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.
Neil Clark.

Prince Lazar. MiloŇ° 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.

11 comments:

zoran said...

A second-hand shop in Kraljevo, Serbian town where Im living, is called "Del Boy".

vlad said...

Dude who lives down my street in Belgrade painted his Trabant to yellow aiming to look like Del's 3 wheel van. He had also put on stickers "trotters independent traders"..

jack said...

I think all that depleted Uranium has warped Serbian brain cells because Only Fools and Horses is one of the worst comedies ever.

Lame humour each and every single show. Definitely receives the award for most overrated show ever.

BOOORING!

phildav76 said...

My parents honeymooned in Yugoslavia* in 1971 and said that "On The Buses" had the locals literally falling off their chairs laughing.

* I believe near the coastal border of Slovenia and Croatia but the difference to them was not at all obvious.

Czarny Kot said...

"Allo, Allo" is huge here in Poland.

They've even got their own remake which is set in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Perhaps that pushes the limits of good taste a bit too far...

OFAH is not known in Poland but I can't understand why it isn't as big as in Serbia. A couple of chancers living in a grey tower block, cooking up hare-brained schemes-- it's perfect for Poland.

Krakow's New Dragons said...

It's popular because the economy is based in wheeling and dealing and mass mafia,as a result of the strangualtion of the Blkan economies by sanctions.

Though Del Boy never machine gunned people down in Hyatt Hotels.

PP said...

Neil,

are you familiar with a Nick Sloter phenomenon? Now that was rather mental...


wikipedia link here...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_Heat#Popularity_in_Serbia

PP said...

Neil,

are you familiar with a Nick Sloter phenomenon? Now that was really mental...
Theres some strange obsession with (non)fictional characters in Balkans, like memorial statues of Bruce Lee, Bob Marley, etc...

Nick Sloter wikipedia link here...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_Heat#Popularity_in_Serbia

Neil Clark said...

thanks to everyone for the comments.
PP: thanks for the link- very interesting.
Jack: I can't agree with you on that one, mate. OFH has stood the test of time. One of the grest comedy shows of all time. And it was popular in Serbia prior to the NATO attack.

Krakow's New Dragons said...

Did people know Norman Wisdom is the biggest star in Albania ? Mind Your Language is a hit show in Bulgaria and even India and Pakistan, despite the humour about the Paktani Englis leading the show to be branded "politically incorrect".

Robin Carmody said...

a propos Norman Wisdom, I think his work was approved of by the Communist Albanian state, because he was seen as the noble proletarian fighting authority, so his films were allowed in when many/most others weren't.

Personally I think censorship in this area might actually have been acceptable - his films were dire formulaic rubbish with horrible "pathos", in reality blatant sentimentality, added so unsubtly that it was a bit like being operated on without anaesthetic - but there you do indeed go.