With the news that writer John Sullivan passed away on April 23rd, I thought I would today look at his most famous piece of work, Only Fools and Horses.
First airing in 1981, Only Fools And Horses probably needs no introduction. Charting the misadventures of “entrepreneur” Derek “Del Boy” Trotter (David Jason) and his long suffering brother Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst), seven series of the sitcom were made, the last being shown in 1991. This was then followed with several Christmas special episodes, with the last of those airing in 2003.
The show and it’s characters have become somewhat of a British institution, and even if you’ve never watched the show in your life you are sure to recognise the names of Trotters Independent Trading Del Boy and “plonker” Rodney, and if you ever happen to see one of those three wheeler Reliant Robin cars you’ll no doubt first think of Only Fools And Horses.
When the show first aired Del Boy and Rodney shared their flat in Nelson Mandela House with their Grandad (Lennard Pearce), a bit of an old moaner who used to sit glued to his armchair watching TV most of the time. He came out with some great one liners though. When Lennard Pearce died the next series wanted to keep the generation gap comedy, so Grandad’s brother, Uncle Albert (Buster Merryfield) came to stay with the Trotter boys. He had been in the merchant Navy, and often bored everyone who would listen with some story from “in the war”.
Whilst always thought of first and foremost as a situation comedy, Only Fools And Horses was at least part drama too. Whilst earlier series had more self contained episodes, as the show progressed a continuing story began to flourish, and we saw Rodney want to try and better himself, as he came to realise that Del’s dodgy dealings were never going to make them millionaires, no matter how much his brother claimed they would.
Rodney went to college and got married to a girl named Cassandra Parry, who came from a much better off family than the Trotters, and in time Del too settled down (if only a bit) when he got married to Raquel Turner. Rodney’s marriage fell apart but happily the couple resolved their differences and got back together again, and eventually both Del and Rodney become fathers. Rodney has a little girl named Joan, after his mother, whilst Del’s son is named Damien (which led to several references to The Omen films).
The programme has since led to two spin off shows, The Green Green Grass, charting the life of Boycie and Marlene, two of the characters from Only Fools who go to live in a country manor, and Rock and Chips, which was a prequel to Only Fools, showing a young Del Boy and his friends growing up in 1960’s Peckham.