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BBC Lines Up Fools and Horses Spin-off

By Dominic Timms, The Guardian, Monday November 1, 2004

Only Fools and Horses creator John Sullivan is working on a new spin-off from the hit comedy series based on arrogant second hand car dealer Boycie.

The BBC has ordered a pilot for the new show, Green Green Grass, in which the spiv car dealer played by John Challis swaps Peckham for the countryside.

The pilot, which is being made by Sullivan's production company Shazam, starts shooting at Teddington Studios at the end of this month.

The show, which also stars Boycie's wife Marlene, played by Sue Holderness, is expected to air early next year and will be made into a series if it proves a success.

"We are really excited about the show and looking forward to seeing these two characters back on our screens," said a BBC spokeswoman.

Details are still being finalised but Boycie, the wealthy car dealer who remains a wide boy at heart, grows tired of life in the city and yearns for a more tranquil life.

Following a warning from Denzil - played by Paul Barber - he decamps to the countryside with Marlene and their 15-year-old son Tyler.

The BBC has tried before to extract characters from popular series. In 1962 Sid James was lifted from Hancock's Half Hour and given his own show, Citizen James.

But while James's show ran for two years, later spin-offs often failed to live up to expectations. Ronnie Barker's Porridge spin-off, Going Straight, only managed six episodes in 1978 before it was taken off air.

Seven years after John Inman last cried "I'm free", the cast and crew of Are You Being Served were reunited for Grace and Favour, a spin-off based on the same double entendres that had made the original department store comedy such a hit with viewers.

But it lasted for just two series between 1992 and 1993 before it too fell out of favour.

However, Sullivan's pedigree as a writer should give Green Green Grass a better chance of success.

In a recent poll of BBC viewers Only Fools and Horses was voted the best UK sitcom of all time beating classics such as Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and Dad's Army. The show won the Radio Times Readers' Award at this year's Baftas

Sullivan wrote seven series of the comedy from 1981 to 1991. When the last episode proper - excluding the later Christmas specials - was shown in February 1991, 18.9 million viewers tuned in..

The 1989 Christmas special, The Jolly Boys Outing, attracted over 20 million viewers when it was first shown and was still managing an audience of over 5 million when it was shown again in June this year.

A one-off Christmas special in 2003 - which the BBC has promised would be its last Christmas outing - was the most watched programme over the festive period, attracting 15.5 million viewers, 58.3% of the available audience.

Sullivan's agent Tim Hancock said the writer was still thinking aboput creating a prequel to Only Fools and Horses, but the finished article was still some way off.

"He's been toying with the idea of an early version of Fools, going back to the 1960s, but it's definitely on the back burner at the moment."