Only Fools And Horses Christmas Special (BBC1, 1981)
I thought that I would review the first Christmas special of Only Fools And Horses, which was shown shortly after the conclusion after the first series on 28 December 1981 (the first special on the actual day was the third in 1983). This episode is rather significant because firstly, a lot people might not realise that they were making Christmas specials as early as this, and also, little did they realise that for the next 15 years or so the specials would be the centrepiece of BBC1’s Christmas schedule, doing increasingly well in the ratings, also extending in length, and featuring more ambitious ideas.
The first special “Christmas Crackers” might come across as very modest when compared to the later ones, and it was only 35 minutes long, but this was at just about the only point in the show’s history where its future was uncertain and believe it or not there was a small chance that this could’ve been the final episode. A successful repeat run confirmed we’d be seeing a lot more of the Trotters though.
It’s time for Christmas dinner, although you get the feeling that Granddad would rather have his usual cheeseburger, because he doesn’t want too much fuss, and Del Boy and Rodney fancy having a right old knees-up down the pub. Everything is coming along nicely, the potatoes are really well done, there’s some “green stuff”, the gravy’s been strained, the turkey still has the giblets inside, and the pudding is all burnt. It’s the Trotter family tradition, and the only thing that gets Del through it is the thought that this time next year he’ll be a millionaire.
Del then does what most people did late on in the day back then – fall asleep in front of the TV (or two TVs in this case) showing some circus thing with the Christmas Radio Times (the show appeared on the cover of the 1985 Radio Times double issue, along with NME, in what must be a unique double). Rodney can’t believe it and wants to go down The Monte Carlo Club. It might not be Jangles as far as leading early-80s clubs go, but people could still have a really good time. It’s either that or watch The Sound Of Music with a beer.
Off smartly-dressed Del and Rodney go, insisting that they are “The Peckham Playboys”. Del bumps into a mate called Earl, even though I don’t think he was ever seen or referenced again (it is notable that there are no appearances from the regulars such as Boycie and Trigger in this episode). He’s been having some trouble after his dad was in the pub and the glasses went flying everywhere. Del is sorry to hear that, while everyone in the background is doing a dance to “Wordy Rappinghood”. Needless to say, their attempts at pulling a few ladies fail miserably. These specials will get more exciting as the years pass.