The nonsensically-named Rock & Chips is the latest Only Fools & Horses spin-off show, a (presumably) one-off special that serves as a prequel to the regular series, which started in 1981 and ended with a Christmas special back in 2003.
What really baffles me about this is that there is no point to doing this prequel. Everything of interest here was already covered in the original series’ run and any dramatic elements and tension are completely pointless, as the result is a foregone conclusion. There are no new revelations here, and nothing much of interest is learned, except maybe for die hard Only Fools fans.
Nicholas Lyndhurst takes one of the leading roles in this ninety-minute episode as the local ex-con and challenger for fair lady’s heart. He has some shining moments, such as proving near the end that he’s not just a typecast plonker and that he can act. Points go to the wardrobe department for supplying him with a really non-obvious toupee (that, or he has a visible seam in his hair naturally) [/sarcasm].
Said fair lady is Joan Trotter and the obvious focus of this episode. She also pulls off some good acting as the really-quite-dense woman who somehow captures Freddie Robdal’s (Lyndhurst) heart. There are some cracking moments where you see just how stupid she really is, like taking hours to get a joke, or mispronouncing ‘c’est la vie’.
Speaking of cracking moments, the comedy moments in this episode were there but you get the feeling that they were unfulfilled and that they couldn’t be expanded on to their full potential. One particular moment that stood out for me was when Joan and her friend were in the pregnancy clinic (that is NOT a spoiler, foregone conclusion and if you didn’t see the fact that she gets pregnant coming, you probably weren’t going to watch it anyway). To take the test, a man announces your name and you go into a cubicle to do your thang. She gives her name to the clinic as ‘Gloria Ming’ with the justification that ‘no-one’s gonna be called Smith, are they?’. Cue “SMITH…(many heads look up)” They could’ve cut it there or gone to a reaction shot and shifted between scenes, but they didn’t. Instead, three repetitions of the same joke are used, and then some humour based around the fact that ‘Ming’ bears a resemblance to ‘Minge’.
When you hear the concept, and the fact that That Bloke Who Plays Jay From The Inbetweeners Is Filling The Role Of Del-Boy, you assume it is going to be some sort of teen humour based comedy around Del’s antics in the 60’s. Instead, it’s a Drama-Comedy (emphasis on the drama). As a result, so much feels like missed opportunities. Having said that, when you laugh, you laugh…hard. Another scene that stood out for me was when Robdal and Trotter have shacked up together (again, NOT A SPOILER) and he makes a death-related joke that goes over her (and initially my) head. When she starts to catch on, so do I, and the expression on both their faces only serves to increase the laughs.
This unpublicised prequel is not a bad thing to watch, just don’t go in expecting a bundle of laughs per minute, and you won’t be disappointed when you get a decent-quality drama. This could’ve been a great show, it just needed some slightly better writing and direction.