ROCK & CHIPS: Wednesday 29th December, BBC1, 9pm ALERT ME
In January the BBC knocked out an experimental Only Fools And Horses prequel and retreated to the plush offices of broadcasting house to gauge the public response. Had they desecrated the memory of a British classic or had they found yet another way of educing more material from the nation’s best loved sitcom? Many of the critics may have dismissed it, but being the fools that they are*, the general public seemed to love it and realising what side of their bread was buttered on, the well-read bods at the Beeb penned two more hour-long specials for us to enjoy (the second is due next Easter). Or, if you are a pseudo-intellectual TV journalist, not enjoy… as the case may be.
So is it as good the second time round? Well, just about. Admittedly Five Rings can’t utilise the element of surprise like the first episode did 12 months ago, but all the strong characters and understated yet charming writing is still present. The real difficulty many of the naysayers had with the programme at the start of the year was that it did not contain the same belly-laughs that OFAH, but when taken for what it is (a gentle comedy drama), Rock and Chips still delivers low-key entertainment, cosy nostalgia and no small amount of wit.
Tonight’s episode is set during Christmas of 1960. A very Inbetweenerish Del Boy has left school and started an apprenticeship at the university of life and street hawking. Watching James Buckley attempt to get girls into bed by faking a marriage proposal is eerily familiar of his other show and in templated sitcom fashion, he ends up stringing a couple of girls along. But Derek’s petty tax misdemeanours and comic love-life are safely offset by his warm-hearted charm and an all-conquering love for his mother.
The same can not be said for his feckless old man, who has had his disability stopped (“I’ve been sacked from the dole!”) and still hasn’t realised how lucky he is to have a lady like Del’s hot young mum. As before, Phil Daniels is brilliantly cast as a younger Granddad and Robert Daws is a treat in his fleeting reprisal of the sleazy self-pleasuring cinema boss, but we are also introduced to a couple of new characters, among them the much talked of Grandma Trotter. Yet despite some stiff competition, it is Nicholas Lyndhurst who steals the show – and Joan Trotter’s heart – as the patrician but besotted super-criminal and father of Rodney. Just keep your fingers crossed that Freddie ‘The Frog’ Robdal doesn’t end up back to the Scrubs. Reg Trotter is a tit.