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Only Fools and Horses is arguably the UKs finest comedy. That it lasted 32 years is not only a testament to the actors, it’s a testament to the utter brilliance of John Sullivan’s writing.
The story centres on streetwise, fast-talking South London optimist Derek Trotter and his plonker of a younger brother Rodney. They are ably supported by an impeccably cast ensemble of characters such as Boycie and Marlene, Trigger, Denzil, Raquel, Casandra, Uncle Albert and for the first 23 episodes, Grandad.
The show has given us some of the greatest comedy moments in the history of British television (Del falling through the bar is often cited as the funniest clip of all time) as well as the chandeliers, Batman & Robin, the blow-up dolls and Rodney in The Groovy Gang but the real star of the show was John Sullivan. He was the über-genius writer who managed to combine world-class comedy with poignant, arced storytelling that wove a tapestry through the characters’ lives. We grew up with them. We all know a Del Boy and we could relate to their lives in one way or another.
We lived through Casssandra’s miscarriage, Grandad’s death and Rodney’s wedding as if we were with them. We rooted for them and we wanted Del to succeed but fundamentally it was never about that. It was about Del, Rodney and the rest of them coming into our living rooms once a week and making us laugh. And we mean proper belly-laughing, not the smirks you crack when you’re watching American TV.
OF&H was more than a comedy show. It has become a British institution and it has delivered some of our most enduring and popular phrases (‘cushty’, lovely jubbly’ and ‘you plonker’ and we’ve all called someone a ‘dipstick’ at one time or another). It is a cultural icon and the show has won award after award, regularly topping (subjective) polls to find the Best Sitcom/Comedy/Comedy Character/Scene etc.
OF&H has spawned a cult following and the Only Fools and Horses Appreciation Society has over 7,000 members. They dress up as their favourite characters and meet in pubs called The Nag’s Head! In Serbia, the show was renamed Mućke, which roughly translates as ‘shady deals’!
It’s unlikely that we will ever see the likes of Only Fools and Horses again because we simply don’t have the attention span but it remains a jewel in the BBCs comedy crown.
Only Fools & Horses Trivia
Trigger was called Trigger because he looked like a man without a horse! He ironically went on to play Horse in The Full Monty!
The ‘three-wheeled van’ was a Reliant Regal, and not a Robin Reliant. Over the course of the show’s life they used about 15 of them!
The original choice for Del Boy was Jim Broadbent who ended up playing DCI Roy ‘The Slag’ Slater. David Jason was third choice behind Enn Reitel, a prominent voice-over artist!
The clip of Del Boy falling through the bar commands a fee of anywhere up to £2,000 for the 10-second piece of TV gold!
Liz Hurley auditioned for the role of Cassandra but was deemed too ‘model-like’!
One of the original names for the show was The Readies but writer John Sullivan changed it to Only Fools & Horses because he had used it as a title of an episode of Citizen Smith.
Costume Designer Phoebe DeGaye found Rodney’s iconic camouflage jacket in a pile of old crap to be thrown away in a corner of the BBC Costume department!
Some of our favourite Only Fools & Horses quotes…
Del Boy: Asking a Trotter if he knows anything about chandeliers is like asking Mr Kipling if he knows anything about cakes.
Uncle Albert: During the war….
Trigger: Alright, Dave?
Del Boy: Don’t worry Rodney, this time next year, we’ll be millionaires…
Rodney: This time last week we WERE millionaires!
Del Boy: We had Denzil in goal, we had Monkey Harris at right-back, we had…camaraderie.
Trigger: Was that the Italian boy?
Del Boy: Bonnet de douche! Boeuf a la mode! Mais oui! Chasse de forme!
Rodney: Del, I’ve been thinking…
Del Boy: Oh, leave it out Rodney, we’re in enough trouble as it is.
Del Boy: Play it cool, Trig. Play it cool…
Trigger: If it’s a boy, they’re naming him Rodney. After Dave.
The Stars of Only Fools & Horses – Where Are They Now
One of our finest and best-loved actors, Sir David John White OBE starred as G-G-G-Granville in Open All Hours, as Jack Frost in A Touch of Frost and as lovable Pop Larkin in The Darling Buds of May. Four BAFTAs, four British Comedy Awards, six NTA awards, including a Lifetime Achievement award, the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award and in an ITV anniversary poll to find TVs Greatest Star, guess who won?
He has starred in Goodnight Sweetheart, The Two of Us and Carla Lane’s Butterflies as well as playing Freddie ‘The Frog’ Robdal in the OF&H prequel Rock & Chips. In 2013, he joined the cast of BBC1 police comedy-drama New Tricks. He lives in West Sussex with his wife and son and he has a passion for flying model planes and being underwater!
‘Grandad’ worked with Laurence Oliver and Anthony Hopkins in the 60s and was an accomplished stage actor. OF&H was his most notable role and starred in the first 23 episodes between 1981 and 1983. He died on 15th December 1984. He was 69.
Amazingly, he only became a professional actor at the age of 57 after a 40-year career working in a bank! He spent the war in the army (not the navy!) and joined a rep company in the late 70s, appearing in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Equus. He joined the OF&H cast in 1985 and was married to Iris for 57 years before he sadly died in 1999.
Roger Lloyd Pack
Trigger is an accomplished stage and screen actor who has appeared in The Vicar of Dibley, The Old Guys and played Barty Crouch in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire amongst many, many other roles. A Spurs fan and father of actress Emily Lloyd, he tragically died in January 2014 aged 69. RIP RLP.
Boycie’s CV reads like a Who’s Who of great British TV –Dixon of Dock Green, The Sweeney, Doctor Who, Juliet Bravo, Corrie, Citizen Smith, The Bill, One Foot in the Grave, Soldier, Soldier, and The Green Green Grass, an OF&H spin-off. He’s on his fourth wife and lives in Herefordshire.
A product of the Liverpool care system, he’s best known for playing Denzil as well as Horse in The Full Monty. As with John Challis, Paul has had an extensive career in TV and film and starred alongside Robert Carlyle (again) and Hollywood A-lister Samuel L Jackson in The 51st State in 2001.