1 9 8 1 – 2 0 0 2 (UK)
63 x episodes
Only Fools and Horses first hit British TV screens on 8 September 1981 when Derek ‘Del-Boy’ Trotter was introduced to the unsuspecting British public, trying to sell one-legged turkeys from the back of his Reliant Robin.
Another astute Trotter business investment was the purchase of 25 combination briefcases (which had fallen off the back of a lorry) for £200. The briefcases had one slight imperfection – they were all locked with the combination code inside.
Other unsuccessful ventures included hairdryers that turned out to be paint-strippers, digital watches that played thirty-six different national anthems, portable compact-disc players that flung the CDs out like clay pigeons, and ‘Made in Britain’ dolls that sang a full repertoire of Chinese lullabies.
Del-Boy is the sole provider for his close-knit family, who together share a high-rise council flat (368 Nelson Mandela House) on the Nyerere estate in Peckham, South London.
Swathed in gold, heavily splashed with Brut and puffing a chunky cigar, Del enjoys the good life, which effectively means a night down The Nag’s Head drinking Drambuie and grapefruit cocktails, followed by a Ruby Murray (curry).
His choice of women has always left a lot to be desired, although occasionally he would stumble across a classier girl, which would warrant a trip to a Berni Inn for a steak meal.
In part, David Jason’s depiction of Derek Trotter was based on a builder, Derek Hockley, for whom he had worked in his days as an electrician.
Hockley had many of the affectations outlined by series creator John Sullivan in his characterisation of Del (gold jewellery, camel-hair coat) and Jason added others, like his habit of twitching his neck.
Nicholas Lyndhurst plays Del’s younger and more vulnerable brother, Rodney Trotter (also known simply as Rodders) who invariably comes off worst in many of Del-boys madcap schemes and cons.
Rodders has often been said to be ever-so-slightly intellectually challenged – despite his two GCSE’s (in Maths and Art) – but right from the beginning, Rodney has been threatening to dissolve their partnership, Trotters Independent Trading (TIT), in favour of a “proper” job.
Del and Rodders share their flat with (originally) their Granddad (and later their Uncle Albert). They also share the flat with lorry loads of ‘hooky’ gear . . .
Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter considers himself quite the suave sophisticate, hence his gold chains and constant (incorrect) use of French – “bon potage”.
His favourite sayings are “He who dares, wins” and “This time next year we’ll be millionaires”. Del’s dreams of empire are proudly reflected in the signwriting on their decrepit old yellow three-wheeled Reliant van; “New York – Paris – Peckham” (pictured at right).
Other regular characters include dense road sweeper Trigger (who insists on calling Rodney “Dave”); Boycey (Del’s more successful business ‘rival’) and his flirty wife, Marlene; pub landlord Mike; Raquel (Del’s bird); Cassandra (Rodney’s bird), lorry driver Denzil and Rodders’ best mate, Mickey Pearce. The Trotter’s nemesis is bent copper Roy Slater.
Taking its name from the old adage that ‘Only fools and horses work’ the series has become a part of popular culture in Britain. The show has also been responsible for the popularisation and widespread use of some modern slang phrases such as “Cushty” (OK), “plonker”, “twonk” and “wally” and “lovely jubbly”.
A total of seven 13 part series were made between 1981 and 1991 with no less than 12 Christmas specials, the last shown in 1993.
Writer John Sullivan allowed his characters to mature as the series developed, and moments of pathos were introduced – such as when Rodney marries yuppie banker Cassandra, and Del is left isolated and, for once, alone.
Del’s momentary introspection soon gave way to love for actress/strip-a-gram girl Racquel, who bore him a son, portentously named Damien, much to Rodney’s terror.
After a three year hiatus, Only Fools and Horses returned at Christmas 1996 with a three-part story that revealed how Del and Rodney did, at last, become millionaires by rediscovering a watch in their lockup that was worth £6 million.
It was a universally acclaimed revival that many considered to be a glorious finale. With the death of actor Buster Merryfield in 1999, it now seemed that the Trotters had done their last dodgy deal.
The Trotters made an appearance in a segment for Comic Relief 1997; set before their windfall, Del and Rodney discussed their financial problems but agreed (charitably) that there were many people worse off than they. In a clever piece of dialogue, the pair also alluded to Lyndhurst’s and Jason’s other successful screen personae, Gary Sparrow (from Goodnight Sweetheart) and the dour detective Inspector Frost.
Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter
Rodney ‘Rodders’ Trotter
Roger Lloyd Pack
Aubrey ‘Boycie’ Boyce