Repeats of the ‘obviously’ greatest British sitcom ever written is something to look forward to all year round.
There are a few things you can always count on at Christmas time. Some are unavoidable and blow enormous hypothetical phallus – a perpetual hangover and a conversation with your parents about your lack of significant other and/or job prospects, for instance. Some things you look forward to all year: perpetual drinking, piggies in blankets and/or After Eights.
Between 1981 and 1991, Only Fools and Horses was arguably (read: obviously) the best British sitcom ever written
Then there are the delights that you can’t believe you’ve gone a whole year without, like listening to Bing Crosby, watching Home Alone or drinking Baileys. Only Fools and Horses repeats sit firmly in the latter category. Arguably (read: obviously) the best British sitcom ever written, between 1981 and 1991 Only Fools and Horses chronicled the escapades and mishaps of wheeler-dealer entrepreneurs Del Boy and Rodney Trotter.
It’s an iconic British comedy, bringing us some of the most unforgettable moments in British television as a whole, let alone sitcoms, whilst remaining completely timeless. Del falling through the bar is still ball-achingly funny, and immediately identifiable as Only Fools, and that episode was made nearly 25 years ago. That set-up of two cheeky brothers with terrible luck is easy for people to relate to. The Trotters work exceptionally hard, even if it’s not all strictly legal. Del Boy’s aspiration of one day being a millionaire is so blindly optimistic you’re behind him 100% of the way, which makes it all the more difficult and hilarious when he falls at every farcical hurdle.
The Trotters’ group of pals are equally unforgettable, usually found at the Nag’s Head. Who can forget Boysie’s moustache and laugh, Mickey Pierce and his pork pie hat or, of course, Trigger calling Rodney “Dave”. They all have their faults, once again they’re all petty criminals, but you love them, whilst their fantastic on screen chemistry draws us in to be a part of their gang.
Only Fools is so deeply engrained with British popular culture that, as of 2003, “lovely jubbly” is actually in the Oxford English dictionary. Furthermore, everybody knows what a plonker is, that he who dares, wins and that a yellow Reliant Robin is the only van to own when it comes to flogging moody Bowie LPs.
Only Fools is so deeply engrained with British popular culture that, as of 2003, “lovely jubbly” is in the Oxford English dictionary
This repetition of such a great show so close to Christmas is a testament to how close the British public are to Only Fools. It’s like having an old uncle over; always on form, always funny, and always welcomed in with open arms, even if they are going to tell you the same story for the umpteenth time. A lot of this can be put down to the fantastic performances from the entire cast. It’s simply impossible to imagine anyone other than David Jason and Nicholas Lindhurst playing Del and Rodney, respectively. So iconic have these actors become within their roles that Buster Merryfield’s death made the 6 o’clock news in 1999. As did Kenneth Macdonald’s, who played Mike the pub landlord, when he passed in 2001.
But most credit unquestionably goes to the show’s creator, John Sullivan. His prowess as a writer made him an unequivocal genius. He must’ve been to create characters and stories as touching and superb as those found in Only Fools and Horses. When Sullivan passed in 2011, the BBC aired A Touch of Glass, voted the second greatest episode ever, in which the Trotters destroy a priceless chandelier. That as a standalone sketch is funny, but when you take it within the realms of Only Fools it is priceless, timeless, iconic comedy.
The most touching moment of all was when Del Boy’s blind optimism turned into blind luck during the episode Time on our Hands, and the Trotters finally made their millions. There is no quicker tearjerker than when the Trotter clan walk into the Nag’s Head to the sound of applause, and there is no greater episode of British television.
All images: BBC