Introduction – Best Only Fools And Horses Episodes
Only Fools And Horses is the greatest British sitcom of all time. It has a back catalogue of 64 episodes that includes dozens of absolute classics. Plus, OFAH boasts the strongest resume of consistently fantastic Christmas specials of any television programme. Only Fools is simply the gold standard of situation comedy. Hence why we look today at the best Only Fools And Horses episodes ever.
History – Best Only Fools And Horses Episodes
OFAH stars David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst as Derek “Del Boy” Trotter and Rodney Trotter. The Peckham-based show would begin with little fanfare in 1981. By the time we got what was meant to be the final farewell in the form of a trip of Xmas shows in 1996 (the latter of which was seen by an astonishing 24.3 million viewers, an all-time record for British comedy), it had become a national institution.
It did return for three more specials in 2001, 2002 and 2003 before wrapping up for good. No new episodes are in the pipeline anytime soon. It’s been almost 40 years after the programme’s debut. Plus, several significant cast members (including its writer John Sullivan) are no longer with us. And then you have the clear (and obvious) ageing of its surviving performers. Despite all this, fans would tune into the show in their droves if it were ever to return again.
With so many episodes to choose from, it’s tough to pick the best editions of Only Fools And Horses. However, some simply stand out brighter than others. And when the show was at its peak, nothing ever topped it on the small screen, past or present. In this regular feature, we take a look at the best 12 editions of a particular programme. And so today, we’re picking the absolute best of the best for Only Fools And Horses. So, which episodes top our list? Let’s find out!
(Note: we rank the best Only Fools And Horses episodes from start to finish in an article from 2016. You can read that article by clicking here. However, we have some changes to the top of the pile for this list. Because we don’t want to be plonkers all our lives.)
Best Only Fools And Horses Episodes – Top 12
12. Strained Relations
We start with a bittersweet show marking the on-screen death of Grandad, due to the real-life death of Lennard Pearce. But while it’s undoubtedly sad, it’s handled tastefully and it still allows for some great comedy. Especially once Del and Rodney realise that the perennially unlucky Uncle Albert (Buster Merryfield) may stay at Nelson Mandela House. Del Boy: “I feel like a turkey who has just seen Bernard Matthews winking at him!”
11. He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Uncle
Although Del and Rodney are clearly the main characters, there remains a lot of affection towards Uncle Albert as well. Here, he’s the focus of the episode after an apparent mugging after a night at The Nag’s Head. But as the show unravels, Albert’s version of the truth changes. And his nerves are so on edge that he ends up having an accident in a hilarious fashion. Del goes from sympathetic to furious when he learns the truth about why Albert ended up with a bruised face. Though I can’t leave out his friend Knock Knock popping around to see him, leading to this exchange: “Who’s there?” “Knock Knock!” Simple yet superb.
Best Only Fools and Horses Episodes Ranked – Top 10
10. Happy Returns
Del would often find himself interfering in Rodney’s love life, even if it was coming from a good place. That is the case again here, but under the most bizarre circumstances yet. Rodney is dating Debbie, the daughter of one of Del’s old flames named June. But Del puts two and two together and he believes he has got four. That’s because he starts to believe he is actually Debbie’s estranged father. The response from both Trigger and Rodney: “But she’s a pretty girl!” It all works out in the end when Del realises that Albie Littlewood is actually the dad. However, it’s revealed that he died in an accident on the railway lines, hence his absence from Debbie’s life.
In 1988, Del and Rodney spent Christmas trying to make success happen on a romantic level. Del signs up with a dating agency and meets an “actress” named Raquel Turner. Meanwhile, Rodney settles for a drive with Nervous Nerys, the barmaid who has nerves of jelly (hence her name). Initially, Rodney seems to have a more disastrous experience. But once Del realises what Raquel’s true career is, things spiral out of control for him. This leads to a moment that he would live to regret at the very end. It’s also a moment that suggests that he and Raquel would never meet again. As we know, that didn’t turn out to be the case.
8. Time On Our Hands
We continue our list of the best Only Fools and Horses episodes. And it’s wrong to exclude the episode when Del and Rodney finally become millionaires. Their triumph is courtesy of an old antique watch that Derek had assumed was worthless. At first glance, he appears to be right; it’s only when Raquel’s father takes a closer inspection that their opinions are swayed. But even when they arrive at the auction, the Trotters would be ecstatic to make £10,000. Never mind the £6.2 million that they actually receive.
This is the moment that Del and co. had been working towards all along. Despite him bending the laws (if not outright breaking them), everyone congratulates the Trotters when they finally strike it rich. Many believe that the show should have ended with this edition, rather than returning in the early 2000s. But that’s a debate for another article.
7. Mother Nature’s Son
To me, this is the last truly great episode before the show started to wind down. Here, Del has the task of clearing Grandad’s old allotment. But then Rodney befriends a man named Miles, who has made significant money from naturally-produced food and drink products. Out of nowhere, a “Peckham Spring” appears on the allotment, allowing the Trotters to make a shedload of money. Only thing is, they’re basically stealing tap water. So much so that the Peckham area starts issuing drought warnings, despite it being the winter season!
6. Tea For Three
Del and Rodney are never shy about wanting to find the right woman in their lives, but what if they happen to fall for the same lady? That’s the premise of this episode when the two Trotters become smitten with Trigger’s niece Lisa. As both try their best to impress her, they also turn crook on one another, as Del adjusts their suddenly-acquired sunbed to the extent that Rodney resembles a traffic light. In retaliation, Rodney enrols Del onto a hang-gliding session and then fails to rescue him as Derek had hoped. The whole episode is lots of fun, but the last ten minutes are especially fantastic.
Best Only Fools and Horses Episodes – Top Five
5. The Frog’s Legacy
We’re now onto the five best Only Fools and Horses episodes! So, this episode works due to the storyline. Del discovers that there is a hidden fortune out there courtesy of the mysterious yet departed Freddy The Fro. And it’s in the Trotter name … that is, if he, Rodney and Uncle Albert can find it. This is a welcome contrast to the largely-panned 1986 Christmas special A Royal Flush, where Del was uncharacteristically obnoxious.
Here, one year on, this is Del Boy at his best, doing everything he can to not only find the gold bullions but to do what he can in the meantime to get by. This includes volunteering Rodney for a job as an undertaker and having Albert pull off a magical recovery act to a dodgy back massager.
4. Yuppy Love
In my previous list, I put this edition at #2. I’ve dropped it down a few places this time because it takes a bit of time to get going, but there’s no denying that it’s still a great episode. Of course, this also features what is generally considered to be the greatest Only Fools moment of all time, if not the greatest comedy moment of all time. It’s when Del (accompanied by Trigger) tries to impress “a couple of sorts” at the local yuppy bar. But Del fails to notice that the barman has lifted the latch on which he was leaning.
So, when Del obliviously goes to rest his elbow on it again, he goes flying. It happens so suddenly, with so little build-up, and yet it makes such sense and it’s so funny that it is a legendary scene that might never be topped. And yet John Sullivan revealed that the basis of the joke was actually Trigger, and the confusion on his face when he suddenly wonders where Del has gone!
Best Only Fools and Horses Episodes – Top Three
3. The Unlucky Winner Is
It’s often mentioned that Rodney earned a GCE in Art, and this pays off when he (thanks to Del) wins a painting competition that earns him a free holiday to Spain. Rodney is ecstatic but also suspicious at the fact that he will be going in a group of three, meaning Del gets to join him and Cassandra. But it’s only when they arrive overseas that Del reveals the truth: he’s won the competition but as a 14-year-old!
This moment is great, but funnier still is how both Del and Cassandra react, with the latter initially being angry but then buying into the premise for the sake of all three getting to enjoy the prize. From there, things decelerate more and more for Rodney, while Del has the time of his life. It all leads to Del’s scheme back-firing, though, as his lifelong dream to become a millionaire seems to come true, only for the deception to deny him the money that would change his life forever.
2. Danger UXD
I’ve elevated this to the #2 spot from my original list because, on the whole, it’s a funnier episode than Yuppy Love. The premise is silly enough, with The Trotters having to flog a bunch of faulty dolls, but it’s only when Del and Rodney realise that they aren’t just normal dolls (as in, they’re the type to catch the eye of Dirty Barry) that things progress into chaos.
And when said dolls begin to inflate to normal size, the audience’s reaction is one of hysterics. And yet things continue to escalate because now Del has to find a way to get rid of the dolls safely. Oh, and the dolls have the potential to cause a major gas explosion. Definitely a classic episode, but not our primary pick.
Top Ranking – Best Only Fools and Horses Episodes
1. The Jolly Boys Outing
Those who were watching this episode for the first time on Christmas Day 1989 were in for a real treat. Between Rodney whacking a policeman with a football, an exploding coach, the return of Raquel to Del’s life which led to him knocking out The Great Ramondo and much more, this is a real treat from start to finish. Many Only Fools And Horses episodes have that one stand-out moment which lasts the test of time. But this edition has around a half-dozen.
Add to that plenty of great one-liners, some clever scriptwriting that results in the plot twists all making perfect sense, and the typically daft shenanigans involving old favourites (such as Trigger being upset that the bus blowing up meant that he lost an inflatable dolphin), and you have the best Christmas special of all-time, if not the best comedy episode of any programme ever. Needless to say, this has to top our list of the best Only Fools And Horses episodes.
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