Sunday, 16 September 2012

Only Fools and Horses

Only Fools and Horses - the story of Britain's Favourite Comedy by Graham McCann ISBN 978 0 85786 054 5

Graham McCann has written books on Dad's Army, Frankie Howerd, Terry Thomas, Morecombe and Wise, Gary Grant, Spike Milligan and co.

This book is a good mix of insights and trivia as one would expect from the experienced and knowledgeable McCann.

As well as a through analysis of how the programme came into being and how it developed.

The huge debt OFAH's owes to Hanocks Half Hour, Steptoe and Son and the writing partnership of Galton and Simpson is fulsomely acknowledged.   Interestingly so to is the debt writer John Sullivan owed to Charles Dickens who inspired him to write and the teacher who introduced him to the work of Dickens.  John Sullivan not only wrote OFAH's but also many other successful sitcoms, all but one as the sole author.

I think it was Denis Norden who said that Hancock Half Hour was a more like a Novel than a sitcom. In a similar way to describe OFAH's as a sitcom is to undersell it.

OFAH's was a sitcom which evolved into a cross between a sitcom and a soap opera.  It started in the 30 minute format and grew to 50 minutes episodes before extending to 90 minutes 'specials' a series of linked 3 x 50 minute specials.

Characters died (not something that happens in Terry and June) and real emotions and pathos and drama blend with the comedy.  It's influence on other comedy shows is so immense, it is almost easy to overlook.

McCann is good on both the strengths of the show and what are some of it weaknesses.  I think he probably believes that returning to the show after the Trotters had become millionaires was a mistake - and I tend to agree.  However, he also suggests a weak episode of OFAH's is better than most other sitcoms. 

Like many of our great TV programmes - chance and luck play a huge part - and who would guess that David Jason - who seems so perfect for Del Boy was not favoured for the part by John Sullivan and was only the third choice when considering who to cast?

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