Only Fools and Horses is a classic BBC TV comedy show from the late 1980’s and early 90’s. It was written by John Sullivan. Seven series were originally broadcast in the United Kingdom between 1981 and 1991, with sporadic Christmas specials until 2003. Episodes are regularly repeated even today, almost thirty years after production.
The show was set in Peckham in south London, it stars David Jason as ambitious market trader Derek “Del Boy” Trotter, Nicholas Lyndhurst as his younger brother Rodney, and Lennard Pearce as their ageing grandfather (later replaced by Buster Merryfield as their Uncle Albert). Backed by a strong supporting cast, the series chronicles their highs and lows in life, in particular, their attempts to get rich.
After a relatively slow start, the show went on to achieve consistently high ratings and the 1996 episode “Time On Our Hands” (at the time intended as the last episode) holds the record for the highest UK audience for a sitcom episode, attracting 24.3 million viewers. Critically and popularly acclaimed, the series received numerous awards, including recognition from the British Academy, the National Television Awards and the Royal Television Society, as well as winning individual accolades for both Sullivan and Jason. It was voted Britain’s Best Sitcom in a 2004 BBC poll.
It also had an impact on British culture, contributing several words and phrases to the English language and helping to popularize the Reliant Regal van. Only Fools and Horses – and consequently John Sullivan – is credited with the popularization in Britain of several words and phrases used by Del Boy regularly, particularly “Plonker”, meaning a fool or an idiot, and two expressions of delight or approval: “Cushty” and “Lovely jubbly”. The latter was borrowed from an advertising slogan for an obscure 1960s orange juice drink, called Jubbly, which was packaged in a pyramid-shaped, waxed paper carton. Sullivan remembered it and thought it was an expression Del Boy would use; in 2003, the phrase was incorporated into the new Oxford English Dictionary. Other British slang words commonly used and popularised in the series include “dipstick”, “wally” and “twonk”, all mild ways of calling someone an idiot.
Only Fools and Horses was sold to countries throughout the world. Australia, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Republic of Ireland, Israel, Macedonia, Malta, Montenegro, New Zealand, Pakistan, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa and Spain are among those who purchased it.