Rock And Chips (BBC1, 2010-2011)
It’s well known that many people think Only Fools And Horses is one of the greatest British sitcoms, so its story doesn’t need much explaining here, I thought instead that I would look back at one of the other parts of the show. There wasn’t really much left to say in the original version… but viewers still wanted more, so how about doing something different.
There had already been a sequel written by John Sullivan called The Green Green Grass which featured Boycie and his family and ran for four series on BBC1. So how about a prequel! This would also be written by Sullivan, but this time it would focus on Del Boy in his younger years. The first episode was called Rock And Chips and it was set in Peckham in 1960.
This series would be an opportunity to answer some questions about the show, like the identify of Rodney’s father, and we would also be able to meet Del’s mum Joan who had been referenced in a lot of episodes for the first time. James Buckley (best known for The Inbetweeners) was cast as Del, Kellie Bright (later to star in EastEnders) was Joan, and Nicholas Lyndhurst would also feature, but who would he play considering Rodney hadn’t been born at this point?
There was much anticipation about this opening episode that was 90 minutes long and was more of a comedy-drama. As well as Del and his mum, we would also meet his dad Reg and his granddad (whose first name was revealed to be Ted). Even in those days Del (who was about 15 at the time) was mates with the likes of Boycie, Denzil and Trigger, while his relatives were often down local pub The Nag’s Head. Also featuring was Freddie “The Frog” Robdal, a safecracker who had just been released from prison.
Joan works at a cinema and has two jobs that are selling the lollies and making the tea. She is also trying to get the family a house in a new block of high-rise flats, and there’s the organising of the first Jolly Boys Outing to Margate. Del has recently left school and decided to try and knock out some pop records down the market, he made himself a few quid and he never looked back.
Joan has something of a fling with Freddie behind Reg’s back, and at the end of the first episode she gives birth to Rodney, and as Freddie was played by Nicholas Lyndhurst, there really was no doubt that he will grow up to look like his father. This episode did do well in the ratings, although it seemed to get rather average reviews from critics, but I do think that it was worthwhile.
The second episode was called “Five Gold Rings” and was also something of a Christmas special that was set at the end of 1960. Del has got hold of some dodgy rings and then tries to go out with every girl that he can so he pretend that he is giving them all some expensive diamond engagement rings. Grandma Violet also turns up to look after the infant Rodney, and Joan decides to dye her hair as if she wasn’t glamorous enough already.
The third episode was called “The Frog And The Pussycat” and set during 1961 and 1962. Del and his mates have now got themselves some fancy mopeds and are trying to impress the girls by taking them out to restaurants. Joan is still carrying on with Freddie who is in trouble again, while wondering if she should leave Reg and trying to keep her job at the cinema and look after the growing Rodney.
I don’t know if any more episodes were planned, as we didn’t get to the point in the story where Freddie killed himself after he accidentally sat on his detonator while trying to break open another safe, Reg walked out on the family, or Joan became ill and died in 1964, because just before the third episode was shown, John Sullivan, the man behind Only Fools And Horses, The Green Green Grass and Rock And Chips (along with other popular sitcoms including Citizen Smith and Just Good Friends) died, he was remembered by many as a great comedy writer.
All three episodes of Rock And Chips have been released on DVD (but they contain no extras). But the story still hasn’t ended there, in more recent years there have been some books released featuring Del Boy’s views on life (written by John Sullivan’s sons), and there is also an Only Fools And Horses musical planned (yes, really), I’m sure it’ll be cushty.