DID you see Del Boy and Rodney on television on Christmas Day? You'd be in good company if you did, because at least 20 million others were watching - a third of the entire British population.

Only Fools and Horses is a national institution, a family favourite since it was first aired in 1981, and a seasonal sensation since its first Christmas Day special in 1983. There was almost a national out-pouring of grief when it was announced that the Christmas 1996 three-parter would be the last of Only Fools and Horses - nearly 25 million watched to say goodbye.

And there, as the 20 million who saw Tuesday's programme will surely agree, it should have stopped. As Del finally became a millionaire, it was a natural ending when the show was still at the height of its powers.

Christmas Day 2001 was a laboured affair. There were a couple of neat vignettes - Trigger in the flat waiting for a lift to the pub he'd just walked past was one - that reminded us how sharp, witty and endearingly silly Only Fools once was.

The idea of taking the mickey out of Who Wants to be a Millionaire was good and topical, but you got the feeling as the Goldrush mock gameshow unfolded that this was a script that had been hurriedly churned out once ITV had refused to allow a link-up with Chris Tarrant's show.

Much of the rest was very predictable. It was like an old boxer who'd got back into the ring after years away - you could see the punches coming. And so you could see the punchlines coming. Who didn't guess that Rodney, dressed in his smutty and unfunny Gladiators suit, would get a call from the TV studio and think it was a hoax? And then, so short were they of original gags, that they did it again for an obvious ending - only this time it was Del Boy getting a call from the TV people and thinking it was a hoax.

In the pre-show publicity, David Jason explained the reason for the show's comeback: "There has been tremendous pressure from the public asking us to come back, so after much deliberation we said yes."

There's an old showbiz maxim: always leave the audience crying out for more. But on Christmas Day 2001, there were 20 million people slumped on their sofas, belts undone and paper hats sliding down, turning to one another and saying: "This isn't as good as it used to be."