Only Fools and Horses was different from many previous sitcoms. Writer John Sullivan drew on his own experience of growing up in South London. He wanted to show real working class people. He believed that TV was dominated by the middle classes, and by their false versions of the working class.
In South London he saw a new drive amongst the working class, a sense of ambition and a desire to succeed and make good. Sullivan believes that the social mobility of the 1960s and the success of working class lads like The Beatles helped shape this change.
Although Del is a comic character without the intelligence to really succeed,he represents this section of society in
a positive way.
Tough? Tough? It's the toughest chicken I've ever known. It's asked me for a fight in the car park twice!
As well as Thatcher’s economic policies, or perhaps because of them, The YUPPY had become a common figure in popular culture. The fast talking city boy with his pockets full of money, a mobile phone the size of breeze block and a filofax was widely recognised.
OFAH makes specific reference to this in the episode ‘Yuppy Love.’
Harry Enfield parodied the newly wealthy yuppies with his ‘Loads Of Money’ character, which also became a hit single.
This was also the era of the Skinhead, and the rise of the National Front in some parts of England.
There was mass unemployment and reduced benefit and healthcare
services. While many people became better off, others suffered.
I've left my Mercedes parked downstairs and you know what they're like on this estate. They'd have the wheels off a Jumbo jet if it flew too low.
The Trotters own an unregistered company, Trotters Independent Traders , trade primarily on the black market and generally neither pay taxes nor claim money from the state; as Del says "the government don't give us nothing, so we don't give the government nothing".
In many ways, Del Boy is the perfect example of someone who works in the free market,ignoring red tape and rules and does his best to make his own fortune.
Only Fools and Horses reflected the Thatcherite philosophy and the new world under Margaret Thatcher.
The situation in this sitcom is Del’s desire to get rich and better himself. Most episodes feature Del involved in dodgy deals, selling black market goods like sex dolls filled with an explosive gas. This provides many opportunities for comedy.
Because their schemes usually fail, Del and Rodney don’t escape from their situation and are ready to try again in the next episode. It also generates the comedy and makes them sympathetic and likeable characters.
There's no point in running away. Running away only wears out your shoes.
Originally, each episode was self-contained, but as the show grew in popularity, long-running story arcs were developed that ran over whole series, like Rodney’s problems with his marriage.
Because the sitcom revolves around the family, as long as the main characters continue, the show can keep evolving. Rather like a soap, the series could continue for years yet. The storylines will never dry up.
When Grandad died, he was replaced by Uncle Albert, maintaining the three generations, ensuring a wide audience appeal.
Albert During the... Del If you say during the war, I'll pour this cup of tea over your head! Albert I wasn't going to say during the war! Del Alright then. Albert Bloody little know all! Del Sorry Albert That's alright. During the 1939-1945 conflict with Germany...
Derek Trotter , or Del Boy, played by David Jason, represents a stereotypical London market trader, or wide boy.
Sharp-witted, image-conscious and self-confident, but lacking the ability to achieve his high ambitions, his schemes always ended in comedy disaster.
Del's cultural pretensions, best seen in his use of inaccurate French phrases, also provided comedy.
As well as being a lovable loser, his spirit and refusal to accept defeat made him popular. His loyalty to his family was also seen as admirable.
He seemed to represent the British spirit – always trying, looking on the bright side, refusing to accept defeat, and yet ultimately a failure.
Rodney: My mum's left me, my wife doesn't love me and some bastard's nicked my bike!
Rodney, played by Nicholas Lyndhurst formed the other half of the ‘odd couple,’ so frequent in sitcoms.
Rodders was the ideal comic foil for Del Boy: in addition to the striking physical differences between the two, Rodney played a naïve yet in many ways more intelligent youngster. His idealism clashed with Del’s selfish ambition.
Rodney represents the younger brother or son figure, trying to escape the influence of Del, the flawed authority figure.
Much of the conflict between the two came from Rodney's dislike of his reliance on Del, and his unsuccessful attempts to gain greater independence through girlfriends or by setting up his own businesses.
add comedy. Many of them have a limited or two-dimensional character. Trigger, for example, is characterised almost entirely by his stupidity.
Boycie is characterised largely by his sense of superiority, and comedy ensues as he is brought down to earth or mocked. In later episodes, his character developed, and Marlene also became a bigger character.
Boycie and Marlene now star in their own spin-off show: The Green, Green Grass.
The supporting characters Trigger? With a computer? Do me a favour, he's still struggling with light switches!
Only Fools and Horses succeeded because it was well-written and well-acted.
John Sullivan wrote with elements of drama. He wasn’t afraid to include sad, poignant and challenging moments, but he always made sure he broke the tension with a laugh. He never allowed an episode to end on a sad note.
Most episodes were shot in front of a live audience or had a laugh track recorded from a live audience viewing.
The characters were set up to create conflict: Del and Rodney had different attitudes and aspirations and even looked amusing together.
It had a very British feel, relying on the comedy of failure and the appeal of the underdog.
The character’s individual traits are played upon in each episode – Del’s pretensions (Fromage Frais!), Rodney’s gormlessness, Trigger’s idiocy.
There are also several running gags, including Trigger's constant reference to Rodney as "Dave", Uncle Albert's "during the war..." anecdotes.
Rodney : I've been thinking. Del Boy : Oh, leave it out Rodney, we're in enough trouble as it is.
Del Never give up on people, Rodney. I know that most of the time they don't seem to understand. But when you're in trouble and you cry out for help, some will always be there. Trigger's cousin Cyril's a perfect example. He owed 500 quid on his mortgage. Trigger They were gonna be thrown out on the street the following day. He was very worried about it. Mike So what happened Trig? Trigger He drove out to Beachy Head. Parked about five foot from the edge of the cliff. Albert What, he was gonna drive off it? Trigger Yeah! He just sat there for a couple of hours, his head resting on the steering wheel. People tried to talk to him out of it but he was too depressed to listen. Del But then, and this is the what I mean about people, Rodney, they had a whip-round and got him his 500 quid. Rodney No! Who held the whip-round? Del All the passengers on the bus.
While many jokes arose out of the situations and the characters’ traits,
many were included as additions to the plot line and character
development. However, the writing was good enough that these didn't
seem like add-ons, but seemed to arise from the characters’ experience:
Rodney : I don't think I'll ever laugh again. Uncle Albert : Well, as long as yer 'appy, son.
But many of the jokes seem outdated now, sexist and even racist. They reflect the time in which they were written, and the attitudes that were acceptable at the time.
Some words and phrases have been edited out for the re-runs. Do you think this is the right thing to do?
Some jokes are not offensive but still to convey
Del Boy : Who are you after? Oh, not the Gruesome Twosome. They're so ugly they even look alike. Rodney : They happen to be two sisters. Del Boy : Oh, sisters? [ to the women ] Hey, girls, seen much of Cinderella since the wedding?
The 1996 Christmas trilogy of "Heroes and Villains", "Modern Men" and "Time On Our Hands" were the show's peak. The first two attracted 21.3 million viewers, while the third episode – at the time believed to be the final one – got 24.3 million, a record audience for a British sitcom.
Despite its mainstream popularity, it has also developed a cult following.
There are conventions of fans who meet in pubs called The Nag's Head and dress as their favourite characters“
The Only Fools and Horses Appreciation Society , established in 1993, has a membership of around 6,000, publishes a quarterly newsletter, Hookie Street , and organises the annual conventions of fans, usually attended by cast members. The Society has also organised an Only Fools and Horses museum, containing props from the series, including Del's camel-hair coat.
The quality of the writing and the charm of the characters has made OFAH popular around the world. It has been sold to Australia, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Malta, Montenegro, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Spain, and many more countries. Here it was shown either with subtitles or dubbed.
Portugal and The Netherlands, bought the scripts and re-made it with their own actors.
In 2003, it was reported that Sullivan was developing a prequel to the original series, Once Upon A Time In Peckham , which would show Del, Rodney, Trigger, Boycie and Denzil as youngsters in the 1960s, and have a prominent role for Del and Rodney's parents.
A British spin-off of the series, The Green Green Grass , also written by John Sullivan and directed by Tony Dow, was first aired in the UK in September 2005. It is based around the characters Boycie and Marlene (John Challis and Sue Holderness), forced to leave Peckham by one-time Only Fools and Horses villains the Driscoll Brothers, and has included guest appearances by Denzil (Paul Barber) and Sid (Roy Heather). A second series of the show was broadcast in the UK in October 2006..
Opening Lyrics: Stick a pony in me pocket, I'll fetch the suitcase from the van. Cos if you want the best 'uns, But you don't ask questions, Then brother, I'm your man. Cos where it all comes from is a mystery, It's like the changin' of the seasons, And the tides of the sea. But here's the one that's drivin' me beserk, Why do only fools and horses work? La-la-la-la-lah La-lala-la La-la-la-la-lah La-lala-la.
Closing Lyrics: We've got some half price cracked ice and miles and miles of carpet tiles, T.V.s, deep freeze and David Bowie L.P.s, Ball games, gold chains, whassa-names, and at a push, Some Trevor Francis track suits from a mush in Shepherds Bush, Bush, bush, bush, bush, bush, bush, bush ... No income tax, no V.A.T., No money back, no guarantee, Black or white, rich or poor, We'll cut prices at a stroke...... God bless Hooky Street, Viva Hooky Street, Long live Hooky Street, C'est magnifique, Hooky Street, Magnifique, Hooky Street, Hooky Street (to fade)
cop - to receive something, or a police officer. c osmic -outstanding; exceptional fromage frais! - Like Eureka! (when the penny has dropped) cushty - great; brilliant mange tout - my pleasure, variation like above. dipstick - a fool elbow - also 'the Spanish fiddler', to end a relationship enemy - wife, missus Gandhi's revenge - a dodgy stomach heave-ho - another way of saying 'el-bow' hump - to be annoyed humpty-dumpty - to perform sexual relations jacksie - the posterior
jaffa - to be 'seedless' as in infertile, one who 'fires blanks' lovely jubbly - brilliant, great, cushty mutton - deaf, hard of hearing plonker - an idiot pukka - great, perfect ruby - Indian takeaway cuisine schtum - to keep quiet, keep a secret stone me - an exclamation of anguish stuke - a difficult situation this immortal curl - the world triffic - great, wonderful twonk - a plonker or dipstick wally - a twonk, a plonker, or a dipstick
Yuppy Love Transmitted: 8.1.1989 Duration: 50 minutes Viewing Figures: 13.9 million
Del has just seen the film Wall Street and decided the upwardly-mobile lifestyle is for him. The camel-hair coat is out, and in comes a smart new image. Green mackintosh, mobile phone, aluminium briefcase, but the yellow van remains.
Del wants to buy the flat off the council and sell it for a fast buck.
Rodney, meanwhile, has decided to complete a computing diploma course at the Adult Education Centre. It's there that he meets a beautiful posh Cassandra, who learns his name from the tag Del stitched into his raincoat.
Del and Trig ditch The Nags Head in favour of propping up a wine bar.
It is here that Del falls through the open flap in the bar – a moment that has frequently topped ‘best comedy moment’
A Touch of Glass Transmitted: 2.12.1982 Duration: 30 minutes Viewing Figures: 10.2 million
Returning from an auction, the Trotters stop to help a woman whose car appears to have broken down.
It turns out she is Lady Ridgemere, wife of Lord Ridgemere who owns the Ridgemere Hall Estate.
Having towed the Lady to her stately home, Del overhears that the Lord of the Manor is having trouble with the firm he's hired to clean their chandeliers. He offers the Trotters’ services as chandelier cleaners for a mere £350.
With Rodney and Del up ladders, and an old sheet the only thing between the cut-glass chandelier and the floor, Grandad detaches the chandelier from the room behind them.