Monday, 25 April 2011

My Top 25 Only Fools and Horses Moments

Following on from my blog post tribute to John Sullivan here, I decided to follow it up with my Top 25 all-time Only Fools and Horses moments to further re-iterate his comic genius.

He managed to mix laughter, with drama, with tears of compassion as he told the story of an every-day London family who strove from day-to-day to make ends meet. They lived through the same highs and the same lows that we all do. It was John Sullivan's ability to turn these everyday emotions into a sitcom that made Only Fools and Horses one of the all-time greats of British situation comedy.

So here is my final tribute to John Sullivan - my top 25 Only Fools & Horses moments.

No.25 - 'During the War' (Time on Our Hands, 1996)

We begin at the end. Or the original end at least. By the time the 1996 Xmas trilogy was shown, Uncle Albert had for years bored Del and Rodney with his sea-fearing anectodes from 'During the War'. So when on this occasion Del Boy threatened his great-uncle on pain of having a cup of tea poured over his head, Albert responded with a wonderfully quick-witted response...

No.24 - Monopoly (Friday the 14th, 1983)
Here was a fine example of the mechanics of the Trotter family at play. In this case, Del Boy and Grandad teamed up against Rodney to deliberately wind him up - and of course, they succeeded!

No.23A 'Horrified' Uncle Albert  (Rodney Come Home, 1990)
This is just pure Uncle Albert! Del Boy wanted help to persuade Rodney that he was doing the wrong thing in taking a woman to the cinema whilst his marriage was falling apart but Albert couldn't get his timing right!
What tickles me most here is David Jason's expression. On a number of occasions as he chastises Albert for getting his timing wrong, he's finding it difficult to contain the laughter and to keep a straight face, so amusing is Buster Merryfield's acting as Uncle Albert.

No.22'Wendy House' (Healthy Competition, 1983)
It was apparently received one of the greatest laughs that the programme ever recorded from its studio audience as Grandad stole the scene by belittling Rodney's attempts to break-out on his own in business with Mickey Pearce.

No.21 - Trotters Independent Traders (A Slow Bus to Chingford, 1981 & Heroes and Villains, 1996)

Here, early on in series 1, Del Boy explains his business dreams. Rodney however, brings him back down with a bump by explaining that the company's acronym is TIT.

15 years later, to visualise Del's dream, we have Rodney's nighmarish futuristic dream at the start of the 1996 XMAS trilogy. Brilliant!

No.20 - Grandad's Cigarette Case (Homesick, 1984)
Grandad's deadpan delivery always delivered laughs and this story of his grandfather's old cigarette case which he wanted to give to Rodney didn't disappoint!

No.19 - Baby Joan (Sleepless in Peckham, 2003)
John Sullivan made Only Fools and Horses the beloved comedy that it is because he brought a depth to it that is missed in other sitcoms.
Having lived the lives of the Trotter family for over 20 years, it was emotional to see Rodney and Cassandra finally deliver a healthy baby girl in the last ever episode. Its conclusion, with Del and Rodney at their mother's ridiculously OTT grave, reminded us that the most important thing for our heroes wasn't money, but family.

No.18 - Holding Back the Years (Little Problems, 1989)
Another example of this depth of emotion in the characters was shown here when Rodney married Cassandra some 14 years earlier.
Suddenly we are allowed to see a vulnerable and lonely Del Boy. A big brother, who having been a surrogate father to his younger sibling, is now watching that sibling grow up and become his own man. It's a meaningful scene because it shows that behind his brassy exterior, our Del is a human being with those every day feelings.
A beautifully poigniant scene.

No.17 - 'Dave' (Homesick, 1983)
A long-running gag of the series was how Trigger would always call Rodney, Dave. Here, Rodney makes his one and only stand against Trigger on this issue. Of course, with this being Trigger, it makes no impact whatsoever!

No.16 - Grandad Talks to the Urn (Ashes to Ashes, 1982)

Del Boy loved a practical joke and here he caught a guilty Grandad out with a corker!

No.15 - Batman & Robin (Heroes and Villains, 1996)

It has already gained inconic status as one of the most memorable moments in Only Fools history. The scene was set brilliantly and their arrival through the mist at the scene of the attempted crime was just perfect!

No.14 - Rodney’s Job Application  (Modern Men, 1996)

Here was another Del Boy practical joke, but this time on brother Rodney. Spurn Del Trotter at your peril!

No.13 - Rodney and 'Nervous' Nerys Go for a 'Cruise' (Dates, 1988)

This was brilliant! Rodney trying his best to show off in front of 'Nervous' Nerys from the Nags Head but making a pract of himself as ever!

No.12 - Blow-Up Dolls (Danger UXD, 1989)

The comic acting here is just golden. The look of horror on Del, Rodney and Albert's faces as the adult blow up dolls in their flat inflate on their own is just priceless!

No.11 - Del Boy Hang-Gliding (Tea for Three, 1986)

Here, Rodney turns the tables on Del Boy and gets his revenge on a prank played on him by Del with the sun lounger.

Again, the comic timing is just spot on. Del's growing awareness that he's been framed by his brother and the growing fear in his face of what it means is just a wonderful sight!

No.10 - Del's Revenge on Roy Slater (The Class of '62, 1991)

For me, some of the best comedy in the series came from the latter of the 7 conventional series that were produced.

Into my top 10 and this is a fine example of that. Having been hounded throughout his life by the dodgy copper Roy Slater, it was a shock for Del to find out that the character played brilliantly by Oscar winning actor Jim Broadbent was in fact Raquel's first husband.

Here, having been bullied and manipulated by the brute, Del and Rodney have the last laugh!

No.9 - The Chandeliers (A Touch of Glass, 1982)

Another iconic moment for the Trotters though maybe controversial in that it only makes my No.9. Still, it is a classic and there's really no need for me to explain why!

No.8 - Grandad's Funeral (Strained Relations, 1985)

Here again we saw John Sullivan's wonderful writing as he mixed the pathos and poigiancy of Grandad's funeral with gentle humour.

It was a particularly sad scene to watch because of the knowledge that Lennard Pearce who played Grandad had died in real-life. It brought along with it also, the introduction of Uncle Albert.

No.7 - Cwwwwying (Stage Fright, 1991)

Already mentioned in my original blog post tribute to John Sullivan mentioned above, this for me is an absolute classic and well deserving of its place in my top 10.

No.6 - Baby Damian (Three Men, A Woman and a Baby, 1991)

An earlier clip above saw the birth of Rodney's baby girl. Here, that wonderful moment when Del Boy exclaimed with joy when asked by Albert "What is it?", with the immortal words, "It's a Baby!"

Particularly poigniant here was the fact that Del clearly had his mother at the forefront of his mind at this seminal point in his life. The scene of him cradling Damian in the hospital window looking up at the stars spoke of a character that had depth and of a script that had meaning.

No.5 - The Peckham Riots (Fatal Extraction, 1993)

This is wonderful! A drunken Del Boy inadvertantly starts a full-scale inner-city riot when he sings Matt Monroe's classic 'One Voice' at 2.15am! Please note the cameo played by Eastenders' Charlie Slater!

The following scene of his making his way through the riot in true Western style was brilliant!

No.4 - Millionnaires at Last (Time on Our Hands, 1996)

It was the moment that we and Del Boy had all been waiting - when the Trotters finally became millionnaires!

The scenes at Sotherby's were wonderful. But also, as follows that clip, the warmth and love between the two brothers when Rodney bought Del Boy the Rolls Royce and the emotional moments afterwards when they went back to the Nags Head with their new found wealth. The reception that they were given showed that they were loved by their friends as much as they were by ourselves the viewing public.

No.3 - Del Falls Through the Bar (Yuppy Love, 1989)

It has been voted in some polls, the funniest comedy moment of all-time. David Jason's timing to get his comic fall to look authentic has made this moment one of the most remembered and loved of the televisual age. It makes my top 3 with ease.

No.2 - The Poker Game (A Losing Streak, 1982)

Any moment which sees Del Boy get one over on slippery Boycie is always going to be a favourite but here he does it in style. In this high stakes gamble, Del outwits Boycie at his own game and wins - it's just a shame that Rodney forgot about the double headed coin!

I managed to emulate this moment myself when playing poker on a Latvian holiday with friends some years back. I also found myself in the incredulous position of holding 4 aces in my hand or as I called it with an excited flourish...2 pair...

No.1 - The Bus Explosion (Jolly Boys Outing, 1989)

For me, some of the best episodes like 'Chain Gang' were those that utilised the entire cast. It was done with a tour de force in 1989 on the Jolly Boys Outing.

It gave us what in mind is the best moment in Only Fools and Horses. The sight of Rodney trying to explain to Cassandra on the 'phone that Del isn't a bad influence and then seconds later in the background, the sight of their bus exploding is still pure unadulterated genius!

It may not be your No.1, but it most certainly is mine!

I hope you enjoyed my little run down and please remember who was responsible for all of this - those who acted the scenes but also the man who wrote them, John Sullivan.

RIP John and thanks for the laughter.


  1. The former Tennant25 April 2011 at 23:52

    totally the wrong order.

    Little fact for you, the building that Cllr Murray walks out of was the old Coroners Court in Bristol, but the inside shot is in fact the council house. As she walks out of the door, the stairs are on the right leading up to what was the Coroner's court, which is is where I had my first work experience at the age of 15.