Del Boy: The early years

Friday, July 3, 2009 by

The BBC has just announced the long-rumoured commission of an Only Fools and Horses prequel.Oddly titled Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Chips, here’s the press release…

BBC Comedy Production and Shazam Productions have been commissioned by BBC One to make a new 90-minute comedy drama which focuses on the earlier years of Peckham’s most famous family, the Trotters, it was announced today.

It’s 1960 and Peckham’s answer to Brigitte Bardot, Joan Trotter, is not-so-happily ensconced with the work-shy, Reg Trotter and her teenage son, Derek. But the reappearance of “art connoisseur” Freddie Rodbal, fresh from a 10-year stay as a guest of Her Majesty, is set to ruffle some feathers in the Trotter household.

Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Chips is written by Only Fools And Horses creator John Sullivan, will be produced by Gareth Gwenlan and executive produced by Mark Freeland for BBC Comedy.

Mark Freeland, Head of Comedy at the BBC, says: “‘Once upon a time in Peckham…’ How incredibly tantalising. Nearly 30 years since Only Fools And Horses hit our screens, now we’ll have the chance to see the vivid, bittersweet drama that underpinned the iconic series.”

A co-production between in-house BBC Comedy and John Sullivan’s production company Shazam Productions, Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Chips will start shooting, entirely on location in London, in August, for transmission next year.

The comedy drama will centre on the relationships between the glamorous (certain neighbours might say “tarty”) Joan Trotter, Del-boy’s useless father Reg, the safe-cracker, Freddie Robdal and the young Del-boy himself.

And there will be a chance to see the teenage incarnations of some familiar faces including Boycie, Trigger, Denzil and Jumbo Mills.

The Trotter family haven’t yet moved into their flat in Nelson Mandela House, but there’ll be some recognisable settings such as the mean streets of Peckham and the Nag’s Head circa 1960.

Writer John Sullivan says: “Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Chips will be set in the real Sixties, before The Beatles and Mary Quant made London the coolest place on the planet.”

“The drama will feature South London at its least glamorous, where money was scarce, the staple diet was rock salmon and chips, and the flicks offer the only hint of glamour. And it will give us a bit of an insight into why Del and Rodney turned out they way they did.”

Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Chips is a co-production between Shazam Productions and BBC Comedy and was commissioned by Jay Hunt, Controller, BBC One and Lucy Lumsden, former Controller, Comedy Commissioning.

So no casting announced yet. Surely we’ll see David Jason playing Reg. But who could be the young Del Boy? Suggestions please…


21 Responses to “Del Boy: The early years”

  1. Dan Thornton on July 3rd, 2009 2:19 pm

    Surely Freddie Robdal will be played by Lyndhurst?

    They’ve threatened this show for years, haven’t they? I am surprised they’ve actually gone and will have done it. (Sub, please check.)

  2. annoyingmouse on July 3rd, 2009 2:22 pm

    I’ve often thought that a good prequel series, if they really needed one, would be one about the antics of young Grandad and Uncle Albert. Go all the way back to the twenties/thirties rather than another sixties series. I guess it just seems like it would be easier to recast any character other than Del. Didn’t the final episode have Lyndhurst as Freddie Robdal? Would that work in this one? It would seem a bit odd wouldn’t it?

  3. Chris Allen on July 3rd, 2009 3:52 pm

    More continuity contradictions ahoy!

  4. Applemask on July 3rd, 2009 4:14 pm

    Bollocks to continuity.

    Eh. Could work. It’s a pretty interesting setting for a period piece.

  5. Coolcat on July 3rd, 2009 5:47 pm

    As you hinted Graham, that’s a dreadful title. “Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ ….” should surely be finished off with something which more or less rhymes with ‘Roll’ (a football retrospective could be ‘…Goals’ perhaps?) or is a gag in itself – this is neither. But isn’t this the opportunity to do a good joke based on the ‘Only xxxx and xxxx’ formula, maybe with a 60s twist?

  6. Nathan on July 4th, 2009 11:00 am

    Rather a bunch of continuity contradictions than something that’s as funny as ‘The Green Green Grass’. Got a feeling it’s going to be the latter.

  7. Simon Perrins on July 4th, 2009 12:18 pm

    Wasn’t Del & Rodney’s dad in a couple of episodes? I seem to remember he was played by the same guy (Peter Woodthorpe) that played Gollum in Lord of the Rings. In the Radio 4 adaptation and the Ralph Bakshi cartoon (he wasn’t CGI). There’s a little fact for you to impress your Fantasy Literature/80s Comedy nerd pals!

  8. annoyingmouse on July 4th, 2009 1:05 pm

    Could they persuade Andy Serkis to do Reg? Given the above trivia, it certainly would be funny for us nerds.

  9. Gavtronic on July 4th, 2009 1:15 pm

    When ‘Only Fools’ worked, it wasn’t a commodity – DelBoy was a criminal, a conman, Rodney and Cassandra delivered that soft ache when his working class roots met her middle class world. When they became Disney characters the essence of their appeal was lost – remember their childhoods were painted as more ‘Child Called It’ than ‘Tucker’s Luck’ – Sullivan has an opportunity to create gallows-humour driven Steptoe-ism, though I fear, as with the unnecessary Christmas specials and ‘The Green, Green Grass’, this new venture will be a cynical cash-in of a live-action kids’ cartoon – and not a very good one at that.

  10. Nick H on July 4th, 2009 1:19 pm

    Peter Woodthorpe was also the voice of Pigsy in “Monkey”. He only appeared in one episode as Reg Trotter, the Christmas Day episode in 1983.
    I don’t think Jason will play Reg. He’s as old now as Lennard Pearce was when playing Grandad…

  11. Bobby Rainsbury on July 4th, 2009 2:51 pm

    Sounds fun and interesting i love only fools and horses can’t wait to see it John Sullivan is a class writer it should be fantastic if it works out

  12. Chris Jones on July 5th, 2009 1:57 am

    The Rock and Chips in the title refers to the Rock Salmon and Chips in the press release…not sure how many people will get it though. Just me, I guess.

    Does sound Hideous though (the programme, not the Rock and Chips).

  13. Applemask on July 7th, 2009 6:23 pm

    Rock is a kind of fish. Given how few people have got the joke they should probably change the title. I’m not sure how much sex and drugs will factor into it anyway.

  14. Bobby Peru on July 7th, 2009 10:10 pm

    They will no doubt explain the title in the lyrics of the theme tune!

    Sadly i can’t see this being anything other than a complete disaster. Casting will be vital and if the writing is sharp enough it might just work but i can’t see it working.

  15. Hank N. Shaw on July 8th, 2009 8:58 am

    If you have explain the mind-bogglingly awful title in the press release, it’s a sure sign that nobody’s had the balls to stand up to John Sullivan and tell him how woeful it is.

  16. Steve Brennan on July 8th, 2009 5:30 pm

    Wow! This sounds shit!

    Sorry, but Sullivan’s record for the last ten years is not good. He resurrected ‘Only Fools’ despite having already had as perfect an ending as you could wish for, with woeful results. ‘The Green, Green Grass’ is execrable BBC comedy-lite (on a similar level to ‘When the Whistle Blows’, the ruthlessly accurate Ricky Gervais sitcom-within-a-sitcom from ‘Extras’). He is also casually ignoring the back story of Freddy Robdal introduced in the classic ‘The Frog’s Legacy’, and not for the first time either. In that episode, Del and Rodney had never heard of Robdal before, and spent the whole time asking every bugger in Peckham who he was. In the final episodes of Only Fools, all of a sudden he’s in a photo with young Del and all his mates, and in this certain-to-be-shite effort he’s again knocking around with them. And who can seriously think that anyone would be interested in seeing Del & Rodney not being played by Jason and Lyndhurst? Flop of the year. I’ll stake my reputation on it.

  17. Mark on July 22nd, 2009 3:13 pm

    Only Fools was littered with allusions to Del’s past, conjuring up images that’ll be hard to live up to. His mother, for one, was discussed so colourfully that’ll it’d be odd to actually see her portrayed. I agree with the earlier comments- despite being a reasonable premise, there’s little evidence that Sullivan is capable of writing good comedy these days. OFAH got increasingly weak when the Cassandra character was introduced (not helped by the wooden actress who played her) and ended up as a painfully sentimental soap opera. People laughed like drains when Del & Rodney dressed as Batman & Robin, but take another look at those episodes- pitiful compared to the early series

  18. Glenn Aylett on July 31st, 2009 6:52 pm

    I just hope this works as the early life of Del Trotter has always been of interest to me: was he always a not very successful market trader, was he a mod or a rocker( though a liking for The Who and his style of dress would suggest a mod), was he ever part of the sixties counter culture, and did he ever hold down a regular full time job? This could be interesting to see how Del Boy was in the sixties and answer a few unanswered questions for the fans. Of course, if it is an excellent comedy, then all the better.

  19. ljones on July 31st, 2009 10:38 pm

    Well…initially, this sounds like an awful idea! As someone above said if it turns out like “the green green grass” then all you can expect is a 30-min yawnothon I guess. I don’t know how they are going to keep the continuity with the original OFAH episodes — maybe they aren’t? Could this be an attempt at an OFAH reboot?

  20. Neal on August 1st, 2009 12:12 pm

    Hasn’t this once superb and still much loved comedy suffered enough? Seriously?

  21. Glenn Aylett on August 2nd, 2009 5:24 pm

    I will admit Horses seemed to go into a decline with the 1990 and 1991 Christmas specials, which were a big disappointment, and the arrival of Cassandra, but a prequel could be interesting.