Friday, 8 July 2016

Ranking Every Episode Of ... Only Fools and Horses

Image Source: Joke
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Following on from recapping the history of Only Fools and Horses, I will now provide my own personal rankings on every episode of Only Fools, from best to worst. Bear in mind that this is only my opinion, so it's only a first-person viewpoint, and that even the weaker episodes weren't exactly duds. Read on and see if you agree with my rankings, or if you think I'm a complete and utter plonker.

(Incidentally, if you want to read my history pieces, you can click the following links for Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.)

1. The Jolly Boys' Outing
2. Yuppy Love
3. Danger UXD
4. The Frog's Legacy
5. Tea For Three
6. Mother Nature's Son
7. The Unlucky Winner Is ...
8. Time On Our Hands
9. Happy Returns
10. Dates
11. He Ain't Heavy, He's My Uncle
12. Strained Relations
13. From Prussia With Love
14. The Sky's The Limit
15. The Longest Night
16. Hole In One
17. Chain Gang
18. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
19. The Class Of '62
20. To Hull and Back
21. No Greater Love
22. As One Door Closes
23. It Never Rains ...
24. Who's A Pretty Boy?
25. Three Men, A Woman and A Baby
26. Stage Fright
27. Strangers On The Shore
28. Watching The Girls Go By
29. Heroes & Villains
30. Friday The 14th
31. A Touch Of Glass
32. Little Problems
33. It's Only Rock and Roll
34. The Chance Of A Lunchtime
35. Thicker Than Water
36. A Losing Streak
37. Sleeping Dogs Lie
38. The American Dream
39. The Yellow Peril
40. The Second Time Around
41. The Miracle Of Peckham
42. Oh To Be In England
43. May The Force Be With You
44. Modern Men
45. Healthy Competition
46. Sleepless In Peckham
47. Homesick
48. Rodney Come Home
49. Go West Young Man
50. Video Nasty
51. Sickness and Wealth
52. If They Could See Us Now
53. The Long Legs Of The Law
54. Christmas Crackers
55. Ashes To Ashes
56. Wanted
57. Fatal Extraction
58. A Slow Bus To Chingford
59. Yesterday Never Comes
60. A Royal Flush
61. Cash and Curry
62. Big Brother
63. The Russians Are Coming
64. Diamonds Are For Heather

Here's an in-depth look at what each episode offered, and why it received the ranking that it did.

1. The Jolly Boys' Outing

The 1989 Christmas special was phenomenal. A bucketload of classic moments, a ton of great one-liners, all with a series of plots that are interwoven excellently. The perfect Christmas special, this is also the perfect episode of comedy television, as there isn't a single thing I would change about this that could possibly make it any funnier. The greatest ever episode of Only Fools and Horses, bar none.

2. Yuppy Love

This episode is really funny, although judged on the whole Danger UXD may be the better of the two. But this sits at #2 because it has the funniest OFAH moment of all-time, where Del falls through the bar. The set-up is flawless, meaning that it has a far greater impact. Any aspiring comedy writers need to watch this episode (which also sets up the first long-term plot line as Rodney first meets Cassandra). It isn't the best episode, though ...

3. Danger UXD

The premise of the Trotters ending up with dangerous blow-up dolls is funny enough. Their sudden appearances throughout and the resultant banter provides us with a classic episode from the incredible sixth series. And we get an appearance by the humorously-titled Dirty Barry.

4. The Frog's Legacy

A vintage Christmas special, this is well-paced, has an intriguing but funny plot, boasts some great scenes as part of a side-plot, and has an ending which answers questions but raises enough that it can be revisited in the future if need be. And the first real seed is planted to explain why Del and Rodney's brotherly relationship isn't as simple as they thought. Only one special is better than this one.

5. Tea For Three

The best of the half-hour episodes, this has three massively funny aspects: Rodney's sunbed experiment gone wrong thanks to Del, Rodney getting revenge by denying Del an escape from his hang-gliding, and a superb final scene with priceless banter from Del, Rodney and Trigger. All while the two central characters attempt to woo a lady who ultimately is already engaged. Fantastic.

6. Mother Nature's Son

The 1992 special was the final episode to be truly incredible. The plot is simple; the performances are marvellous. With a plethora of fantastic lines, there are also some swerves thrown in, all of which make this a true classic.

7. The Unlucky Winner Is ...

An outstanding episode from the best ever series, Rodney being unknowingly entered into an art competition and winning, but then having to act as a teenager on holiday, leads to a barrel-load of top moments and one-liners. A must-see for OFAH fans.

8. Time On Our Hands

This has to rank in the top ten for being the long-awaited moment when the Trotters achieved their financial dreams. There's more drama with Rodney candidly addressing Cassandra's miscarriage, and still some major laughs from the visit of Raquel's parents and the moment when Del and Rodney realise they are now millionaires. And the writing of this episode is unbelievably good.

9. Happy Returns

This was a place-holder episode due to the death of Lennard Pearce, aka Grandad. But it's an outstanding show nonetheless. It's an example of one story arc branching into another, and another, with everything resolved in a logical but humorous fashion, and with some classic lines along the way.

10. Dates

The 1988 special was awesome, with several brilliant moments. It has a bit of a negative conclusion, but it's nowhere as depressing as the ending of the 1990 special, and it sets the stage for future events.

11. He Ain't Heavy, He's My Uncle

Something of an anomaly in a series based around Del and Raquel becoming parents and Rodney attempting to get back with Cassandra, this spotlight on Albert provides some fantastic laughs and has an unexpected and hilarious climax.

12. Strained Relations

This sits so high because it manages to bring a real-life death into a comedy setting with great sensitivity and logic, but without giving this edition a depressing feel. Some big moments here are superb and totally unpredictable, and it resets the family for the future with the arrival of Uncle Albert.

13. From Prussia With Love

The plot threatens to take Del's money-making schemes to a dark place, and the ending is a bit sad. But the comedy on offer here is outstanding, and Boycie comes out with some corking one-liners.

14. The Sky's The Limit

This opened the seventh series and at times has more of a soap feel, but it's still a very funny episode with an unpredictable, yet slightly far-fetched, conclusion.

15. The Longest Night

On paper, this could easily have flatlined, since the Trotters are in one place for the entire show, with that location being a one-off, and no other regular characters make an appearance. But the story premise is simple yet executed brilliantly, the writing is fantastic, the acting by all is tremendous, and we get some major laughs, like Rodney choosing to pinch some cigarettes rather than the shoplifter Lennox Silby's gun.

16. Hole In One

The first proper episode after the passing of Grandad (since Strained Relations is more of a transitional show), Albert shows in this edition that he is more than capable of filling Grandad's show as the lovable third wheel. The plot is quite funny, the resolving of the storyline provides big laughs, and there are brilliant one-liners aplenty.

17. Chain Gang

This is ranked at #17 because of the excellent writing rather than the comedy it provides, as a few loose ends are tied up nicely in the closing scenes. That being said, it's still a funny show, and in any other series, it probably would have been the standout episode.

18. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

This could have been the last ever episode of OFAH; thank goodness that it wasn't. But if it had been, it would have gone out on a high, as we get some great exchanges between Del and both Rodney and Jumbo Mills, as well as a bit of drama thrown in as Del weighs up the potentially life-changing decision.

19. The Class Of '62

This episode, which features the return of Slater, is memorable more for some top one-liners than a massive moment, although the revelation that Slater was once married to Raquel was unexpected and sends the plot of the episode into an unpredictable yet funny direction.

20. To Hull and Back

The 1985 special is one that you either love or you hate. I personally find it to be really good, but not quite as strong as other specials. This has some great laughs in the middle portion, and the way in which various plots are tied up at the end is a testament to the careful writing of John Sullivan. Although comedy can be about some things not making sense, in this one everything happens for a reason, and everything comes to a logical end.

21. No Greater Love

The highest-ranked episode to include Grandad (though not the best which refers to him), he has a great line in this show, but this is a great show because of Del's simply brilliant one-liners about Rodney dating a 40-year-old wife of a convict. A topnotch episode, and one that I feel is underrated.

22. As One Door Closes

Once again, this is an episode that leads to a big moment, which is set up perfectly and yet seems unpredictable upon first viewing (Denzil's friendly hand-slapping is shown early on, but is completely forgotten about until his second sign of friendship at the end crushes Del's hopes of reclaiming money that he owes Denzil). A slow builder that has funny moments even before the classic scene at the end.

23. It Never Rains ...

The first half of this episode, based around a family holiday to Benidorm, has its moments, but it's the second half when Grandad recaps his previous trips to Spain whilst sat in a jail cell that make this a hilarious edition; it's probably Grandad's best overall episode from a comedy standpoint. That being said, there are still other laughs to be had, like Del addressing Juan with "(You're) just the Juan I wanted to see".

24. Who's A Pretty Boy?

Another episode which slowly builds to a big moment, this time concerning a canary, this works so well because whilst the audience is expecting one outcome (the discovery of a dead pet canary), a much funnier swerve is thrown in which still has the same result (the Trotters losing the planned business). It has another swerve at the end, too, which is a rare moment of the Trotters winning out on a business deal to close a show, as well as introducing Mike to the series.

25. Three Men, A Woman and A Baby

This ranks fairly high because it is a milestone for the Trotter family, as Del finally has a child and Rodney and Cassandra get back together. It's still a funny show, especially Del's contributions to Raquel giving birth, but it's remembered more for historical reasons.

26. Stage Fright

Like with Heroes & Villains, this is remembered for one moment: the revelation that Tony Angelino can't pronounce his R's. This is ranked higher because the big secret is hidden so well that absolutely nobody expects it until it's revealed during a live duet with Raquel. That being said, apparently if you listen closely, Tony does pronounce his R's correctly early on in the show.

27. Strangers On The Shore

The 2002 special was after the original farewell trilogy, but it's a great show in its own right. The best of the 21st century specials, the accidental exporting of "Gary", the deliberately poor set-up of the friends happening to meet up in a French store, plus the side-plots like Boycie's hair smelling of onions and Albert "putting it about" across the globe all result in a hilarious episode.

28. Watching The Girls Go By

Some people don't like this episode, but I personally find this to be really funny. There is a simple premise, and we get an example of Del willingly taking a slight financial hit to help Rodney out. It leads to a great final scene when the truth is revealed, although there are some brilliant lines along the way, from Uncle Albert explaining his romance with a nine-fingered lady to Rodney's attire reminding Albert about a game of dominoes.

29. Heroes & Villains

The episode with the Batman and Robin scene only at #29? Yes, because the moment, whilst undeniably funny, isn't quite as rib-tickling as, say, Del falling through the bar or the chandelier incident. The rest of the episode is good, but it's only remembered for this one scene, which as stated is very good, but not as good as other stand-out moments from the annals of OFAH.

30. Friday The 14th

This parody of Friday The 13th is executed almost to perfection, even if it would have been nice to find out how Del managed to escape with his life intact. (Incidentally, I was told at one point that a longer version was produced which did have a proper conclusion, but apparently that is not the case.)

31. A Touch Of Glass

Ninety percent of this episode is fair at best. But the moment when the priceless chandelier is accidentally dropped is one of the best OFAH moments ever and elevates this to a much higher standard.

32. Little Problems

The final episode of the sixth series doesn't provide as many stand-out moments as other editions from the same year, but it's very, very funny nonetheless (we get a rare Driscoll Brothers appearance here), and the ending is one of the more touching moments in Only Fools history.

33. It's Only Rock and Roll

Rodney joining an aspiring rock band, and Del's attempts to get involved in order to make a profit, sounds funnier than it actually is, but there are still some big laughs to be had from watching this, especially when Rodney calls Del's bluff on using their dying mother as an alibi to avoid conflict.

34. The Chance Of A Lunchtime

This is more about advancing the Trotter relationships than being a funny episode in itself, although there are enough humorous moments to keep fans satisfied.

35. Thicker Than Water

Although it has some gloomy or awkward moments, the episode where Del's father Reg appears includes some brilliant lines, from Del comparing Reg ("A wally with a disease") to the Three Wise Men to Grandad's belief that a hereditary condition goes backwards rather than forwards.

36. A Losing Streak

A simple premise is executed very well, as Del's attempts to defeat Boycie in a game of poker lead to a fantastic closing scene, and a good number of laughs for an episode which is lacking in one-liners.

37. Sleeping Dogs Lie

This is one of those episodes that you only recall when you're listing them in the manner that I am here. But there are some big laughs to be had as the Trotters attempt to look after Duke the dog, and it's a sign of the show's increasingly quality that one of the less-remembered episodes from the fourth series is still ranked higher than many other editions.

38. The American Dream

Part one of the Miami double-header is often forgotten, but it's actually quite funny in its own right. It sits so low because it's essentially a set-up show rather than a standalone special.

39. The Yellow Peril

Similar to May The Force Be With You, this slowly builds to the big moment where Del's scheme is discovered to go disastrously wrong. A fun episode, but certainly not the best.

40. The Second Time Around

The highest-ranked episode from the first series, this works due to the priceless banter between the Trotter trio in the second half, especially when Grandad warns Del about his breakfast going cold after it's suggested that Pauline killed her first husband by poisoning his food.

41. The Miracle Of Peckham

Del's attempts to cash in on religion are paced well, but it's a bit dull in places.

42. Oh To Be In England

Yes, the film chapter of Miami Twice only makes #42. The reason is that the production and the location disguise the fact that the episode isn't as funny as, say, The Jolly Boys' Outing. It's undoubtedly a funny show, but the length, the film-style production, the absence of a laughter track and the slightly far-fetched plot result in a special that definitely provides entertainment, but is somewhat overrated.

43. May The Force Be With You

The debut of Slater leads to one specific plotline that builds up to a big finish. Longtime fans feel that Del is uncharacteristically miserable here, which prevents it being as funny as it could have been.

44. Modern Men

Part two of the 1996 trilogy sits surprisingly low just because I'm not sure if the miscarriage aspect was really necessary. Obviously, the show has to turn more to drama with this element, so it isn't at #44 because of a lack of laughs, but I still feel that Rodney and Cassandra could have had a successful child birth at this point and nobody would have complained.

45. Healthy Competition

This has some great one-liners and a hilariously unspoken premise of Del's mate Towser keeping some money for himself off a business agreement, but Rodney seems a bit too weak when trying to compete with Del; it's as if the episode is saying that Rodney would essentially be nothing without Del, at least at this stage. It does include the classic "Wendy House" line, though.

46. Sleepless In Peckham

The 2003 special, the final ever episode, ties up some loose ends and provides some big laughs along the way. However, given the choice between ending the series with this or with Time On Our Hands, the majority would opt for the 1996 episode instead.

47. Homesick

This episode has its moments (amongst them Trigger finally calling Rodney by his proper name, but only so he can achieve an unwanted Tenants Association role), but it's not quite as good as other entries from the third series.

48. Rodney Come Home

The 1990 special has the classic scene of Albert's exaggerated reaction to Rodney dating another woman, but the storyline is rather gloomy, and although attempts are made to provide humour in the final parts, it still ends on a sad note.

49. Go West Young Man

The second episode sits fairly high, by the standards of the first series anyway, due to the great interplay once Del and Rodney begin their attempts to find romance.

50. Video Nasty

This felt out of place in a great fifth series; whilst not a poor episode, it definitely isn't as funny as the likes of From Prussia With Love or The Longest Night. Del's explanation of his film idea is hilarious, though.

51. Sickness and Wealth

The weakest entry in the classic 1989 series, the scenes with Elsie Partridge serving as a medium have some great moments, but the plot about Del's health woes and some weird banter stemming from it results in an episode of two halves, with the second half being far less funny than the first.

52. If They Could See Us Now

The 2001 special certainly isn't bad, but the combination of resurrecting Only Fools to rewrite history, which was a controversial move, and the poor acting or scripting concerning Damien leads to this one sitting fairly low on the list.

53. The Long Legs Of The Law

Rodney dating a policewoman was always bound to cause tension with Del and Grandad, resulting in an episode that provides a lot of laughs, although the ending is a bit of a downer.

54. Christmas Crackers

A decent first Xmas episode, this has some funny moments, although the final third is too similar to a superior try-to-chat-up-the-girls situation in an earlier edition.

55. Ashes To Ashes

This one is pretty funny, especially Trigger's bizarre explanation of his family ties early on. This probably would have been better in a later series, when it was more likely for a huge laugh-out-loud moment to be included. As it is, something is missing which prevents it from being a true rib-tickler.

56. Wanted

This one starts well, with Del nicknaming Rodney the "Peckham Pouncer", but it turns a bit too serious from there. The pretend accusations towards Rodney should have been relaxed a bit, because a funny first half degenerates into a dark second half as it is.

57. Fatal Extraction

This Christmas special was far from a dud, but the side-plot of Del cancelling a date with a dental receptionist and her seemingly stalking him was more creepy than funny, and the show has a slightly depressing conclusion. Is it a coincidence that so many episodes relating to Del's romantic adventures sit so far down the list?

58. A Slow Bus To Chingford

At one point, I thought this was quite funny but, when rewatching it again, the big laughs don't come very often. This is one episode where the story sounds funnier on paper.

59. Yesterday Never Comes

This is a bit dull, to be honest. The lady who Del is dating doesn't show much charisma or engage in any funny banter, nor even possess a romantic side, resulting in a duller episode than usual.

60. A Royal Flush

What brings this Christmas special so far down is the uncharacteristically nasty streak that Del possesses in the final third, which results in Rodney's romantic dreams being crushed. With a funnier conclusion, this one would have ranked a lot higher.

61. Cash and Curry

I can only recall the moment where Del catches a statue at the last second; otherwise, this early edition entirely forgettable. There are also some uncomfortably racist aspects, although this was produced in 1981, when certain expressions or mannerisms were considered acceptable.

62. Big Brother

The first ever episode had its moments, but it existed mainly to put the pieces in place and introduce the characters to the audience.

63. The Russians Are Coming

This early edition is just too slow-paced; there isn't enough going on in the second half, and the premise is a bit too daft.

64. Diamonds Are For Heather

Ironically, a Christmas episode is the lowest-ranked one, although this wasn't really a special. It is the earliest example of John Sullivan incorporating drama into OFAH, but there's almost nothing memorable about it unless you watched it again, hence why it sits at the bottom of the list.

So, they're my thoughts; what do you consider to be the best episodes of Only Fools and Horses? Leave your comments below!

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