Rock & Chips is a prequel to the BBC sitcom, Only Fools and Horses, focusing on the early years of the Trotter Family.
Writer John Sullivan had the idea for a prequel to the sitcom Only Fools and Horses in 1997; its commission was announced in 2003, and the premise for the show was established in the final Only Fools and Horses episode "Sleepless in Peckham" in Christmas 2003, where a photograph from 1960 of the Jolly Boys' Outing included Freddie Robdal, who bore a remarkable likeness to Rodney. Titled Once Upon a Time in Peckham, it would see young versions of Del, Boycie, Denzil, and Trigger, and Sullivan said, "Joannie will be a key character, and during the film will give birth to Rodney." However, the prequel was shelved, and spin-off The Green Green Grass was developed to follow secondary characters, Boycie, Marlene, and their son Tyler, as they escape the London Mafia and attempt to live in the Shropshire countryside. It was reported in January 2009 that the prequel was being considered again, following the success of The Green Green Grass. In April 2009, Sullivan told The Mail on Sunday that he had started writing the prequel, and that Nicholas Lyndhurst was "keen" to play Freddie "The Frog" Robdal, a local criminal and Rodney's biological father, although the production had yet to be commissioned.
On July 3 2009, the BBC announced that the prequel had been commissioned as a 90-minute comedy drama, titled Sex, Drugs, & Rock 'n' Chips, to be co-produced by the BBC and Sullivan's production company, Shazam Productions. Originally scheduled for August, filming began in October 2009 in London, lasting 19 days. Nicholas Lyndhurst, who played Rodney in Only Fools and Horses, would play villain and art connoisseur Freddie Robdal in a reprise of his role in the "Sleepless in Peckham" photograph, Kellie Bright (Bad Girls, The Archers) would play the "glamorous" Joan Trotter, her husband Reg would be portrayed by Shaun Dingwall (Soldier Soldier), and his father Ted, aka "Grandad", by Phil Daniels (Quadrophenia, EastEnders). James Buckley (The Inbetweeners), would play the teenage Del Boy, Joan and Reg's son, portrayed by David Jason in Only Fools and Horses. Dewi Humphreys (The Green Green Grass) would direct. It was announced in January 2010 that the production would be shown on 24 January on BBC One with the title Rock & Chips.
Sullivan said when the production was announced that it would "give us a bit of an insight into why Del and Rodney turned out they way they did" in a period "before The Beatles and Mary Quant made London the coolest place on the planet" when "the staple diet was rock salmon and chips and the flicks offer the only hint of glamour". Expanding further on the basis for the prequel, he said:
"...the most important person in the flat [in Only Fools and Horses] was never, ever seen; it was the spirit of Del's (and Rodney's) beloved mother Joan who had passed away 17 years before, and throughout the run of the series, Del constantly referred to her and past events within the Trotter Family. ...But much of his historical information was at best contradictory, and at worse outright lies. We were left with a situation where the only person who really knew what had happened was an unreliable witness, so I decided to return to those misty days of 1960 to meet all those characters we'd only ever heard about ..."
The drama was produced by Gareth Gwenlan, who worked on Only Fools and Horses between 1988 and 2003. Speaking to the Western Mail, he described it as "essentially a love story" between Joan and Freddie, and he said that Lyndhurst "told me he thinks it's the best thing he's ever done". Speaking about the casting of Lyndhurst, he said he "would make a marvellous villain, which is something people will never have seen him do on TV before".
In an interview in the press pack for the production, Lyndhurst described Freddie Robdal as "a villain – charming, but nasty", and comparing him to Rodney, said that: "They're from two entirely different suitcases as far as I'm concerned. I didn't want to bring into it anything that I'd already done with Rodney and fortunately there wasn't any opportunity to do so. They're like chalk and cheese." Speaking about the 19-day filming schedule and the "not great" budget, he also told Michael Deacon of The Daily Telegraph that:
"I was very pleased it was made at all. ... There were people who said, "I don't think we're going to do this", and we had to wait months to get the green light. We thought, "Well, we haven't got the budget we want, we haven't got the schedule we want, so we're going to have to make it as brilliant as we can." It was a costume drama and it needed a costume drama budget, and it didn't get that."
Speaking about continuing the story, Gwenlan said that the production was "run on the idea it'll be turned into a series. This one lays the groundwork and John [Sullivan] has enough for about two more series."
During an interview with Metro, Nicholas Lyndhurst stated that due to the death of writer John Sullivan after "The Frog and the Pussycat", no new episodes will be produced. He cited this as the biggest disappointment of his career.