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Only Fools and Horses (1981-96)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Only Fools and Horses (1981-96)
52 x 30 min episodes in 8 series, plus 14 specials (colour)
ProducersRay Butt
 Gareth Gwenlan
 Louis Heaton
WriterJohn Sullivan

Cast: David Jason (Derek 'Del Boy' Trotter); Nicholas Lyndhurst (Rodney Trotter); Lennard Pearce (Grandad Trotter); Buster Merryfield (Uncle Albert Trotter); Roger Lloyd Pack (Trigger); Tessa Peake-Jones (Raquel Slater/Turner); Gwyneth Strong (Cassandra Parry/Trotter); John Challis (Aubrey 'Boycie' Boyce)

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The adventures of Peckham wheeler-dealer Derek Trotter and his naive brother Rodney as they attempt a whole series of get-rich-quick schemes - which invariably end in disastrous failure.

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"Why do only fools and horses work?" bemoans the theme tune for this long-running BBC sit-com, and it is this question which underlies the exploits of Derek 'Delboy' Trotter (David Jason) and his younger brother Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst). Written by John Sullivan and first aired in 1981, the series charts the fortunes of the two siblings as they attempt to escape from their dreary council block existence via a string of ill-fated get-rich-quick scams.

A born opportunist with aspirations beyond his working-class roots, Delboy proved not only an inspired comic creation but also an enduring icon of the Thatcher era. He is an eternal optimist, constantly assuring his sceptical brother that "this time next year, we'll be millionaires!" Lacking the entrepreneurial nous to succeed through conventional means, Del deludes himself into believing there is a fast-track to prosperity. Gormless brother Rodney is invariably roped into Trotter's Independent Trading's latest dubious business venture, a grudging sense of family loyalty clouding the lessons learned through bitter experience.

Only Fools and Horses (BBC, 1981-96) is a programme comprised almost entirely of fools. Upon the death of Granddad (Lennard Pearce) in the fourth series, Uncle Albert (Buster Merryfield) assumes residency at Nelson Mandela House. The former naval hero proves a harmless buffoon, boring everyone to tears with his ceaseless wartime reminisces. Other close associates of the Trotters include dim-witted road-sweeper Trigger (Roger Lloyd Pack), snooty car-dealer Boycie (John Challis) and good-natured loser Denzil (Paul Barber), all equally absurd in their own various ways.

The only characters to emerge with a semblance of good sense are stripper Raquel (Tessa Peak-Jones) and 'classy bird' Cassandra (Gwyneth Strong), girlfriends of Delboy and Rodney respectively. But any hopes that their steadying influence might tame the brothers' reckless excesses prove unfounded. As the series progresses, efforts to salvage these rocky personal relationships becomes an increasingly familiar theme.

Ultimately, Delboy and Rodney appeal to the British public's love of the underdog: we know they are destined to fail, and any success they achieve is likely to prove short-lived, yet we will them on anyway because of their charming naivety and plucky perseverance.

The series officially ended in 1991, but regular repeat showings and a string of one-off Christmas specials has ensured its popularity has remained undimmed. Polls regularly cite it as the favourite British comedy series of all time.

Darren Lee

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Video Clips
Complete episode (27:51)
Extract 1 (3:56)
Extract 2 (2:13)
Extract 3 (5:23)
Open All Hours (1973-85)
Barber, Paul (1952-)
Broadbent, Jim (1949-)
Davies, John Howard (1939-2011)
Jason, Sir David (1940-)
Lyndhurst, Nicholas (1961-)
Sullivan, John (1946-2011)
The Sitcom Family