In January this year, it was announced that the nation’s favourite sitcom, Only Fools and Horses, was to return after an eleven year hiatus for Sport Relief. The show’s legion of fans were divided: some rejoiced, some despaired. I suppose I was in the latter camp; all of the Only Fools revivals (the trilogy of specials from 2001-2003, spin-off The Green Green Grass and prequel Rock & Chips) largely failed to live up to the original series and, more importantly, writer and creator John Sullivan sadly passed away in 2011, leaving it to his two sons to write the script based on notes that their dad had left behind. Despite all of this, though, I tried to remain optimistic – and my optimism paid dividends as the sketch was a triumph!
Jim Sullivan already had form, having written seven episodes of The Green Green Grass – all of which I remember as being of the same standard as his father’s. Together with his brother Dan, and despite having refused to write a new Only Fools in the past, he penned this brand new ten minute episode, starring none other than David Beckham – who it turns out is actually a canny actor. Who knew?
Unlike Sir David Jason’s other revival, Still Open All Hours, thankfully nothing had changed in the world of the Trotters as Del was still trying to flog a batch of hooky goods with Rodney as his guinea pig and model. In this case, it was boxes of Beckham boxers – with each autographed by Golden Balls himself, a gag reminiscent of when Del tried to sell some cricket bats (‘each one personally autographed by Viv Richards’). However, this wasn’t the only reference to past gems as others came in the form of conversation between Del and Rodney in – what I assume was – Sid’s cafe, and also a fantastic pay-off at the end which for some reason I didn’t see coming but had me applauding – even if I was by myself in the sitting room.
The episode was quite a gem. Granted, it wasn’t packed with the laughs that fans of the original series will have been accustomed to but I’m sure no viewer expected that. The thing that took me most by surprise was how it altered my stance on the possibility of the show returning. I’d still be sceptical if a series was commissioned but Jim and Dan Sullivan have certainly proven their knack for crafting dialogue and situations that are on par with their dad’s, and so – and I never thought I’d say this – perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad decision on the BBC’s part to give the green light to a Christmas special? Judging by this episode, the scripts would be just as good as when John Sullivan was at the helm and David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst certainly wouldn’t have any problem slipping back into their roles as Peckham’s most notorious dodgy dealers – it was as if no time had elapsed between 2001 (when all of the ‘01-‘03 specials were filmed) and now.
Maybe the success of Still Open All Hours and Birds of a Feather, coupled with the overwhelmingly positive reaction to this episode from the Twit tersphere, will convince them and the writers to take a punt on this, the most treasured of TV sitcoms?
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