The Green Green Grass (BBC1, 2005-2009)
Only Fools And Horses is arguably the most popular British sitcom of them all, I did do a piece sharing my memories recently, but there was probably very little I said that the average fan wouldn’t already know. Something that is surprising about that show is just how many episodes were thought to be the final one. As early as the mid-80s David Jason considered leaving, and Nicholas Lyndhurst was poised to go into a spin-off by himself, but this didn’t happen.
Then there was the memorable episode in Christmas 1996 where Del Boy and Rodney hit the jackpot, how could they top that. But viewers wanted more, so in the early-2000s there were three more episodes. These were received with some disappointment, and everyone was insistent that really would be the end. But viewers still wanted more, so how about doing a spin-off series where another regular character would be thrust into the spotlight?
Boycie (John Challis) thought of himself as something of a shrewd businessman (although he was a mere second-hand car salesman). But one day he runs into some trouble with the notorious Driscoll brothers who have left prison, and he realises that it might be time to leave Peckham behind, so along with his family he has little choice but to start a new life in rural Shropshire.
The Green Green Grass also featured Boycie’s wife Marlene (Sue Holderness) and his teenage son Tyler (I like the way that they had to cast someone who had a distinctive dimpled chin like Boycie’s), who are having to deal with something of a culture shock. The show was created and written by John Sullivan (although different writers contributed to the later episodes).
Boycie (don’t ever use his actual name Aubrey) and family now live at Winterdown Farm. He tries to be positive and sees this change as an opportunity to become a respected country squire (and often do his famous “heh-heh-heh” laugh), but his team, including ploughman Jed and housekeeper Mrs Cakeworthy are fairly useless. As the episodes progress, Boycie usually finds himself in rather awkward situations (mostly involving cows), and Tyler gets himself involved in a string of girlfriends interrupting his studying. Boycie can only escape all of this by going down the pub.
Such was the demand from viewers for there to be something Only Fools And Horses-related to watch at Christmas despite that show having now ended, shortly after the first series, The Green Green Grass was given a 50 minute special on Christmas Day, even though some felt that the show might not have been entirely ready for such an honour yet. The show did eventually establish itself and run for four series (along with further specials).
Later episodes included not very original plots such as Marlene’s long-lost sister suddenly turning up, and then her long-lost mother, Boycie taking part in the game show challenge Farm Idol, along with the shock that Boycie and Marlene had never actually been legally married, meant that the idea was beginning to be exhausted a little. The Green Green Grass wasn’t that bad in itself, but unfortunately it was always going to be compared to its hugely successful predecessor and come off as second best.
There were 32 episodes that (with the exception of one episode) have been released on DVD over eight discs, and there are also a small amount of extras including a look behind the scenes. The show also managed to get on to the archive channel circuit, and it has been repeated endlessly on Gold. After this, the character of Boycie has also featured in books, and you’ll still often see Challis and Holderness attend the fan conventions.