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
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
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: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst - High Wycombe - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst role...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn