When Arthur’s friend Alex Brompton (David Daker) is hospitalised after a hit-and-run accident, Arthur asks Terry to mind Alex’s antique shop. It’s fair to say that Terry doesn’t hit it off with Jim (Alun Lewis), the shop’s co-owner and Alex’s partner ….
Tony Hoare’s script is very much of its time. After meeting Jim, Terry’s convinced that he’s an iron (iron hoof = poof).
Terry: Listen, if you think I’m spending time in the same pad as that, you’ve got another think coming.
Arthur: What are you talking about, what’s wrong with him?
Terry: Leave it out, can’t you see?
Arthur: See? What is there to see? A perfectly charming young man. I mean he may not be one of the chaps …
Terry: Arthur, the geezer is a raving iron.
Arthur: Don’t be ridiculous, an iron?
Terry: Do I have to scream it?
Arthur: How’d you know he’s a poofter? How can you tell?
Terry: I can tell, believe me! Go on have another look. Don’t make it too obvious, eh?
Terry’s a thoughtful lad in other ways though, best demonstrated when he visits his gran (Molly Veness) to wish her a happy birthday. Arthur pops by later with chocolates and flowers with the result that his presents end up overshadowing Terry’s own efforts! Terry’s suitably narked although Arthur is defensive (“I didn’t know you bought her flowers as well”). It’s a nice comic moment, even if it seems a little unlikely – after all Arthur only came by to pick up Terry, surely he’s too much of a tightwad to splash out on gifts for Terry’s gran for no good reason?
Back at the antiques shop, Terry tells Arthur that he’s “got nothing against irons, I just don’t want to live with one”. Arthur tells him not to worry and if Jim does try any funny business “tell him you’re sorry but you’re normal. Say it’ll upset your mum or something like that”. Given that Jim’s somewhat effete, Terry hardly needs to worry about having to fight him off – it’s more that Terry is worried about his reputation. What happens when it becomes known on the manor that he’s living with an iron?
Arthur finds it difficult to believe that his friend Alex (who he calls a real “man’s man”) could be involved with Jim. But it quickly becomes plain that he is, which makes sense of his earlier comment that Jim’s his partner (not just in the business sense then) and that he’s no longer living with his wife.
Ironically, although Terry is uncomfortable around Jim whilst Arthur’s there, when Terry and Jim are by themselves (and especially after Terry’s enjoyed Jim’s cooking) he appears to be much more relaxed – although this may just be his professional instinct kicking in (possibly Alex’s injuries weren’t accidental and they may be connected to the apparent threats made against the shop).
Although the comedy and attitudes are politically incorrect (to say the least) there’s some undeniably funny moments. When Jim and Terry visit a gay bar (although Terry seems to be totally oblivious about this) Terry runs into an acquaintance, Chas (David Auker), who congratulates him on his new choice of partner. Terry’s not impressed ….
Even better is the moment when Jim comes into Terry’s room and wakes him up to apologises for his off-hand attitude. He promises that things will be different from now on and lays a friendly hand on Terry’s knee. This, of course, is the moment when Arthur chooses to walks in (George Cole’s expression is priceless!).
Tony Hoare wrote some of Minder‘s best episodes, but Whose Wife Is It Anyway? doesn’t fall into this category. If the story been made today then probably Arthur and Terry would have been called upon to confront their prejudices. This doesn’t happen here, meaning that their opinions (that gays are unnatural as well as predatory – always on the lookout to convert straight men) remain unchallenged.
Alun Lewis chose to play Jim in a low-key manner, rather than as a raving queen, which given some of the material was probably the right move – although this does mean that he ends up as a somewhat pallid character who never really engages. The mystery part of the story feels rather tagged on as well.
But there’s a decent roof-top punch-up towards the end, featuring a heavy who’s concerned about the way that Terry’s grabbing his hair (“Please, I’ve only recently had a transplant. Would you mind not pulling it so hard?”). An interesting time-capsule of the period then, but not one of the series’ best efforts.