Only Fools and Horses, which ran for over 20 years (1981-2003), was one of Britain's most popular (and, in my opinion, one of the best) comedies ever made. Briefly, for those unfamiliar, David Jason (A Touch of Frost, The Darling Buds of May, Open All Hours, Micawber) stars as Derek "Del Boy" Trotter, a smooth-talking, street-smart, self-important dealer in goods of questionable quality and dubious provenance, to say the least. He is assisted (though hindered may be a more accurate word!) by his not-so-street-smart (albeit better educated) younger brother, Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst).
The first three series (contained in the first BBC boxed set) were produced between 1981-1983 and were the only ones to feature Grandad (Lennard Pearce, who sadly died, aged 69, of a heart attack in December 1984 just as the fourth series had begun production). Though there were some truly memorable episodes and many hilarious lines in those first three series, I do feel the series as a whole became stronger with the commencement of the fourth series. For one thing, the supporting cast became larger.
Del's half-witted friend, Trigger (Roger Lloyd Pack--farmer Owen from The Vicar of Dibley), who cannot seem to get it into his head that Rodney's name is "Rodney" not "Dave"; and the pompous, sharp-dealing, used-car salesman Boycie--who would sell his own grandmother if there were a profit in it--are back. Now, however, we get to meet Boycie's hilariously tarty wife, Marlene (Sue Holderness of Sandbaggers 3), who we get the distinct impression has slept with most if not all of Boycie's friends at some point! The last episode in series three introduced us to two others who become regulars from series four on: Mike the barman (Kenneth MacDonald, who remained with the show until his sudden death from a heart attack in 2001 (he was 50)); and Del's lorry-driving friend, Denzil (Paul Barber of The Full Monty), who is always letting Del talk him into doing something he really doesn't want to do. Sadly, Denzil's wife, Corinne, is never seen after series three as the actress died of a drug overdose.
The most notable newcomer to the series is, of course, Uncle Albert (Buster Merryfield, who remained with the show until his tragic death in 1999 from a brain tumour. He was 78). Where Grandad was so obviously a fairly frail old man in the winter of his life, Uncle Albert is full of life and energy--a rosy-cheeked, white-bearded, jolly old salt who enjoys playing the piano at the pub and recounting his war stories (to everyone's chagrin!). Though a loyal British sailor, one can't help thinking the German's ought to have awarded him a medal for services rendered (albeit unintended, of course!).
This boxed set contains the complete fourth and fifth series (thirteen 30-minute episodes from 1985-1986) plus all four Christmas specials from that period: "To Hull and Back" (90 minutes--chronologically this episode follows series four), "Royal Flush" (80 minutes), "The Frog's Legacy" (60 minutes), and "Dates" (80 minutes). The last three specials are from 1986, 1987 and 1988 respectively and follow series five.
Just as a point of interest, the show becomes serial in nature with the "Dates" special (ie. the episodes and specials must be watched in order from then on). Two final series followed it, which were produced between 1989-1991 (both with 50-minute episodes), and a host of Christmas specials were made which concluded (to date) in 2003.
In conclusion, it's not often one finds a comedy of such quality as this classic series--a series which only gets better each time you watch it (and this set is particularly rife with hilarious episodes!). It's one of my all-time favourites, and one which I recommend extremely highly to anyone who enjoys the very best in British comedy. I only hope the BBC will release series six and seven and the remaining specials!