two decades has allows us to have an emotional bond with the characters. One of the most moving sitcom scenes I have witnessed was when Cassandra, Rodney’s wife, had a miscarriage. Perhaps it was the contrast of raw emotion in the context of a comedy but this was an example of the tenderness in this particular sitcom. Rodney relationship with Cassandra did however, provide great comedy moments. Cassandra had a crush on Russell Crowe in Gladiators and Rodney decided to dress up as a roman warrior. In the hilarity that ensued they had managed to get themselves locked outside much to the alarm of Rodney who was petrified of being mocked by his working class friends.
Del Boy had a love interest in the form of Raquel. She in earlier episodes had been a want to be singer. Del Boy got involved and put forward the idea of finding her a singing partner so she could sing duets. Unbeknownst to her though, the partner Del had selected had a speech impediment. Something she never found out until they were singing on stage.
My favourite episode is when Del Boy and Rodney dressed up as Batman and Robin for a fancy dress party. On the way their car broke down and they had to run through the back streets to get there before the pubs close for fear being mocked by the locals. As comedy luck would have it they accidentally ran into a mugging. The incredulous looks from the muggers makes me laugh just thinking about it. The laughs don’t end there though, when they arrive at the party and burst in, it turns out it’s a wake.
Only Fools and Horses still shows on the British digital channel UK Gold and how apt that is because this show is absolute Gold.