Only Fools and Horses

Only Fools and Horses: The real reason episodes went from 30 to 50 minutes

One of the show's biggest stars wanted the change

For those who somehow never noticed, the run time of Only Fools and Horses episodes switched from the traditional 30 minutes it had been in the first five series, to a longer 50 minutes in seasons six and seven, and this is the real reason why.

Love the longer episodes or hate them, the extra 20 minutes gave actors the chance to flesh out a few of the side characters in the iconic show and allowed more flexibility in the stories of each episode.

Critics of the longer shows have argued that whilst some were classics, others felt too long and dragged.

But whichever side of the fence you fall on you most likely haven’t heard the reason the change was actually made in the first place, and that can be traced all the way back to a specific episode in 1986’s season Five, Tea for Three.

The episode sees Del and Rodney competing for the affections of Trigger’s beautiful niece Lisa, who they invite over for tea and then look to sabotage each other, Del Boy burning Rodney’s face in a sun-bed before Rodney gets his own back by organising for Del to go hang-gliding when Lisa mentions she’s going.

Not wanting to lose his pride, Del Boy reluctantly agrees to try out the hang-gliding, launching himself into the air and then disappearing for 12 hours.

David Jason in Only Fools and Horses
Del gets into some serious bother with a hang glider (Image: BBC)

Upon his return the battered and bruised Del pretends to be paralysed, before giving up on the lie and going off on a hilarious rant at Rodney who watches on bemused, with the occasional sly comment.

But it was this speech, and the fact that when first filmed it had been much longer, that led to the longer episodes being introduced.

Del Boy star David Jason had considered the speech “beautifully constructed, full of suppressed rage” about all of the bother that Rodney had got Del into.

But because the episode had overrun, the speech Jason considered a comic masterpiece was cut in half.

Before the start of season six Jason made his case to writer John Sullivan, annoyed that he felt to fit the 30 minute time-slot they were cutting more funny material than most sitcoms managed in full episodes, the hang-glider scene his prime example.

Sullivan agreed the episodes should be longer and both he and Jason approached producer Gareth Gwenlan with the plan for 50 minute episodes for season six.

After some to-ing and fro-ing he agreed and that was that.

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