Only Fools And Horses is TV's most-watched ever show

Monday 31st October 2016, 2:00am

  • Only Fools And Horses is the most-watched programme in British TV history
  • The final episode of OFAH's 1996 Christmas Trilogy attracted 24 million viewers
  • BBC Television launched on 2nd November 1936, and turns 80 this week
Only Fools And Horses. Image shows from L to R: Del (David Jason), Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst). Copyright: BBC.

Only Fools And Horses has been revealed as the most-watched programme in British television history.

In a new set of data compiled by the Press Association to mark the 80th anniversary of British television this week, John Sullivan's sitcom has been named as the single most watched programme in the medium's history. Over 24 million viewers tuned in to the 1996 special Time On Our Hands to see the Trotters finally make their millions at auction, after discovering an extremely valuable timepiece in their storage garage.

Comedy programmes - almost all sitcoms - take 11 of the places in the top-20 list, with comedy-packed Royal Variety entertainment shows filling another four of the slots. Only Fools And Horses appears in the list four times in total, with writer John Sullivan's concurrent early-1980s hit Just Good Friends making appearance at number 19, cementing his status as one of British television's greatest ever writers.

The Press Association's list comprises of programmes that were made especially for television; coverage of news and sporting events that would have taken place regardless of whether TV cameras were present, such as royal weddings and football matches, are omitted. For example, the 1966 World Cup Final and the funeral of Princess Diana, both of which attracted more than 32 million viewers, are not included.

The figures have been calculated from BARB (Broadcasters Audience Research Board) data and historical information held by the BFI, and represent single broadcasts only, excluding repeats. If audience figures for repeat broadcasts were included, the 1986 Christmas Day episode of EastEnders, in which Den served divorce papers to Angie (30 million viewers), and the 1987 Christmas Day episode of Coronation Street, which featured the departure of character Hilda Ogden (26 million), would have been included.

Only Fools And Horses. Del (David Jason).1. Only Fools And Horses

BBC One, 29th December 1996: 24.35 million

To The Manor Born. Image shows from L to R: Audrey fforbes-Hamilton (Penelope Keith), Richard DeVere (Peter Bowles). Copyright: BBC.2. To The Manor Born

BBC One, 11th November 1979: 23.95 million

The London Palladium.

3. The Royal Variety Performance

ITV, 19th November 1967: 22.80 million

Princess Diana on Panorama.

4. Panorama

BBC One, 20th November 1995: 22.77 million

The London Palladium.

5. The Royal Variety Performance

ITV, 14th November 1965: 21.70 million

Dallas.6. Dallas

BBC One, 22nd November 1980: 21.60 million

To The Manor Born. Image shows from L to R: Audrey fforbes-Hamilton (Penelope Keith), Richard DeVere (Peter Bowles). Copyright: BBC.7. To The Manor Born

BBC One, 9th November 1980: 21.55 million

Mike Yarwood In Persons. Mike Yarwood.8. The Mike Yarwood Christmas Show

BBC One, 25th December 1977: 21.40 million

Coronation Street.

= Coronation Street

ITV, 2nd January 1985: 21.40 million

Only Fools And Horses. Del (David Jason).10. Only Fools And Horses

BBC One, 25th December 2001: 21.35 million

Only Fools And Horses. Del (David Jason).11. Only Fools And Horses

BBC One, 27th December 1996: 21.33 million

Only Fools And Horses. Del (David Jason).12. Only Fools And Horses

BBC One, 25th December 1996: 21.31 million

The Morecambe & Wise Show. Image shows from L to R: Eric Morecambe, Ernie Wise. Copyright: BBC.13. The Morecambe And Wise Christmas Show

BBC One, 25th December 1977: 21.30 million

The London Palladium.

14. The Royal Variety Performance

ITV, 10th November 1963: 21.20 million

Silver Jubilee Royal Variety Gala.

= The Silver Jubilee Royal Variety Gala

ITV, 4th December 1977: 21.20 million

Bread. Copyright: BBC.16. Bread

BBC One, 11th December 1988: 20.95 million

The Benny Hill Show. Copyright: Thames Television.17. The Benny Hill Show

ITV, 14th March 1979: 20.85 million

Coronation Street.

18. Coronation Street

ITV, 18th December 1980: 20.80 million

Just Good Friends. Image shows from L to R: Penny Warrender (Jan Francis), Vince Pinner (Paul Nicholas). Copyright: BBC.19. Just Good Friends

BBC One, 25th December 1986: 20.75 million

Sale Of The Century. Nicholas Parsons.20. Sale Of The Century

ITV, 19th November 1977: 20.60 million

Coronation Street.

= Coronation Street

ITV, 9th January 1985: 20.60 million; & ITV, 16th January 1985: 20.60 million

History of British Television

The BBC launched the world's first regular 'high definition' television service - not the high definition that we know today - at 3pm on Monday 2nd November 1936, from its studios at Alexandra Palace in north London, and so this week marks its 80th anniversary.

A British invention, the new medium of broadcast had a very limited initial reach in areas of north London, and would close down less than 3 years later, upon the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. It resumed on 7th June 1946, and 29th November of that year saw the broadcast of the first television sitcom, Pinwright's Progress.

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