Sunderland academic’s research reveals what makes Only Fools and Horses so lovely jubbly

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AN academic thinks he has got to the bottom of what makes Only Fools and Horses lovely jubbly.

Avid fan of the sitcom, Dr Matthew Bartley has completed his PhD at the University of Sunderland which looks at the programme’s sense of community.

Dr Bartley has now completed his PhD thesis entitled: “There used to be streets here, as well.” An analysis of the representation of community in Only Fools and Horses.

The academic centred his research on three classic episodes: From Prussia With Love, Yuppy Love and Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and focused on what community means in the series and how it is represented.

His research included looking at how Del Boy aspires to be part of a different community and family life. It also focuses on whether the show represents communities in reality too.

Dr Bartley, 34, from Seaham, who works for Deluxe Media, said: “Only Fools and Horses is very community orientated, if you look at where they live in Peckham, where they work in the markets, where they drink in the Nags Head.

“They often talk about what it means to be a community, how they are part of a community and what they do to become part of a community.

“All the characters, especially Del, had aspirations and they are all great to have, but it can also create divisions among people and can feel like you’re excluding certain people.

“Community is a nice idea, but it often has its flaws and Only Fools and Horses is the prime example.”

The sitcom centred on the poor market trader Del Boy, his brother Rodney, the rest of the Trotter clan who live in Nelson Mandela House and a host of Peckham characters including Boycie and Trigger who met in the Nag’s Head pub.

It still holds the record for having the most viewers for a sitcom with 24.3 million people, more than a third of the UK population.

Chapters Dr Bartley’s thesis looked at how “community” is often viewed as a positive term and how that fitted in the sitcom, the rules and stipulations of a community, how community can also be a volatile place and whether the idea of community hindered the characters ambitions in the sitcom.

Dr Bartley, who also studied his undergraduate and masters degree at Sunderland, decided to focus his PhD on Only Fools and Horses purely because he was such a big fan of the show.

He said: “Throughout my studies I have always been keen to look at the aspect of community and how it is portrayed in TV dramas and comedy and how it compares to reality.

“Only Fools and Horses is one of the best, if not the best sitcom of all time and the characters just seemed natural to focus on.

“I’m a massive fan, it is a great comedy and perfect given the community setting.”