When something is as popular as Only Fools And Horses, it’s very easy to criticise it or patronise it, or at the very least forget how good it actually was, making it a bit like a TV version of The Beatles. Because it’s so ubiquitous, things like Del falling through the bar and Grandad dropping the other chandelier start to turn from moments of comedy genius into tired old gags, while everything I’ve seen since John Sullivan‘s death was announced has included those clips along with liberal uses of the phrases ‘you plonker’ and ‘lovely jubbly’.
In some ways, that’s fair enough, because for lots of Only Fools And Horses fans, maybe that’s all there needed to be, but it still diminishes the genius of Sullivan’s writing and his characters. From the first episode to the trilogy that saw them finally become millionaires (I try to block out the actual last three episodes), there was barely a step wrong and that journey made the happy ‘ending’ all the more rewarding to witness.
More than most shows of any kind, Only Fools… had heart and raw emotion underlying everything else, and it was best shown in my personal favourite episode, Strained Relations, from the fourth series. Filmed after Lennard Pierce had died, it showed the aftermath of Grandad’s funeral and as well as bringing the real grief of his fellow cast members into it, Sullivan managed to open up Del Boy in a way that you never normally saw, tearing away all the flash and front in a heartbreaking row with Rodney that still gets me every time. You can watch it in the clip below.
Rest in peace John Sullivan, one of the best…
- ‘Only Fools and Horses’ to be re-made in US (telegraph.co.uk)