Sir David Jason: From Del Boy to national treasure

The actor will show a 'lesser-known side' of himself in new show Touring Toolshed

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 13:  Sir David Jason attends
Sir David Jason will soon return to British TV by co-hosting a new BBC show titled Touring Toolshed (Getty Images) (Tristan Fewings via Getty Images)

Sir David Jason will be making a welcome return to British TV as the actor revealed on 21 June that he will be co-hosting a new show titled Touring Toolshed with The Repair Shop's Jay Blades.

Speaking about the forthcoming show, Jason shared that viewers will get the chance to know a "lesser-known side" to himself and he was excited to be "doing something totally different" to what people already know him for.

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The 83-year-old actor is a staple of British pop culture and, as he prepares to return to the national consciousness, we take a look back at the impact he's had on the industry.

Humble beginnings

David Jason in Only Fools and Horses (Alamy) (Moviestore Collection, Moviestore Collection Ltd)

Jason may be known for his acting skills now, but before he became a TV icon he began his career as an electrician, though as a child he always wanted to become a pilot.

In his autobiography Del of a Life: The Lessons I've Learned, Jason explained that he did an apprenticeship to become an electrician in college, he would later launch his own electrical company that was named BW Installations & Co with a friend.

The actor did not stay in the profession for long though because he decided to pursue his acting career and made his debut in 1966 by appearing in the soap Crossroads. From there the world became his oyster.

Rise to fame

David Jason and Ronnie Barker in a 1973 episode of Open All Hours. (Alamy) (AA Film Archive, Allstar Picture Library)

It didn't take long for Jason's career to kick off, but a role in Porridge led to his big break: Starring in Open All Hours as shop assistant Granville which ran from 176 to 1985 in its initial run (it was followed by a sequel series titled Still Open All Hours from 2013-2019).

The comedy brought Jason into the public consciousness and then led to Jason being cast as Derek 'Del Boy' Trotter in Only Fools and Horses.

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Jim Broadbent was originally approached for the role of the wheel dealer but the actor wasn't keen on taking the role, so it went to Jason.

Lennard Pearce, David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst in 'Only Fools and Horses'. (Photo by Photoshot/Getty Images)
Lennard Pearce, David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst in 'Only Fools and Horses'. (Getty Images)

Only Fools and Horses began airing in 1981 and the series became such a bonafide hit it immediately propelled Jason, Nicholas Lyndhurst and many of the rest of its cast to super-stardom.

The British comedy marked a turning point in the TV landscape, paving the way for the gold standard for the genre and cementing Jason as a pop culture icon.

Pam Ferris, David Jason, Catherine Zeta Jone and Philip Franks in Darling Buds of May. (Alamy) (AJ Pics)
A TOUCH OF FROST, David Jason, 'Deep Waters,' (Season 4, episode 5, aired February 4, 1996), 1992-, (c) Yorkshire/courtesy
David Jason in A Touch of Frost (Alamy) (Courtesy Everett Collection, Everett Collection Inc)

Jason went on to grow his career further with shows like The Darling Buds of May, in which he played Pop Larkin from 1991 to 1993, and A Touch of Frost, where he portrayed Inspector Jack Frost for 15 seasons from 1992 to 2010.

National treasure status

Britain's favourite television actor Sir David Jason and his wife Gill, pose outside Buckingham Palace in London, Thursday Dec. 1, 2005, after receiving his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II during an investiture ceremony. The couple, who have a daughter, Sophie Mae, aged 4, were married in a secret ceremony in front of 12 guests in London's Dorchester Hotel on Nov. 30.(AP Photo/Fiona Hanson, pool)
David Jason received a knighthood in 2005 for his contributions to the entertainment industry (AP Photo) (Fiona Hanson, Associated Press)

It's thanks to shows like Only Fools and Horses and Open All Hours that Jason became seen as a national treasure, and he was also awarded a knighthood in 2005.

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Despite his age, Jason is adamant that he wants to continue acting. In 2017 he said in a documentary about his life: "People ask me if I am thinking of retiring? It doesn't occur to me. Different day, different challenge, different way, Lovely jubbly."

He added: "To make people laugh, to entertain, create a wide range of emotions. It has always been a tremendous thrill for me and it still is."

Watch: Sir David Jason reflects on his career highlights