Angels – Off Duty (29th September 1975)

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There’s a strong school vibe to the opening scene (the trainees are performing various exercises under the eagle eye of Miss Windrup). Maureen is her blue-eyed girl – making a bed with consumate ease – whilst Pat continues to be a problem pupil (her attempts at bandaging aren’t terribly impressive).

The school feel continues when Pat realises that they’ve gone past their allotted time by several minutes. Miss Windrup makes the point that if this was real life they wouldn’t just down tools and let their patient bleed to death. So the less than impressed Pat is told to have another go. But then neither is Sarah Regan (Debbie Ash) who’s forced by Miss Windrup to clean the blackboard ….

Once we get past this scene, the hospital is left behind as Pat and Maureen go out for the evening, with the end result that their friendship is severely tested. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise though – ever since they encountered each other for the first time it’s seemed plain that their relationship – due to their totally different characters and outlooks – is a rather brittle one.

To begin with, their differences are teased out in an amusing way. Maureen is an incurable optimist (remarking that it’s a lovely evening) whilst Pat is an equal and opposite pessimist (she replies that it’s just started to rain). The girls are heading out to see Maureen’s aunt, Mrs Riley (Sheila Manahan). Although it’s a bit of a trek to reach her – she lives on the other side of London – Maureen assures Pat that it’ll be well worth it. The lovely food, the warm welcome they’re going to receive …

This exuberant build up suggests that the reality will fall somewhat short. And so it proves. The food appears to be average at best whilst Mrs Riley is a fairly dour conversationalist. These are nice scenes, with Maureen’s awkwardness and Pat’s irritation both being palpable.

Things look up when Mrs Riley’s son, Barney (Karl Howman), returns home. Barney is something of a proto-Jacko (it only takes him a few seconds to laser in on Pat). It seems plain that Pat quickly organises a secret assignation with him (although we have to wait a while for this to be confirmed). But whilst the audience would have already picked up the vibes though (Pat’s keen to pop in to a pub on the way home, but doesn’t really want Maureen around) it takes much, much longer for the penny to drop with Maureen.

Her painful lack of life experience is laid bare over the course of the lengthy pub scene, which lasts for the remainder of the episode. This is manifested in various ways (not realising that the singer is a man dressed as a woman, say). Another example is the fact that the strictly teetotal Maureen is later plied with alcohol by Pat and the recently arrived Barney in an attempt to get rid of her. A rather cruel act on Pat’s part (despite the fact she later tries to laugh it off as a joke) considering she knew that Maureen was abstaining on religious grounds.

The evening from hell then careers downhill a little more with the arrival of Beryl (Jane Lowe). A middle-aged nurse who trained at St Angela’s but now works at another hospital, she pours out her relationship woes to Maureen. This revolve around her friendship with someone called Alex, who does work at St Angela’s. The inference is that Alex is a married man, but the fact that Beryl never refers to them as “he” is more than suggestive.

When Alex turns up, we discover that it’s the formidable Sister Easby. The precise nature of their relationship remains nebulous though – are they still sharing rooms because that’s what nurses tend to do or is there a stronger bond? We’ve already seen with Shirley that certain nurses can find themselves isolated from their peers, so it wouldn’t be unusual if two such unloved people continued to huddle together for companionship.

If Maureen acts rather dimly for the duration of this episode, then Pat matches her by being boorish and insentive (the highlight being when she teases Maureen that all her family must be members of the IRA) . So whilst neither emerges with distinction from this one, possibly the showdown in the pub will help Maureen to toughen up and be a little less trusting. Time will tell.

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Minder – All About Scoring, Innit

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When Arthur crosses paths with celebrity footballer Danny Varrow (Karl Howman) he spies a nice little earner.  Danny has a story to sell and if Arthur can locate Fleet Street’s finest – Ronnie Raikes (Antony Douse) – then he hopes he’ll be quids in.

Terry’s assigned to mind Danny, but he’s a wanted man.  Not only is he being pursued by Leo Rafferty (Sean Caffrey), a bookmaker who’s rather miffed that Danny’s been sleeping with his mistress Jenny (Adrienne Posta), but the shotgun-wielding Arklow (Forbes Collins) also wants a word …..

All About Scoring, Innit opens in the countryside, where the bucolic peace and quiet is shattered by Danny’s efforts to escape Arklow and his shotgun.  Subtle is not a word you could use to describe Forbes Collins’ performance here.

If the viewers were wondering exactly who Danny was, then the next scene neatly fills in the gaps.  Arthur holds up a paper in which Danny’s latest disappearing act is featured prominently.   Danny might be a talented footballer, but he’s equally as talented at drinking, gambling and chasing birds.  George Best is an obvious real-life parallel.  Unsurprisingly, Terry respects him (“one of the chosen, he is”) whilst Arthur is much less impressed (“he’s a muddied oaf”).  But once Arthur realises just how much money Danny makes – and how he may be able to cream a little off himself – his opinion changes ….

Although the story may be a little thin, the interaction between Arthur and Terry is so good that this really isn’t a problem.  There’s plenty of wonderful little moments spread throughout the fifty minutes, such as Terry’s desire to clock off so he can head over to Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea.  Arthur is affronted by this – who will unload his sporting goods?  Terry’s answer is brief and to the point.  “Balls”.

He elaborates. “Ping pong, for the playing of”.  After leaving Arthur holding a box of ping pong balls, it’s inevitable that the box is going to break and the balls will go everywhere.  Out of nowhere Arthur finds himself besieged by a gang of kids (“go on, go and play in the river”).

Next we see Arthur – preparing to enter the Winchester – observe a gang of football fans walking down the street.  Since they’re somewhat boisterous, he pops back into his car, pulls his hat over his eyes and waits for them to walk on by.  After they’re out of earshot he feels brave enough to call after them.  “Thickheads. Louts. Come back and try that again and I’ll push you through the wall”.  After he’s made his heroic gesture he spies an old woman standing in the street.  “The highway’s quite safe now madam, I’ve seen them on their way”.

Arthur walks into the Winchester, bemoaning that you can never find a copper when you want one.  He then wonders who originally said that. “G.H. Chesterton, wasn’t it? Or was it the Bard himself, George Bernard?”  Simply glorious.

There’s a chance to see the grimy reality of early eighties football since Minder was able to shoot at Stamford Bridge during an actual match.  This gives the story a little extra reality as we spy Terry standing on the heaving terraces.  It leads into another classic comedy moment as Terry incredulously spies his name on the scoreboard, requesting him to contact the office urgently.

A police sergeant (Bill Dean) has some bad news for him – his mother’s been run down by a green-line bus.  Terry takes the news rather calmly, indeed he’s so laid-back that when he notices Chelsea have scored he bemoans the fact that they couldn’t do so when he was watching them.  But he’s not really hard-hearted, as Terry’s mum has been resident at Kilburn Cemetery since 1967.  The sergeant (a wonderfully world-weary performance by Dean) is less than impressed by this hoax call and flings Terry out of the ground, which is exactly what Arthur wanted.

With all this going on, what should be the main plot – Danny’s troubles – somewhat pales into insignificance.  But although he somewhat plays second-fiddle, it’s still a decent portrait of the footballer-as-celebrity, something which was already fairly well established then (although nothing like nowadays of course).  He and Terry enjoy themselves in a luxury penthouse whilst they debate the ethics of professional sport.

Danny has no loyalty to anybody but himself.  This irritates Terry, who believes he should show some respect to his team-mates, his manager and the fans.  Danny is unrepentant though and the message seems to be that Danny can behave like he does because he has talent – if he didn’t then it wouldn’t be acceptable.  That’s questionable logic it has to be said.  It’s also interesting that Danny mentions he owes a considerable sum – five thousand pounds – to Rafferty.  For a modern footballer, that sort of money would be little more than loose change ….

Terry’s minding skills aren’t at their sharpest in this one – he nips off to the toilet, Danny opens the hotel-room door and is snatched by Rafferty’s goons.   Terry manages to track Danny down before he’s given a beating, but the imposing figure of Clifton Fields (George Sweeney) bars his way.  But once Clifton recognises Terry (they both boxed against each other in the old days) they suddenly become less interested in fighting and take a stroll down memory lane instead.

With Rafferty nullified, everything seems settled.  But then Arklow re-appears and Terry gets in the way of his shotgun blast.  But luckily (and somewhat unbelievably) he escapes with only a scratch.  This gives us yet another glorious Arthur/Terry moment as Arthur visits him in hospital.  Firstly, Arthur has a present for Terry (a pot-plant) which he declines.  No matter, Arthur will take it back home to Er Indoors.  Even better is when Terry fishes into Arthur’s bag for a grape.  No, he’s told – they’re for Er Indoors too.  The sight of Arthur calmly removing the single grape from Terry’s hand and replacing it in the bag is yet another classic comic moment from an episode that’s overflowing with them.