Only Fools and Horses

Only Fools and Horses: John Sullivan’s cancelled football based sitcom that led him to write iconic Trotter show

Had this show gone ahead Only Fools may never have seen the light of day

While John Sullivan’s best known work is Only Fools and Horses, the beloved screenwriter had a number of other successful TV shows including Citizen Smith in the time before the iconic Trotter sitcom, and Just Good Friends in the years after.

But there was one John Sullivan sitcom that was cruelly cut down before it could ever become the classic it could have been, though funnily enough it was the death of this idea that eventually led to the birth of Only Fools and Horses.

After the success of Citizen Smith in the late 1970s, John was looking for another winning idea to bring to the BBC as he searched for a follow up program. Much like the now super successful Ted Lasso, the idea John had all the way back in 1980 revolved around a down on his luck football manager.

Brian Wilde was attached to play manager Ron Wilson (Image: Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)

Set to be titled Over the Moon, the show followed Ron Wilson, played by Brian Wilde – best known as ‘Foggy’ in the Last of the Summer Wine. Ron was a manager running a shabby club but with lofty aspirations for glory he was never likely to achieve.

Over the Moon was also set to feature the Dam Busters star George Baker as club chairman Major Gormley, and future Emmerdale star Paula Tilbrook as Ron’s landlady Mrs Allardyce.

In fact production into the show’s first series was so far in that nearly four whole episodes had been produced before John was hit with some devastating news.

Despite the work that had gone into it, the BBC bosses at the time made the call that the football theme of the show would clash with their other sports based sitcom Seconds Out, which focused on a boxer.

As a result Over the Moon was scrapped, and John was left with nothing to work on and a crushing sense of disappointment. Fortunately though, a writer as good as John Sullivan always has an idea in their back-pocket, and what an idea it was. As while John and producer Ray Butt were drowning their sorrows following the failure, he remembered an old idea of a market trader he’d had turned down years earlier.

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