|When the first episode was shown in
1991, on ITV television, it was an immediate success. For a totally new
programme it achieved astonishing viewing figures that put the top-rating
soap operas Coronation Street and Eastenders into the shade.
The main star is David Jason who plays Pop Larkin. His rather wearying catchword "perfick" has been (over)used by tabloid newspaper headline writers and advertising copywriters.
Jason spent many years as a bit part player in British situation comedies. Success arrived when he starred alongside Ronnie Barker in the comedy about a corner shop, Open All Hours. After this he became the central star of Only Fools And Horses. He plays the part of Del Boy, a street-wise entrepreneur who dreams of becoming a millionaire, one day...
His aspirations are usually unrealistic and meet with failure but he is never defeated. He can be compared with Harold Steptoe in Steptoe And Son who wants to better himself and his lifestyle but is always held back by his father.
Only Fools And Horses was ranked as the second most viewed TV series of 1991 which compares well with The Darling Buds of May fourth place rating (Source: The Guardian 02 March 1992). This must make David Jason the most popular British television character at the moment. In addition, he received critical acclaim for his part in Porterhouse Blues, he has supplied distinctive voice-overs for commercials and animation series (Wind in the Willows and Danger Mouse), and he was also a regular on the satirical Radio 4 comedy series Weekending.
The other main characters in Darling Buds, Catherine Zeta Jones, Pam Ferris and Philip Franks are now household names (or at least faces) and will no doubt be much in demand by programme makers.
The programme itself can be described as being an hour-long commercial for living off the fat of the land. The Larkins live in a sunny garden of Eden where food and drink is generously served-up by Ma and Pop. Here, Pop Larkin has achieved the kind of success as a farmer/entrepreneur that always eluded Del Boy. Although problems do raise their ugly heads (often in the guise of Teddy Boys or Ton-Up Boys on noisy motorbikes) they always overcome them.
The programmes are set in the 1950s when we "never had it so good". Though in reality the 1950s for many people was a rather bleak and ration-riddled period. Today, the recession has certainly made the prospects for many bleaker than a weekend in Mablethorpe. So it is nice to see a period when life was (apparently) full of simple pleasures. Darling Buds shows we don t need to own a Porsche, Filofax or cellular phone to be happy, and it shows the virtues of communal action rather than aggressive competition. Though it does not entirely support the idea of a Welfare State. For example, Pop manages to avoid paying his income taxes. Instead we are given the picture of a self-reliant village community that looks after its own. Nasty people are usually outsiders and any nasty villagers have to be convinced that they should behave differently for the sake of the community.
Publicity for the programme tends to emphasise that it is not sentimental or twee but it cannot avoid such criticism. In its support we might ask why anything worth watching has to be hard-headed and more (supposedly) realistic. If you want to wallow in an idealistic view of being a member of a large (extended) family, surrounded by mountains of food and drink, in the glowing heat of the countryside, here's your chance.
Since writing this Only Fools and Horses ended in the 1990s with Del Boy actually becoming a millionaire, just as he predicted all along. I'm sure if the series had kept running he would have lost it all on a dotcom (in a TV special broadcast for Christmas 2001 it showed him losing all his money and starting from scratch again, so I was half right). David Jason has gone on to star in the police drama series A Touch of Frost, inwhich he plays an unconventional, shabby and hardworking detective (a British Columbo perhaps?). Pam Ferris appeared prominently in the drama series Where the Heart Is, and in 2001 featured in a new TV version of the Dickens classic, Nicholas Nickleby. As for Catherine Zeta Jones you'll have to ask Michael Douglas...
Darling Buds of May
Episode guides and cast/crew
details can also be found at:
Fools and Horses
Competitions | About Us