Long live Hooky St: Del Boy prequel shows that best TV never dies

All good things must come to an end; except, it seems, good television. Tonight, almost 20 years after the series officially ended, the long-anticipated prequel to Only Fools and Horses – voted Britain's favourite ever sitcom – will be screened on BBC 1.

It is one of the TV shows that refuses to die – instead of shuffling off the mortal screen, they are rejuvenated for decades. Other examples include Star Trek, Dr Who, Taggart, Top of the Pops and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

In tonight's Rock & Chips, the BBC takes the saga of the lovable wheeler-dealer Del Boy back to the 1960s. Del and his friends, Trigger and Denzil, are teenagers, and Nicholas Lyndhurst, who played Del's gormless little brother, Rodney, in the original series, is cast as Freddy "the Frog" Robdal, the brothers' father.

Helen Wheatley, senior lecturer in film and television at Warwick University, said that television has now developed its own "canon" with programmes constantly being recycled as they are discovered by new generations of viewers.

"There have always been spin-offs as producers look for guaranteed audiences," said Dr Wheatley. "But it is also a particularly anxious time for television and viewers at the moment, with concerns that the internet is killing off the medium and its shared experience.

"The choice on TV is now almost overwhelming, so we reach for the familiar. Only Fools and Horses provides the same sense of pleasure as looking at an old family album. It's reassuring; it shows us how far we've come and taps into television's appetite for nostalgia."

The comedy, which reached 24 million viewers at its peak, ran for seven series between 1981 and 1991. Christmas specials kept viewers up to date with the goings-on in Nelson Mandela House until 2003.

The writer John Sullivan has nursed the idea of a prequel since 1997 but was distracted with The Green Green Grass, a spin-off featuring the rogue car trader Boycie and his wife, Marlene, who move out of Peckham to the countryside. The Independent on Sunday first revealed the prequel was in production last January.

"These shows also bring back the cosy glow that TV can create and reach across the generations," Dr Wheatley added. "I know someone whose five-year-old is a big Dr Who fan, and so they're working their way through the back catalogue together. It's a family activity."

TV classics...

Doctor Who

First had children quivering behind the sofa in 1963 and broadcast original episodes until 1989. It was revived in 2005 to massive success – notably with David Tennant as the eccentric Tardis-dwelling Time Lord.

Ratings: 8/10 – Dalektable

Star Trek

Boldly went where no TV show had gone before in 1966 with a multi-ethnic cast and optimistic vision of the future. It also spawned four further original series over 40 years, not to mention numerous films, the last in 2009.

Ratings: 8/10 – Spocktacular

Top of the Pops

Thursday nights once revolved around chart acts miming to awkwardly dancing teenagers. It was axed after 42 years in 2006, the victim of the likes of MTV. But there's still Top of the Pops Two and Christmas specials.

Ratings: 5/10 – The beat goes on

University Challenge

This souped-up pub quiz has been giving smug students their comeuppance since 1962. The original series, hosted by Bamber Gascoigne, ended in 1987 but Jeremy Paxman revived it in 1994.

Ratings: 6/10 – No one likes a know-it-all


The tough Glaswegian detective has been solving grim murrrders since 1983. Not even the death of the lead actor, Mark McManus, in 1994 could stop the show which has broadcast original episodes every year.

Ratings: 7/10 – Longest-running 'polis' show

Come Dancing

Grace, elegance and elephant-footedness have enthralled the viewing public since 1949. Broadcast on and off until 1998, the show was revived with a sexy makeover in 2004 as Strictly Come Dancing.

Ratings: 9/10 – The world's most watched show

Rab C Nesbitt

Gregor Fisher has been delighting Scottish – and bamboozling English – audiences with the happily unemployed alcoholic's Glaswegian patter since 1986. The sitcom ran until 1999 and was revived last week.

Ratings: 7/10 – Once a waster...

Only Fools and Horses

Who would have thought dodgy Del Boy would prove such a cushty character? This classic sitcom has seen original episodes on our screens for nearly 30 years as the writer John Sullivan feeds the nation's appetite for the Trotter family and its mishaps.

Ratings: 10/10 – Lovely Jubbly

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Charter Selection: Graphic Designer, Guildford

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Charter Selection: This renowned and well establish...

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas