When Only Fools and Horses Went American: Unearthing the Unaired Pilot

The Iconic British Sitcom: Only Fools and Horses

“Only Fools and Horses,” the beloved British sitcom, has left an indelible mark on television history.

Set against the backdrop of Thatcher’s Britain, this show provided a window into the lives of working-class characters in Peckham, South-East London, during the turbulent 1980s and 90s.

It followed the escapades of Del Boy and Rodney as they pursued dreams of wealth through dubious get-rich-quick schemes and the sale of subpar and illegal goods.

A Slice of British Culture

The series not only showcased the trials and tribulations of its characters but also offered a humorous commentary on the society of its time.

Even their choice of vehicles, like the iconic yellow Robin Reliant van, represented quintessential Englishness.

Given its uniquely British essence, one might wonder how an American audience would perceive a sitcom centered around a cockney market trader in modern-day London.

An American Attempt: ‘King of Van Nuys’

In January 2012, the American network ABC embarked on an ambitious venture by commissioning a pilot titled ‘King of Van Nuys.’ This adaptation was penned by the writers of “Scrubs,” Steven Cragg and Brian Bradley.

The show aimed to portray the “misadventures of two streetwise brothers and their aging grandfather as they concoct outrageous, morally questionable get-rich-quick schemes in their quest to become millionaires.”

The Disconnect and Rejection

However, something didn’t quite resonate with studio executives. The pilot underwent development, rejection, and redevelopment, only to face another rejection later in the same year.

Despite drawing on well-known actors such as John Leguizamo as Del, Dustin Ybarra as Donnie (Rodney), and Christopher Lloyd as Grandad, ‘King of Van Nuys’ failed to make it to television screens.

The Unseen Episode: Mixed Reactions

This year, the unaired pilot episode found its way onto YouTube, allowing audiences to catch a glimpse of what could have been an American version of Del and company.

Reactions have been mixed, with some viewers horrified by the attempt while others contemplated the missed opportunity.

Divergent Opinions

Viewers expressed their dismay, with one remarking that the show was a far cry from the original and even tried to transform iconic characters like Trigger. Others described it as “grim” and “utter bilge.” Another viewer found it “disconnected” from the spirit of “Only Fools and Horses” and criticized its humor and performances.

Some Silver Linings

However, not all viewers were offended by the adaptation. Some appreciated the opportunity to see it and found a few moments that elicited laughter.

While acknowledging that it couldn’t compare to the original, they believed it had potential if picked up by a network.

A Missed Gem or a Lucky Escape?

In retrospect, the question remains: did we miss out on a potential gem, or was it a fortunate escape? The answer is subjective, as viewers continue to debate the merits and shortcomings of the American take on “Only Fools and Horses.”

To form your own opinion, you can watch the unaired pilot [here](insert link).

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