Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Why Only Fools and Horses is a 'triffic' hit in Serbia
This piece of mine appears in The Guardian.
On the subject of OFH, I was disappointed to see the show's prequel, 'Rock and Chips', receive a panning by most tv critics. I thought it was rather good. How about you?
ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES: A 'triffic' hit in Serbia.
Unlikely as it may seem, Del Boy and the rest of the Trotters have achieved cult status in Serbia.
Prince Lazar. Miloš Obilic. Prince Mihailo Obrenovic III. To this list of Serbian national heroes must be added another, more unlikely name: Derek Trotter.
The BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses, which returned to our screens last night in the shape of a one-off prequel, Rock and Chips, has been sold to countries around the world. But it is in Serbia where Del Boy has achieved genuine cult status.
I first experienced the phenomenon on a visit to Belgrade in the late 1990s. The first question I was asked after saying I was from Britain was whether I was a fan of Del Boy. The second was whether I'd ever met David Jason.
During Nato's attack on Yugoslavia in 1999, Clare Short defended the bombing of Serbian state television by claiming it was a "source of propaganda". But when I was there all it seemed to be transmitting were the escapades of Trotters Independent Trading.
Today there are Serbian Facebook appreciation sites devoted to Mucke, the Serbo-Croat name for Only Fools and Horses, which translated means "suspicious job" or "shady business". In the Skadarlija district of Belgrade you can dine at Mucke, which claims to be the world's only restaurant devoted to the series. Naturally, Del Boy's favourite pina colada cocktail is also on offer.
In the kiosks on Knez Mihailova, the city's main boulevard, you can not only buy Only Fools and Horses DVDs, but "Dell Boy" [sic] badges, inscribed with some of his famous catchphrases. I bought one there last summer that read "This time next year, we'll be millioners."
Serbs who visit Britain for the first time are keen to hit the Trotter trail. "When I went to London my host asked me what I wanted to see first. Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, or Big Ben? I said I wanted to go to Peckham," Vesna Pesic, a businesswoman from Belgrade tells me.
So why is the programme, loveable as it is, particularly popular in Serbia?
"The life of Del Boy and Rodney is very similar to life here. They always have some crazy ideas to make money. They always get themselves in some ridiculous situations," says Svetlana Zecevic, an officer in the Serbian Ministry of Finance, and a huge fan of the show. As Del Boy might say, lovely jubbly.