Why I Love ... Only Fools and Horses

Friday, 5th June 2020, 2:59 pm
Updated Friday, 5th June 2020, 2:59 pm

It was once voted the all-time favourite British sitcom – and was never far away from any top 10 in sitcom surveys.

It has taken a nose-dive in recent years making way for the likes of Not Going Out (yawn) and the Inbetweeners (boring).

No matter what pollsters publish, Only Fools and Horses will always be my number one, all-time favourite situation comedy.

Tastes and society change and so do the comedies and dramas that reflect them – that is right and proper.

The audience that put them at the top of the tree are also welcome to the politically correct often humourless, dark, sanitised output from all channels.

I’ll stick my DVD in the player and wallow in what is now the nostalgic and non-politically correct world of the Trotters of Mandela House, Peckham.

There are moments which make me cringe, but they are of their time and written in their time by John Sullivan, who was an acute, wise observer of and commentator on those times.

There were seven series between 1981 to 1991 and 16 Christmas specials from 1981 to 2003.

And I have watched them so often I can quote all of them from the first line to the last.

The premise was simple - three men from different generations living in a ‘council built Lego set’ in one of the less refined parts of London.

At first there was Del, his younger brother Rodney and their grandad. When the actor who played grandad, Lennard Pearce, died he was replaced by Buster Merryfield as the brothers’ Uncle Albert.

Seldom throughout the series is the pathos for which the writing was known so evident in Strained Relations - the episode which introduces salty old sea dog Albert.

There are tears, laughter, anger, remorse, regret and reminiscence rammed into 30 minutes.

No matter how close Del and Rodders come to being skint - there is something safe about the series - knowing that the trio will be back in your living room the following week dreaming of, striving to be and failing at being millionaires.

The three of them have mates - Boycie and Marlene, Mike, landlord of the Nags Head, Denzil, Trigger and Micky Pearce - but ultimately family was the most important thing to them.

Grandad and Uncle Albert go everywhere with Del and Rodders and, from Del to his older relatives, there is always a score or a pony for ‘the housekeeping’.

There is no need to pull-up Del on his attitude to ‘birds’ because Rodders tells him what you are thinking ... that some of what he says is unacceptable.

If the more socially and culturally aware Rodders doesn’t then the women themselves let him know by their words or actions.

“How do you spell ’Arrods,” Del asks, hoping to impress a white-wine sipping stock-market career woman in Yuppy Love.

“Capital A,” she sneeringly replies. It gets a bigger laugh than Del’s follow-up “Beam me up, Snotty.”

I have a favourite episode - To Hull and Back. It’s a Christmas special from 1985.Del falls foul of his nemesis Chief Inspector Slater when he tries to smuggle diamonds.

My favourite moment - not Del falling over in the bar, but the chandelier crashing to the floor in A Touch Of Glass.

I love every moment of the episode from Del leaving an auction with a revolving cat that plays How much is That Doggy in the Window to the getaway from the scene of the disaster.

It encapsulates Del’s lust for fortune and fame, his endless hope and ambition, his failure and his optimism.

For me, Del is the heart of Only Fools and Horses. It is his character that gives it its power to break my heart and make me cry with laughter.