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Fools writer leaves room for more
It has become a Christmas TV institution to rival the golden days of Morecambe and Wise or the Queen's speech.
When Only Fools and Horses airs on Christmas Day, millions will tune in to follow the latest seasonal saga involving Del Boy, Boycey, Trigger and the Trotter family.
This year's show, Sleepless in Peckham, will be the 20th made-for-Christmas episode - and there is continued speculation it will be the last.
But series creator John Sullivan has refused to rule out further adventures for Peckham's favourite sons and their beloved yellow Reliant Robin.
"I haven't said it's the last," Sullivan told BBC News Online.
"We said it in '96 and made fools of ourselves. Within a couple of weeks we knew we were coming back. So we're not going to say it again.
"It may be the last one. Maybe we will come back and do a special."
Sleepless In Peckham is the final part of a trilogy which began with If They Could See Us Now in 2001, followed by last year's Strangers On The Shore.
It chronicles the Trotters' ongoing mixed fortunes after they lost their millionaire status and ended up mistakenly smuggling an illegal immigrant from France.
Now they face being evicted from Nelson Mandela House after 22 years unless they can pay back a huge tax demand.
Sullivan describes Sleepless in Peckham as a "very busy" episode.
"Del is still being pursed for £53,000 by the Inland Revenue and the Trotters have got to find somewhere else to live.
"Trigger is now very much into the X-Files and Close Encounters, and spends a lot of time looking at the sky. I think he's been waiting for the mother ship to return."
The 75-minute episode was actually completed 18 months ago, although Sullivan often leaves the final touches literally to the final moments.
"One year I was still putting the credits on on Christmas morning," he revealed. "We came so close to the wire."
Sullivan used to be a scenery shifter at the BBC before he made his name writing Citizen Smith in the 1970s, starring Robert Lindsay as a would-be urban revolutionary in Tooting.
His own comedy writing heroes were Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, the team behind Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son.
"They were like my gods. I followed their construction very consciously; trying to learn how to construct a sitcom. They did the big things rather than the little bitty things, and they always ended the scene with a laugh."
Sullivan also spent his Saturday mornings devouring Laurel and Hardy films at the cinema - and the legendary comic pairing had a big influence on the creation of Derek and Rodney Trotter.
He believes Britain is enjoying a new "golden age" of comedy writing, citing Ricky Gervais, Peter Kay, BBC sketch show Little Britain and Harry Hill's latest work as his favourites in the genre.
If Sleepless in Peckham does turn out to be the final episode, fans have not seen the end of Del Boy entirely
Sullivan is working on a prequel set in the 1960s following the Trotters' parents and their teenage Derek on his mod's scooter.
The writer is happy with his life's work - "I have made my mark and I'm very proud" - but he will not sit down with the rest of Britain to watch his creation on Christmas night.
"I record it. I get so hypercritical - the family ask me to leave or throw me out."
Del Boy has 'tackiest front room on TV'
Del Boy's front room in Only Fools and Horses has been voted the tackiest on television.
Among the contents of the Trotters' flat in Nelson Mandela House which have come in for criticism are its tasteless bar, tatty sofas and garish colour scheme.
The flat's living room was judged the worst on television by 22% of those who took part in the survey of 3,000 people by furniture retailer Harveys.
Close behind, with 19% of the vote, was The Royle Family's smoky living room in the hit comedy starring Ricky Tomlinson as Jim Royle.
Third place in the survey, with 16%, was Les Battersby's living room in ITV soap Coronation Street.
David Rich, head of marketing at Harveys furniture, said: "We would love the chance to get hold of many of the rooms nominated as the most tasteless on TV and give them the makeover they deserve.
"But often those tacky features are just what make them such an integral part of the programmes.
"Many of these rooms are cleverly constructed to act as a reflection of the character's personalities - the latest in fashion, obsessively tidy or tatty but comfy - and while most of us would hate to live in these rooms they have become as familiar to us as our own houses."
Peckham versus Albert Square in showdown for Christmas top-spot
DEL BOY might have lost some of his sparkle in recent years but that has not stopped bookmakers making Only Fools And Horses odds-on favourite to be the top television programme on Christmas Day.
The cult BBC comedy has been the festive No 1 for several years, although constant re-runs and an ordinary ‘special’ 12 months ago - where laughs were thin on the ground - means it has lost some of its magic.
That is unlikely to prevent loyal followers tuning in for the promise of new material, especially as its evening slot will fit in with the schedule of millions. Bet 365 offer a best price of 4-6.
If Only Fools And Horses proves a switch-off then the show most likely to take advantage is Eastenders, which is priced at 13-8. The best-watched soap is bound to attract a big audience for its second show of the day, which goes out at 8.30pm.
Its ITV rival, Coronation Street, is quoted at 20-1, with World Idol, in which 11 pop idols from around the world will compete for the title, a 33-1 chance. All other programmes and films are quoted at 100-1 or bigger.
Jason drops possible 'retirement' bombshell
TV favourite David Jason shocked the showbiz world when he announced he was thinking of retiring.
The 63-year-old star said it may be time for him to quit the acting business.
Jason made his announcement at the National Television Awards last night where he picked up the most popular drama award for A Touch Of Frost.
He has played the role of grumpy detective DI Jack Frost for the past 11 years.
You reach a point when there are only so many times you can say, ‘Time of death’, he said.
When a show is still popular you do want to continue but Frost should retire now and maybe I should retire.
The news will come as a shock to fans of Jason, best loved for his role as Del Boy in Only Fools And Horses.
His other classic shows include Open All Hours, Porterhouse Blue and The Darling Buds Of May.
Jason missed out on the most popular actor award last night, which went instead to EastEnders star Shane Richie.
Richie said: Being the most popular doesn’t mean you’re the best. One of my heroes is David Jason and I like to think one day I’ll be as good as David because to me, he’s the best.
Jason’s plans may have something to do with his newest role as a father.
The star became a dad to daughter Sophie Mae two years ago at the age of 61 and he may want to devote more time to fatherhood and his partner, Gill Hinchcliffe.
He could also be planning a career behind the camera. Jason made his directorial debut last year with ITV drama The Quest.
Earlier this year, Jason was awarded a Bafta Fellowship and he said then: I was sitting down there wondering if this is Bafta’s way of saying it’s time to move over and give someone else a chance. Is it my retirement?
Del lookalike is mugged in Glasgow
A DEL Boy look-alike was mugged at knifepoint in Glasgow.
Stephan Feix was dressed as the Only Fools and Horses character - complete with sheepskin coat and flat cap - when he was set upon by a gang near George Square.
The thieves made off with his 1980s-style mobile phone, white silk scarf and a neck chain, with a gold letter 'D'.
But although the items weren't worth much, Mr Feix is now without his all-important mobile phone prop - similar to the one Del Boy used when he was trying to be a yuppie.
He is now hoping someone may be able to help him find another vintage Motorola model.
Mr Feix, 41, said: "I can replace the scarf and chain, but not the old-fashioned mobile. "It took me absolutely ages to find one. It was known as 'the brick' because of its size and it was central to my act, as I used to pretend I was talking to Uncle Albert and Rodney.
"Maybe someone in Glasgow has one they don't want or may even stumble across my own phone."
The impersonator, who has been a professional lookalike for five years, had been returning from a photo shoot at a city centre bar in the early hours of Friday when he was attacked.
At first the former lorry driver believed the gang were joking with him as they began quoting catchphrases used by David Jason's much-loved wheeler-dealer.
"It all seemed quite friendly. They were giving it 'luvly jubbly', 'cushty Del Boy' and 'mange tout'. "But two seconds later I felt something metal which I believed was a knife pressing against my throat. "I was scared - it's not a nice thing to happen.
It is not the first time, Mr Feix, from Derby, has been mugged when dressed as Del Boy. The same thing happened in London two years ago.
DEL BOY SET FOR TEENAGE SITCOM SPIN-OFF
ONLY Fools And Horses writer John Sullivan is to create a new show about Del Boy Trotter's early years.
Sitcom Once Upon A Time In Peckham will show how the lovable rogue began his career as a teenage wheelerdealer -with wee brother Rodney still in nappies.
All the main broadcasters are set to battle it out over the rights for the spin-off show, with the BBC leading the charge.
Yesterday, Sullivan explained that the pilot episode sees Del Boy in the 1960s as he bunks off school, becomes a Mod and flogs dodgy gear to his mates.
Younger versions of other favourite characters -including Boycie, Trigger Mickey Pearce and Denzil -will also feature.
And it's hoped David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst will make cameo appearances.
Sullivan said: ``I'm having a lot of fun writing it because it's set in the same period as when I was growing up.''
The pair's mum Joanie was often referred to by Del Boy in Only Fools, but never seen as she had died
In the new programme, however, she will appear as a woman in her 20s, still married to Del's father, Reg.
In an interview in next week's TV Times, Sullivan said: ``Joanie will be a key character and during the film will give birth to Rodney.
``We'll also see Grandad as a much younger man.''
To end the reign of the original cast, the very last episode of Only Fools And Horses is expected to be screened by the BBC at Christmas.
Only Fools & Moons
Shane Ritchie is hoping that his Eastenders character, Alfie Moon, could take his cue from Del Boy. "Alfie can be very upbeat, but it's a fantastic relief to get the emotionally heavy scenes," he told a fan forum. "The analogy I make is with David Jason. He makes us laugh as Del Boy, but then he did that scene where he became a father and made us cry - I'd love Alfie to have that appeal."
Victory for 'Del Boy' after years of disputes
NEIGHBOURS have backed Robin Regal owner Len Savill after complaints about his three-wheeled van.
Mr Savill, of The Paddock, Chalfont St Peter, made national headlines after he received anonymous phone calls saying he shouldn't be allowed to park his vehicle in the street because it was an eyesore.
But nearby residents have given their support to the businessman after he approached Chiltern District Council to provide proof he was legally allowed to park the yellow three-wheeler, similar to the one driven by David Jason's character Del Boy in TV series Only Fools And Horses, in his street.
Esme Kirk, of The Paddock, said: "I think it is disgraceful. I cannot imagine why someone would make those complaints."
Linda Smith, who lives opposite Mr Savill, said his tormentors should find something constructive to do.
She said: "There is plenty to do in the village if they are so concerned about the place."
Mr Savill has been backed by Chiltern District Council.
He said: "It has been going on for several years now. Recently I got a phone call from someone telling me they were fed up with looking at the van and people even phoned the council to complain about it."
The 59-year-old accused his tormentors of lacking a sense of humour but now believes he has had the last laugh by putting up a sign which reads "Victory for Del Boy".
A Fool's Paradise
From The Guardianby Nancy Banks-Smith
Enn Reitel was the first choice to play Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses. His long, rather lugubrious face, so like Nicholas Lyndhurst's, flickered for a moment on Comedy Connections (BBC 1) and then was seen no more. The programme claimed he turned the part down, but he denies it. "No actor ever turns down a part. That would be silly. I was doing something else and it overlapped."
Jim Broadbent, the second choice, was also tied up. You can imagine Broadbent as a different sort of Del Boy but we would have lost the comic disparity in height, which makes you wonder sometimes about Mrs Trotter. Jason and Lyndhurst are physically funny before they speak.
Broadbent went on to win an Oscar and Reitel has become every advertiser's first choice for a voice over. Churchill, for instance. You remember the nodding dog? Reitel's is the voice that persuades you insurers are funny, friendly creatures, a little dim but so endearing, who say yes all the time. Voice overs are a slightly mysterious, twilit world. They pay extremely well and fans don't harrass you in public because, as Arthur Daley said in Minder, "Your boat don't ring no bells." Usually. Reitel was walking down a narrow street in Soho, when a man leaned out of a van, stared and shouted "Oi, you! You was nearly famous!" And, of course, he nearly was.
Nobody wanted David Jason for Del Boy except the director. Twenty years on, as Jason mimicked the teeth-sucking and jowl-shaking that went on, you can see it still rankles. Now his clout is such that the BBC and ITV use him as a wrecking ball whenever they want to flatten each other.
Only Fools and Horses did about as well as Trotters Independent Trading (The head of comedy: "Rather disastrous.") until a technicians' strike and the consequent shortage of new shows forced the BBC to repeat it on a different day at a different time. Then it caught the public fancy.
To begin at the beginning. John Sullivan, the writer, was a brewery worker when a friend showed him a newspaper story about Johnny Speight earning £1000 an episode for Till Death Us Do Part saying, "We're funny guys. We should do that." Sullivan took a job as a scene shifter at the BBC. The only order he was given was not to annoy the stars. "Which I did. Every opportunity I got, I annoyed them." Ronnie Barker, a writer himself, listened and liked his ideas.
Jason was mystified at Sullivan's success. "He's had no formal education. A bit of a drop out. To come with no letters, no training English, and produce out of his head what he produces... it's a bit spooky." What Sullivan had in his head was the memory of mates who didn't make it. "They all had the confidence and ambition to make something of their lives but they didn't have the education or the intelligence to do that. But they had this great belief in themselves." Del Boy.
Only Fools and Horses has the three best prat falls in television and the three best prats. At first it was the classic Will Hay trio of the old fool, the young fool and the fool in charge but, as Sullivan said, it became a community rather than just a family. The later programmes were Dickensian in their sweep and warmth.
An incidental delight was the discovery of how posh Marlene, Boycie's wife, is in real life. Sue Holderness said "All of them really are deep down jolly good eggs. For all that they are involved in some slightly dodgy dealing, they are actually awfully nice." You could confidently invite her to open your fete.
DIPSTICKS TARGET DEL BOY CARS
DEL Boy's famous three-wheel motor has been vandalised - as it was revealed that yobs are OVERTURNING drivers' Reliant Robins.
The tatty Trotter Trading Company van from TV's Only Fools And Horses had its windows smashed by thugs who broke into the National Film Exhibition.
They ignored the 60s Batmobile at the centre in St Agnes, Cornwall.
The break-in follows a spate of attacks on Robins in Essex.
David Martin, 72, of Rayleigh, has found his on its roof three times - and Stephen Delve of Basildon, has been a victim seven times.
Stephen, 57, said: "Reliants are harmless, friendly little machines but we are being targeted. Unfortunately, you don't have to be very strong to tip one over."
A police spokesman said: "Vandals may think it's amusing but it's a serious offence."
Del Boy to get Bafta honour
07 April 2003
Actor David Jason, who plays Del Boy Trotter in comedy favourite Only Fools and Horses, is to receive the highest award in British TV.
He will receive a fellowship from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) at the academy's TV awards ceremony on Sunday, the Radio Times has revealed.
Jason's 35-year career has made him one of the best-loved personalities on the UK's small screen.
As well as playing wheeler dealer Del Boy, he has also had hits with sitcom Open All Hours and detective drama A Touch of Frost.
He will receive the honour at the biggest awards night in UK TV at the London Palladium.
Jason told the Radio Times: "I have so many people that come up to me and the nice thing is they shake my hand and say, 'Thank you for giving me so many laughs over the years.'
"That, I have to admit, is one of the greatest rewards."
Bafta fellowships have recently gone to acting legend Sir John Mills, Oscar-winner Dame Judi Dench and late Inspector Morse star John Thaw.
MICKEY: I'M AN ALCOHOLIC - Only Fools stars shock confession
From The News of the World
12 January 2003
ONLY Fools and Horses star Patrick Murray has confessed that he is desperately fighting a secret battle against alcoholism.
The haggard actor, who plays spivvy Mickey Pearce, came clean after millions of fans saw his booze-ravaged features on the show's Christmas special.
Murray told the News of the World: "Yes, it's true. I'm an alcoholic. I was drinking 10 lagers and half a bottle of whisky a day. It started as a social thing but it became a habit."
The 46-year-old favourite revealed how he:
POURED his heart out to co-star David Jason
SOUGHT help from Alcoholics Anonymous,
WORKED as a mini-cab driver and building labourer as he drank his money away, and
TURNED down other acting jobs because they did not match up to Only Fools and Horses.
But he also revealed that girlfriend Christina Stanley, 32, has put his life back on track and now they plan to marry.
The couple share a modest flat next to a tyre depot in South London in stark contrast to the stately piles of Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst, who plays plonker Rodney.
"It's fair to say the others earned lots more than me," he sighed. "They were the money and we were just the support act. It did annoy me but that's life. David and Nicholas earned ten times what I did."
But as the big names were collecting awards for their parts in the BBC1 smash-hit series, Patrick was fighting the demon drink. He admitted:
I was a mess. I could easily have died. I thought it was macho that I could drink so much and stay standing. People were amazed. It wasn't until my son Ricky, who was 15 at the time, confronted me about it that I actually did anything.
After filming Only Fools, we'd always go for a drink but I would never have more than them.
But in 1998 I took over a pub and people would buy me drinks. It became habitual.
I'd start drinking when I opened the pub at 11am and continued until I shut the door.
I'd wake with a horrible hangover and riddled with doubts wondering what had happened the night before. But I'd just start all over again. I'd get aggressive with people but that didn't stop me. Then my son sat me down in the bar and said: "Dad, I'm worried about you. You're drinking too much."
The very same day I closed down the pub, locked the doors and walked away. Until then I'd been in denial.
Patrick gathered the strength to enrol in an Alcoholics Anonymous class in Streatham, South London.
"I had to stand up and say ‘My name is Patrick Murray and I am an alcoholic'," he recalled.
"They asked me 10 questions and said that if I answered yes to more than two of them, I was an alcoholic. I said yes to five. It was very scary." He then decided to confess to the rest of the cast. He said: "It was when I returned to film one of the Christmas specials. They asked me if I wanted a drink.
"I simply told them I didn't drink any more. They were a bit shocked but said how proud they were of me.
"David Jason was the most supportive. I told him all about it and he offered a lot of sympathy."
After 22 years, Only Fools and Horses still topped the viewing charts at Christmas with 16.3 million viewers tuning in to see Mickey drinking in The Nag's Head. But between the festive specials Patrick could not find acting jobs. "I suppose I could have taken smaller roles," he said. "But how can I beat what I've done on Only Fools?
"I never wanted to be in anything that wasn't as great. Instead I've been doing anything to make money.
"I've worked as a taxi driver, builder, antique dealer and even in a hospital as a receptionist.
"One day I'd be earning £30 and the next £3,000 on the show.There's a special coming out at Easter—and I hope there will be more."
Patrick moved into Christina's flat and on their mantelpiece sits a Buddha which he says helps keep him calm.
Bizarrely he proposed to Christina during a radio interview.
He said: "They asked who I lived with and I was about to say my girlfriend when I realised she meant much more to me than that.
"So I turned to her and asked if she'd mind if I called her my fiance. It's the best decision I ever made."
The couple plan to wed this year in Ireland.
Patrick said: "Christina's made my life complete. We're going to set up a cab company together.
But if a fantastic acting role comes along I may take it.
"My dream is to set up youth clubs so youngsters can get off the streets and stop getting drunk. I want to give something back."
Patrick has not forgotten his painful past and now donates hours of his time to helping others with drink problems.
He said: "I've been there, I know what it's like. I go out in New Cross where people know me and the kids respect me. They approach me and ask for help."
Divorced Patrick jokes: "I won't be celebrating my marriage with a glass of champagne. It will just be orange juice for me.
"I'm happy that I've been a drunk because it opened my eyes to the world and made me realise what I want from life.
"My three sons are prouder of me for kicking the booze than they ever were about me being in Only Fools and Horses. You can't ask for much more than that."
As Del Boy would say, that's luvvly jubbly, Mickey.
Only Fools' Christmas special tops TV charts
01 January 2003
Only Fools And Horses' Christmas special has received the highest ratings of 2002. It narrowly beat the second Christmas Day episode of EastEnders, with an audience of 16.3 million. But ratings for the BBC1 comedy were down on last year, when its 2001 festive edition attracted 21.34 million viewers. The EastEnders episode in which Jamie Mitchell dies pulled in 16 million viewers, making it the second most watched programme of the year.
And an episode of Coronation Street, in which Emily Bishop nearly dies at the hands of Richard Hillman, came in third place, with 15 million viewers. Much of the top ten was dominated by the World Cup, but the top-rated drama of the year was Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. It came in at number eight, just beating ITV stalwart A Touch of Frost.