Rock and Chips

The very idea of a prequel to Only Fools And Horses is a staggeringly awful one. You could almost picture it couldn’t you? Terrible knees-up-muvver-braahning and watching the birth of a clutch of catchphrases, all crowbarred into a clunky retrofest, filled with Carry On style looks at swinging London and all that rubbish. However…

Rock and Chips (BBC One, Sunday, 24 January, 9pm) was indeed a prequel to Del Falling Through The Bar. It was supremely cock-er-nee and definitely an idea of a London gone-by, essentially, the Capital shot through the memory of Peggy Mitchell – all close-knit families and everyone looking after their own.

However, as much as I braced myself to hate Rock and Chips, I couldn’t. You see, what actually unfurled was a show that wasn’t particularly funny at all and was all the better for it.

It’s easy to forget just how good Only Fools and Horses was when on form. It’s almost fashionable to slate it these days, thanks to endless tributes on a million nostalgia recap shows. It’s easy to forget that, at some point, pretty much all of us have had a bloody good belly laugh when watching Del, Rodney & Co.

That’s because, underneath all that bravado and rhyming slang was a show that held deep wells of pain and a touching fondness within each character. It was this element that this old-new show looked at.

Of course, there were some cheap gags (it wouldn’t be a TV representation of working class London without ’em… and quite right too), but for the most part, it was a very sweet and gentle outing.

A young Del (played by that little shit from The Inbetweeners) was portrayed as a bugger who wanted to do right by his mum. However, this wasn’t about Derek Trotter, but rather, his mum. His much fabled ‘dear ol’ mum’ who loomed large over the sitcom that ran for a thousand years.

She was a sensitive soul with a frankly shitty husband. She dreamed beyond the houses in her eyes and… well… got off with Rodney’s dad, who happens to be able to wax lyrical about art and music.

This vehicle, tried and tested to the point of breaking, worked rather well and provided a lovely backdrop to the comedy half the world came to love. Think Shirley Valentine, with it’s stolen romance and big talk that could never bear fruit.

As my expectations were astonishingly low, I actually ended up enjoying Rock and Chips rather a lot (and it’s excellent soundtrack). That said, it was far too long and would’ve been better if split across two 45 minute showings.

If you went in search of laughs, then you may have been disappointed… if you want a comfortable blanket of a drama, then this should tick a fair few boxes. A rather nice surprise all told.

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