Minder – Gunfight at the O.K. Laundrette


It should have been an easy job for Terry (Dennis Waterman) – a simple case of minding Alfie Cavallo (Dave King) as he collected the money from his string of coin-operated laundrettes.  But a bungled armed robbery, led by Stretch (Trevor Thomas), meant that Terry, Alfie and the unfortunate Mrs Mayhew (Hilary Mason) are taken hostage and a tense stand-off with the police begins.

Richard Marson’s recent book about Verity Lambert describes how she green-lit Minder after listening to a five minute pitch.  Her snap decision paid off as it remained one of ITV’s top-rated dramas for the next fifteen years.  During that time the tone of the series certainly changed, as it became a more comedic, family friendly series – which wasn’t to the liking of everyone (especially Dennis Waterman, who left after the seventh series mainly because he’d felt the show had lost its edge).

Gunfight at the O.K. Laundrette, the first episode (originally broadcast on the 29th of October 1979), retains more of the harder edge of the earlier series, but there’s still plenty of humour mixed in.  It does feel slightly odd though, mainly due to the library music used.  Stock music was often used in Waterman’s (and Euston Films’) previous series, The Sweeney, but it just feels out of place in the early episodes.

The immediate aftermath of the bungled robbery (the shotgun accidentally goes off, wounding Alfie) is probably the weakest part of the episode.  In story terms, it’s important that the police know what’s happened, but the timetable is too contrived.  A shot goes off, a police-car appears from nowhere, an officer sees the hostages being moved to the back room and then calls for reinforcements.  All this seems to take place in a matter of seconds!

Minder was originally planned to be a vehicle for Dennis Waterman and he’s certainly central to this story.  George Cole is much more peripheral, although he’s still highly entertaining.  I love the moment when he breaches the police barrier by the launderette, breezily telling a policeman that he’s with the serious crime squad.  His ability to make money is also readily apparent – he’s able to sell a photo of Terry’s fiance (in fact a girl he’s only spoken to twice) to the newspapers for a tidy sum.

Terry, Alfie and Mrs Mayhew are moved into the back room by Stretch and his two accomplices, Winston (William Vanderpuye) and Cosmo (Leroi Samuels).  Both of them are little more than kids and it’s obvious that they’re in way over their heads.  Stretch is the dangerous one – as it seems likely that he’ll use the gun, Terry slowly begins to chip away at him.

He tells him that attempted armed robbery will get him seven years, but he’ll probably be out within five.  When Stretch asks him how he knows so much, Terry wryly tells him that he used to keep bad company whilst Alfie chips in that he was bad company.  Both Terry and Alfie are old lags, but they’ve done their time and have no wish to go back.

But whilst Terry is earning a (mostly) honest living, it’s one that he admits gives him little job satisfaction – since it consists of  throwing drunks out of strip clubs and providing people with a bit of muscle.  For someone who (as we’ll learn in more depth later on) could have been a contender, it’s something of a come-down.

Leon Griffiths (named after Leon Trotsky by his mother) had been contributing scripts to popular series since the early 1960’s.  The Four Just Men, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Ghost Squad, Out of the Unknown, The Return of the Saint and Hazel were just some of the shows that benefited from his scripting.

But Minder was the first time that he’d devised a show, rather than take on somebody else’s characters and situations.  Although in the end the number of episodes he wrote was fairly small compared to the total number made (15 out of 109) he still set the tone and template for all the writers who followed in his wake.

All the hallmarks of early Minder are contained within this one episode.  Grimy, seedy London (with Terry a regular around the strip-bars of Soho), Arthur’s subtle (and not so subtle) manipulation of Terry and a confrontational relationship with the police.  Terry might be straight now, but he knows that since he’s got a record, he’s a marked man and it’s his uneasy relationship with the law (as well as the conflict between him and Arthur) which would drive the series for a good many years.

Minder – It’s a Sorry Lorry Morrie


Following George Cole’s recent death, I had a hankering to watch some episodes of Minder as a tribute.  In the end I plumped for the seventh series – which for me is one of Minder‘s strongest runs.

Although the earlier episodes are grittier, there’s something rather appealing about these six episodes (broadcast in early 1989).  Partly, it’s the quality guest stars – Minder had always attracted decent casts, but there seems to be even more familiar faces in these episodes (Roy Kinnear and Ronald Fraser in this one and the likes of Brian Blessed and Ian McShane later on).

Some people though, especially Dennis Waterman, had decided that Minder had become too comedic and had lost its edge (which was the reason he decided to leave at the end of this series).  I personally disagree, but although Minder carried on for several more years the departure of Waterman was the clear end of an era.

One notable aspect of It’s a Sorry Lorrie Morrie is the gentle highlighting of Waterman’s advancing years.  Terry has always famously been a bird magnet, but when he attempts to chat up a young woman in the launderette he gets short shrift – she tells him he reminds her of her father!  It’s got nothing to do with the plot, it’s just a nice character moment that acknowledges his advancing years.

The plot’s quite simple – Arthur buys a job-lot of electrical goods from Morrie (James Marcus).  Terry picks them up and drops them off at Arthur’s new car-site.  Of course, the goods are stolen and the police stake the van out – waiting for the criminals to return.  Terry’s prints are all over the cab, so he faces a lengthy stretch inside.

But the joy of Minder isn’t the plot, it’s the interactions of the characters.  George Cole’s on fine form as the temporarily world-weary Arthur, who’s persuaded by the eager young Justin (Mark Farmer) to make a deal with Morrie.  Justin is Arthur Daley’s number one fan – for reasons never quite explained – and he mistakenly thinks he’s doing Arthur a favour by introducing him to Morrie.

Ronald Fraser is perfectly cast as the booze-soddled Self-Inflicted Sid.  Sid is a pathetic character – someone who hangs around the fringes of the criminal fraternity, hoping to be accepted.  He looks pretty mean, thanks to a large scar down the side of his face, although Arthur tells Justin that Sid did the damage himself (with a razor) in the hope it would make him more acceptable to the criminals he wanted to emulate.

Although the tone of the episode is quite light, there’s a dark moment when Arthur asks Sid to torch the van under the noses of the watching police.  If the van is torched, then Terry’s fingerprints are destroyed and he’s off the hook.  Arthur has no compunction in manipulating Sid, especially since he knows that Sid will do anything he’s asked, but Terry does have a moment of conscience.  But the moment passes, and Sid sets off to do the deed.

Chisholm (Patrick Malahide) departed during the 1988 Christmas special, An Officer and a Car Salesman, so DS Rycott (Peter Childs) is now the senior officer tasked with making Arthur’s life a misery – although DS Jones (Mark Povey) has stepped out of Chisolm’s shadow and is quite keen to make Rycott’s life a mystery too.

Peter Childs’ performances during series seven are another reason why these episodes are so enjoyable.  Sadly. they would be his last appearances as Rycott, as he died in late 1989 at the age of just fifty.  Later series of Minder would feature various actors in the police roles (including a young Stephen Tompkinson) but none had the comic chops of Childs.

The best moment comes when Arthur and the others drive round to see how many police are staking out the van.  Arthur’s in the back of another van and he pops his head up to look out the back window – straight into Rycott’s unbelieving face!  It’s clearly signposted before it happens, but that makes the moment even better – between Cole’s shocked expression and Childs’ unbelieving stare, it’s comedy gold.  Luckily for Arthur, Rycott passes it off as an hallucination!

Another interesting touch is that although Morrie swindles Arthur out of five thousand pounds for a van-load of goods that he’s had to destroy, Morrie isn’t forced to pay the money back.  Arthur does make a little money (thanks to another of Justin’s schemes) but Morrie walks away.  This might be a hint that Terry’s days as a top-line minder are coming to an end.

Morrie has some imposing muscle (including a pre-Eastenders Steve McFadden) and although Terry throws a few punches, he’s persuaded to walk away.  Maybe it was felt it wouldn’t be realistic for Waterman to beat two much younger men, and this might have been another reason why Waterman decided to leave the series.

All this and Roy Kinnear’s last small screen appearance as well – It’s a Sorry Lorry Morrie is a cracking episode.

Minder – Bury my Half At Waltham Green

After jumping ahead to sample from episodes from series seven, it’s back to series one and the second episode – Bury My Half at Waltham Green.

Arthur convinces Terry that it’s the easiest money he’ll ever earn – all he has to do is mind Albert Stubbs (Nicky Henson) for a few days.  Stubbs has just been released from prison and is keen to dig up a large stash of money stolen by him and his associates. Rose Mellors (Ann Lynn) is the formidable wife of one of Stubbs’ old colleagues and she, along with her gorilla of a minder Jack (Tony Selby), is hot on their trail.

Terry’s got problems though – Stubbs is erratic and unpredictable and he quickly makes Terry’s life a misery.  When Jack pays them a visit, he manages to extract him from Terry’s grasp and proudly takes him back to Rose.  She’s far from impressed though – she doesn’t know who he is, but he’s certainly not Albert Stubbs …..

Bury My Half at Waltham Green is an excellent early example of Arthur’s highly devious nature.  Knowing full well that Stubbs would be a hunted man from the moment he was released, he arranged for Terry to mind a decoy.  The man that Terry thought was Stubbs is actually a character called George Wilson.  It’s fair to say that Terry’s far from pleased at being manipulated in this way, but he’s going to have to get used to it as it’s going to happen on a regular basis from now on.

Nicky Henson’s good value as the ebullient Stubbs Mk 1 whilst the ever-dependable Kenneth Cope is just as solid as the real, if rather less jovial, Stubbs.  Ann Lynn is a memorable femme-fatale who’ll stop at nothing (including bedding Terry) to find out where Stubbs is.  When Arthur learns that Terry’s slept with Rose, his expression is a joy to behold!  Tony Selby rounds off the first-rate cast as the accident prone, but intimidating Jack.  Both Lynn and Selby would return as Rose Mellors and Jack in the series two episode Diamonds are a Girl’s Worse Enemy.

If you want to be picky, then it’s hard to believe the rather elaborate decoy scene which sees Arthur and Stubbs drive off in a car (watched by Rose, Terry and Jack).  Rose and Jack follow them, but don’t realise they’re actually following an identical car, which contains Terry and George.  This scheme seems to have been dreamt up by Terry within a very short space of time and it does beggar belief that he’d be able to rustle up two identical cars (plus a lorry to drive one of the cars into) so quickly .

After various adventures, Albert digs up the money, although his joy is short lived as Rose steps in to relieve him of it.  Arthur also manages to get a small share, but the sting in the tail is left until the end – as it’s revealed that the money (comprised of one pound notes) is no longer legal tender, because those type of notes were phased out the year before.

It’s maybe a coincidence that the very next episode also revolves around a large sum of money which turns out to be worthless.

Minder – The Smaller They Are


When Scotch Harry (Phil McCall) and his faithful friend Big Stan (David Jackson) steal a case from the airport they get more than they bargained for – it contains half a million dollars. And when Arthur learns of this he’s keen to offer his services, for a small commission naturally.

He tells Harry they’ll have to give it back, whoever these people are for this sort of money they won’t hesitate to get very nasty indeed.  Arthur agrees to negotiate the case’s return, although the presence of DC Rycott (Peter Childs) is an added complication.

It’s clear that The Smaller They Are is a very early Minder episode for several reasons – one of the most obvious is Arthur’s lecherous nature.  He casts an appreciative eye over a young woman wearing a tight pair of jeans in the Winchester and later attempts to chat up the pleasant airline receptionist (played by Hilary Ryan, probably best known for playing Rodan in the Doctor Who story The Invasion of Time).  Arthur’s roving eye is something that’s phased out pretty quickly, shortly after this he’ll leave that sort of thing to Terry!

We also see the first appearance of Peter Childs as Rycott.  Another sign that it’s the early days of the series is the notion that Rycott is corrupt.  After nabbing Scotch Harry, Rycott delivers him to the gang – rather than taking him to the nick – and on the way offers an oblique justification why (after years of solid service he’s still only a DC, due to a previous indiscretion).  Maybe Rycott was planned as a one-off character and when it was decided to reuse him his previous corruption was forgotten.  There’s certainly no suggestion after this episode that he’s a wrong ‘un.

Scotch Harry is such an unlikeable character (especially when he’s drunk, although he’s pretty bad when he’s sober) that it’s no surprise Terry’s keen to give him a slap to sort him out.  David Jackson (Gan from Blake’s 7) is his loyal, but none-too-bright friend.  Hans Meyer (best known as Hauptmann Franz Ulmann from the classic BBC series Colditz) is suitably intimidating as Bonnett, the leader of the money smuggling operation.

Although Meyer radiates intimidation, the episode does rather end in farce after Arthur, Terry and Big Stan return the case to him.  Stan’s upset to find that Harry’s been badly beaten up and attempts to retaliate – he’s not very successful, but Terry’s rather more so.  In the melee, Arthur attempts to take the case back (given all he’s previously said about how dangerous these people are, that does seem rather reckless).  He doesn’t succeed, but in the general confusion Bonnett ends up dropping the case on his foot and hops around the room in pain, whilst Arthur manages to take another wad of money before leaving!

But it has to be shown that crime doesn’t pay and it’s down to Dave to break the bad news – the notes are forgeries and therefore worthless.  Even this early on, it’s clear that Arthur’s only going to end up on top very infrequently.

Minder – A Tethered Goat


Terry’s latest job is acting as a bodyguard for an Arab banker Bassam Sayin (Lee Montague) who has flown into the UK to transact some business deals.  Sayin and Terry don’t quite hit it off as he’s far from impressed with Terry’s skills as a bodyguard (mainly because he doesn’t carry a gun).

Naturally, Arthur’s convinced Terry that this will be easy money, so the idea that he would need to be armed instantly sets alarm bells ringing.  But perhaps he should have been, as later Terry and Sayin find themselves menaced by a group of armed men ….

A Tethered Goat is one of my favourite episodes from series one of Minder – not only for the sparkling script from Murray Smith (incredibly his only contribution to the series) but also for the first rate guest cast.  The pick of the bunch is Kenneth Griffiths as Sayin’s temporary valet, Dai Llewellyn.  Dai’s Welsh (in case you haven’t guessed) and also likes a drink (or two).  He’s pure comic relief and gets some of the best lines, such as when he spots armed men approaching the house. “Terry, shooters! Oh my god!”.  It may not sound like much, but it’s all in the delivery and Griffiths is first rate.

Lee Montague, an actor still going strong today, has a great deal of presence as Sayin.  His relationship with Terry is the key to this episode and it’s fascinating to chart how their opinions of each other change (from distrust to mutual respect).  Another couple of very familiar television faces, Michael Sheard and Nadim Sawalha, provide the menace whilst Jenny Lee-Wright (who was well-known at the time for the likes of The Benny Hill Show but is now a leading Foley artist, working on a score of major films) provides the glamour.

As for Arthur, he attempts to ingratiate himself with Sayin in such an obvious way that it’s almost painful to witness.  Sayin’s reaction to Arthur’s hustling is a joy to behold!  But you have to give Arthur credit, he keeps on trying to make a profit – even when the bullets are flying.

Minder – The Bounty Hunter


When Arthur learns that an old friend of his, Jo (June Richie), is somewhat down on her luck he does his best to help.  Following her husband’s death, she decided to sink all her savings into a Spanish villa.  Unfortunately, the villa was never built as the company responsible, Sunworthy, went bust and all her money (along with a great many other people’s) was lost.

He knows just the man for the job – Terry, of course.  And after traipsing around the streets, Terry manages to run down Freddy Fenton (Derek Jacobi) – who was the brains behind Sunworthy.  He pleads poverty, but it’s clear that he’s a skilled con-man who’ll be a tough nut to crack.

The first episode of Minder to be filmed, The Bounty Hunter is chiefly memorable for Jacobi’s turn as Freddy Fenton.  Initially, he seems to be a broken man, living on social security, but it’s later revealed that he lives in a palatial house, complete with servants and a gorgeous lady-friend, Val (Rikki Howard – best known as a yellowcoat from Hi-De-Hi!).  And even when Terry tracks him down, Fenton remains as slippery as ever.  He tells Terry that he owns nothing – everything is leased.

Jacobi’s spot on as the arrogant wide-boy, convinced that Terry’s threats are meaningless.  In the immediate years following his career-defining appearance in I Claudius (BBC 1976) he only made a handful of television appearances, so there must have been something in the character of Fenton that appealed to him.  Speaking of I Claudius, I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that Christopher Biggins (who appeared as Nero) also has a role in this story?

George Layton, as Des the mechanic, would be a semi-regular during Minder’s early years.  Here we see him con Terry into stealing cars (Terry, trusting as ever, believes that Des has authorisation to remove them!).  But he’s able to later put Des’ skills as a thief to good use when they steal Fenton’s Rolls-Royce and refuse to return it unless he pays them the money he owes Jo.

Like some of the other early episodes, this one is fairly heavy on the library music tracks (which would tend to diminish in later series).  But although some of the cues are a little on the cheesy side and the story is quite slight, Jacobi’s presence makes it well worth watching.

Minder – Aces High and Sometimes Very Low


Professional gambler Maurice Michaelson (Anthony Valentine) has a problem – he’s simply too good at his job.  Because of his skill at poker, he’s found himself barred from a local casino and is later robbed of his winnings.  He’s convinced that he can make good though, thanks to a high stakes poker game run by some shady Greeks.

With Terry onboard as his minder, Maurice loses heavily.  Convinced the game was crooked he manages to persuade Arthur to advance him some more stake money (using his Jaguar as collateral) and prepares to do battle once more.

Some of the regular television characters that Anthony Valentine had played in the past tended to follow a familiar pattern.  For example, Toby Meres in Callan (charming and borderline psychotic), Major Horst Mohn in Colditz (not charming and borderline psychotic) and Raffles (charming and not borderline psychotic at all), etc etc.  Maurice Michaelson, on the other hard, is charming but he’s not really a criminal type or a sufferer of any form of neurosis – he’s just been blessed with a skill that he can’t exploit to the full.

Both Terry and Arthur take something of a back-seat in this one, as Maurice’s gambling exploits are the key focus.  But although they aren’t as prominent in the narrative as usual, they do have some good moments.  Terry tangles with the alluring Stella (a pre-Star Trek:The Next Generation Marina Sirtis) whilst Arthur naturally attempts to make the maximum amount of profit from Maurice’s car (much to Terry’s amusement).

This episode also gives us the unusual, if not unique, sight of Terry and Arthur sitting in the Winchester playing cards.  It’s obvious though that the scene only exists so that Maurice can turn up and criticise Arthur’s playing style (and their low stakes – a penny a point) and then demonstrate his own undoubted skills.

Maurice would return in the series two episode, You Lose Some You Win Some, and whilst the later episode is my favourite of the two since it has a more entertaining storyline (Maurice recruits a group of non-gamblers to work undercover at a casino he’s barred from) this one does have an authentic, seedy and smoky atmosphere – conjured up by Minder’s creator, Leon Griffiths.

Minder – The Bengal Tiger

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Mr Mukerjee (Saeed Jaffrey) is offered Terry’s assistance to help guard his newsagents shop following a series of attacks.  Initially it seems to be the work of kids, but it quickly becomes obvious that Mukerjee has been less than honest with either Arthur or Terry.

He’s offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to multiple families (collecting a hefty fee each time).  Unfortunately for him, Mr Aslam (Ahmed Khalil) was one of his victims and now he wants his money back.  And Mukerjee’s daughter, Indira (Shireen Anwar), doesn’t want to take part in an arranged marriage – she only has eyes for Kev (Mike Grady).

The Bengal Tiger is a fascinating time capsule of the period.  Partly because of Mukerjee’s newsagents shop, which is piled high with long vanished products.  For example, I spotted copies of the comic Misty on the shelves – this might have been a girls comic, but thanks to its spooky supernatural stories it was one I was happy to read back then!

The other thing that dates the story is, of course, the attitudes and opinions that we see expressed.  Mukerjee, although nicely played by Jaffrey, is something of a cliche.  He may, or may not, be an illegal immigrant (he’s been in the country for decades but can’t remember if he has official citizenship) and during this time he’s picked up certain English speech mannerisms which are intermingled with his strong Indian accent.  But although he’s a broad stereotype (reinforced by the fact he’s sold his daughter umpteen times) there’s a certain twinkle in Jaffrey’s performance which prevents him from being a totally unlikable character.

If Mukerjee still retains something of his ethnic roots, then his daughter Indira is the complete opposite.  She has a broad Cockney accent and has no interest in even contemplating an arranged marriage.  Shireen Anwar is delightful as the outspoken Indira and whilst it’s clear that she immediately captures Terry’s attention, she only has eyes for the gormless Kev.  Mike Grady has made a good career out of playing gormless characters (Citizen Smith, Last of the Summer Wine) and Kev is another addition to this list.  There doesn’t seem to be any obvious reason why the vivacious Indira should be attracted to him – so it must be love.

There’s some great banter between Arthur and Terry in this episode.  It doesn’t advance the plot at all, but it’s just lovely to see.  Early on, Terry tells Arthur that he’s thinking of jacking the job in – throwing drunks out of pubs and repossessing cars isn’t a fulfilling career for him.  He then mentions that he’s contemplating a career in computers, much to Arthur’s intense amusement.  Arthur tells him he can’t even work a pocket calculator, so how would he be able to deal with a computer?  After a moment, Terry reluctantly agrees, but remains convinced he could learn!

Later, Arthur drops off a number of frost-damaged freezers (yes, Terry wondered how freezers could be frost damaged as well!) to Terry’s flat in the early hours of the morning.  This is classic Arthur, as the notion that Terry may not be keen to take delivery of the freezers obviously never even crossed his mind.  And when Terry wonders why Arthur couldn’t store them at his house, he has plenty of decent excuses.  They wouldn’t go with the flock wallpaper for a start and what would happen when his friends from the Lodge came over for a drink?  It wouldn’t create the right impression, would it?

There’s some familiar faces on view.  Stanley Lebor, later to play Howard Hughes in Ever Decreasing Circles, here takes his more familiar 1970’s role as a heavy (his fight with Terry concludes the story).  Spencer Banks (probably best known from Timeslip) plays a young drunk who Terry throws out of a pub.  I knew his face was naggingly familiar, but it wasn’t until the credits that it clicked exactly who he was.  Roy Evans, a very recognisable face from this era in both films and television, has a small role as a customer in the newsagents.  He’s credited as “Elderly Man” which is interesting since he was only forty-eight at the time.  Clearly he had one of those lived-in faces.  And lastly, Graham Stark keeps on popping up to harangue Terry.  Stark gives a broad performance, but it’s a nice bit of comic relief (even if the story itself isn’t terribly serious anyway).

Thanks to Terry’s diplomacy, everything is sorted out in the end and Indira and Kev don’t have to elope.  Given the time that’s elapsed since the original broadcast (back in 1979) some of themes, especially the interracial marriage, would have seemed far more controversial back then than they do now.  Attitudes have certainly changed – for example, Kev is casually able to mention that he and Indira need to find a place of their own since they can’t stay with his mother (she doesn’t mind living next door to them, but she doesn’t want one in the house).

Another solid script from Leon Griffiths.

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Minder – Come in T-64, Your Time is Ticking Away


Candy Cabs, a minicab firm that Arthur has a share in, has suffered a series of attacks over the last few weeks – drivers have been beaten up and cars torched.  Arthur enlists Terry’s help by giving him the most clapped-out car imaginable and adding him to the drivers roster.  It soon becomes clear that these aren’t random acts of violence though, there’s a definite reason behind them.

The first of twenty Minder scripts written by Tony Hoare (his last, The Long Good Thursday, aired in 1994 and was the final episode of the original run).  He would end up writing more episodes than series creator Leon Griffiths, and whilst Griffiths’ contribution was absolutely key, in many ways Hoare would be as important as Griffiths in shaping the direction of the series.

Come in T-64 has its comic moments, but it’s also very much a product of Minder‘s earlier, more gritty, period.  It captures the late seventies run-down nature of London perfectly – Candy Cabs is located in a dilapidated part of town and whilst Arthur dreams of taking the business more upmarket and appealing to a more refined clientele, it’s clear that this will remain just a dream.

Early on, one of the drivers is attacked by two young tearaways.  Terry drives him home and before he drops him off he wonders why he’s spending his time mini-cabbing.  Terry’s told that he doesn’t have a choice – he married young, at nineteen, and has a wife and two children to support.  They live in three crummy rooms and in order to try and get on the property ladder he works nights in a bakery and spends the afternoons and evenings driving a cab.  It sounds like quite a bleak existence.

There are a few lighter moments though.  Terry agrees to spar with the local boxing champ as his regular partner hasn’t turned up.  Whilst he’s in the ring, Arthur turns up and gives Terry plenty of, no doubt well-intentioned, support even though it’s clear that Terry’s coming off second best.  When he’s knocked down again, Arthur’s incensed – he tells the barely conscious Terry that this is very damaging to his (Arthur’s) reputation!

One of Terry’s customers is Debbie (Diana Malin) who works as a stripper (the first of five appearances she’d make in the series).  Terry’s instantly attracted and it doesn’t take too long before they get together.  The next morning, Arthur calls to see him and is shocked by her nakedness (“oh my good gawd”).  This is the more familiar, prurient, Arthur that we’d grow used to seeing – always disapproving of Terry’s numerous liaisons – and is far removed from the lecherous Arthur of the earliest episodes.

By far the best comic moment comes when Kevin walks out, leaving Arthur in charge of the office.  His increasingly frantic efforts to keep track of the calls and direct the cabs makes him more and more stressed!  It’s a lovely comic sequence from George Cole.

Come in T-64 also highlights Arthur’s ruthless nature.  Although he’s invested £5,000 into the business, Kevin bitterly complains that he leaves him to do all the work.  Kevin’s keen to buy Arthur’s share, that way he claims he’d be able to make a decent living, but Arthur’s not interested – unless Kevin can come up with £8,000, some three thousand more than Kevin was expecting.

As might be expected, Alfred Burke is excellent as Kevin.  Best known for Public Eye, Burke brings a similar level of laconic weariness to this character.  There’s a few other familiar faces that pop up, such as Oscar James who’d later be a series regular in the early years of Eastenders.

In the end, both Arthur and Terry do quite well.  Arthur ends up buying Kevin’s share of the business (for a mere two thousand) and it’s plain that he’ll make a great deal more money once the site forms part of a new redevelopment.  It was Kevin, of course, who was behind the attacks – attempting to panic Arthur into selling his stake cheaply, so that he could benefit.  And even Terry, who spends most the episode being conned by Arthur, manages to make some money (a rare victory for Terry at this early point in the series).

Minder – Monday Night Fever


Arthur is convinced that Sharon Dobbs (Sheila White) is a singing sensation just waiting to be discovered.  He’s so enamoured of her, both personally and professionally, that he hands over six hundred pounds to Chris Lambert (Eric Deacon).  Lambert runs a local nightclub and tells Arthur he’ll use his record business contacts to invite some top people down to hear her sing.

But the evening ends in disaster for Sharon (a combination of the sparse audience’s disinterest and her own flat singing) and Arthur (when he realises that Chris has conned him).  Arthur demands that Terry goes round to give him a spanking and retrieve his money, but Terry refuses.  Those days, he says, are over – since it’s a certain way to ensure he goes back inside.  So Arthur fires Terry and seeks an alternative …..

Whilst Monday Night Fever has some gags, at heart it’s a very bleak tale.  And the bleakness mostly revolves around Arthur as it shows us just how out of touch and insignificant he is.  He blithely assumes he’ll be able to get Sharon engagements at all the top West End nightclubs – only to be told by Terry that they all shut down a decade or so earlier.  His portrayal as yesterday’s man is reinforced when he later tells Terry that he’s still a respected man around the manor.  In a few drinking clubs and car auctions maybe, says Terry, but nowhere else.

Arthur’s relationship with Sharon is the most intriguing part of the story.  He’s clearly attracted to her (although he reacts strongly to Terry’s label of her as the “singing scrubber”).  We see them kiss and after he’s thrown out of his house by ‘Er ‘Indoors, he even floats the possibility of them moving into a flat together.  But this, just like his promise to her that he’ll be able to use his contacts to get her a record deal, is nothing but a pipe dream.

There doesn’t seem to be anything malicious or exploitative in his relationship with her.  He does seem to genuinely believe she’s talented (although he’s in a minority there) and thanks to his deluded belief in his own importance once he’s told her that he’s a connected man in the business, he can’t back down.

This leads him to Chris Lambert, who cons the usually astute Arthur very easily.  Maybe this is because he’s outside of his comfort zone – if it was dodgy jeans or perfume then he’d drive a hard bargain, but Sharon’s clearly impairing his judgement.

Sheila White gives a nice performance as the seemingly innocent and naive Sharon.  She appears to have genuine affection for Arthur, but later we see her shacked up with a keyboard player who’s offered to show her some chromatic scales.  This suggests that like everyone else she’s used Arthur for her own ends.  Her singing had to tread a delicate path between being slightly off-key, but not so bad that Arthur’s interest in her would strain credibility.  And it works, just!

Arthur and Terry’s falling-out is another key part of the story.  It demonstrates that, despite Terry’s protests, he does have genuine affection for Arthur (his girlfriend Penny reminds him that he’s mentioned how he looks upon him as a father figure).  So when Arthur enlists the unstable Vic Piner (Anthony Heaton) to help him get his money back from Lambert, Terry can’t sit on the sidelines.  As Dave says, if things go wrong then Arthur will be in the frame for conspiracy to murder.

As might be expected, all is sorted out in the end and Arthur and Terry are reconciled (once Terry’s felled Vic with a single punch).  He may have lost the girl, some of his money and everything from his lockup but at least he’s got his minder back.

Minder – The Dessert Song


Terry and Arthur rescue a Greek-Cypriot called Charlie (Peter Bland) who was being attacked in the street by three men.  They take him back to a restaurant, run by his cousin Christina (Diane Keen), who although initially unwelcoming later seeks Arthur’s help.

She tells him she’s being hounded by Omar (Godfrey James) – the brother of Christina’s late husband, who wants to take over the running of the restaurant.  Arthur’s rather taken with Christina and agrees that Terry will keep an eye on the place.  But things turn out to be slightly more complicated than they first appear …..

One notable thing about The Dessert Song is that all the actors playing Greeks – Diane Keen, Godfrey James, Peter Bland, Daniel Hill (as Johnny) and Michael Angelis (as Nick, the waiter) – are British.  It was common enough during this era of British television, as the pool of ethnic actors was much smaller than today, but it is a little distracting.

Still, it’s always a pleasure to see Diane Keen (one of those actresses who was ever-present during the Seventies and Eighties) and it’s plain that Arthur’s equally taken with Christina.  Just one episode after his misadventure with Sharon, he seems prepared to make a play for Christina’s affections.  Although it’s probable that her restaurant is more appealing to him than she is!

Once Terry is installed as the restaurant’s minder, Arthur’s quick to take advantage – dropping in for a meal (on the house, of course) and delighting in ordering Terry about.  Understandably, Terry doesn’t appreciate this, nor does he really like having to wear a shirt and tie.

Peter Bland is rather endearing as Charlie.  He appears to be harmless, if a little eccentric, but things take a strange turn when he pulls a gun on Terry and Arthur.  Luckily, no harm is done – he’s come to England to right an old family wrong and doesn’t mean them any harm – and Christina resolves to put him on the next plane back to Cyprus.  But the conniving Johnny is easily able to manipulate him into attempting to kill Omar – which means that once again Terry has to wade in and save the day.

Terry and Arthur are slightly less prominent in this episode, although Terry has some decent fight scenes and even Arthur manages to be proactive (trapping Johnny in a telephone box).  The banter between the pair of them (Terry ribbing Arthur about his interest in Christina, Arthur treating Terry like a waiter – clicking his fingers and asking for a menu!) is, as ever, top notch.

The first of twelve episodes written by Andrew Payne (including the feature-length Minder on the Orient Express from 1985) The Dessert Song might feel a little inconsequential (there’s no impressive bad guys – Omar’s quite a reasonable chap after all and Johnny’s obviously no match for Terry) but it’s still an entertaining fifty minutes.

Minder – You Gotta Have Friends


Billy Gilpin (David Buck) is a wanted man.  The police want to question him about the attempted murder of Lord Ingrave, whilst local villain Bobby Altman (George Baker) is also keen to track him down.  Billy worked for Altman and has absconded with seventy thousand pounds worth of bearer bonds.

As Terry gave Billy a lift, that makes him an object of interest for both the police and Altman.  The police are fairly easy to deal with but the barely stable Altman is another matter.  He’s convinced that Billy gave Arthur the bonds and issues a stark ultimatum – if Arthur doesn’t return them, his life expectancy will be very short.

Moments of levity are few and far between in You Gotta Have Friends.  They mostly occur at the start, as we see a very drunken Arthur making his way home after a night spent with his friends at the Lodge.  He’s accosted by Billy who urgently needs a ride out of town.  Arthur’s in no fit state to drive (some lovely drunk acting from Cole in this scene) but he knows just the man – Terry, of course.  It may be the middle of the night, and Terry’s rather preoccupied with the lovely young Valerie, but this doesn’t really register with Arthur.

After this, things take a darker turn when Terry’s picked up by the police for questioning the following day.  In the years to come he probably would have been quizzed by either Chisholm or Rycott and that would pre-condition the viewer to know that nothing particularly serious is going to happen.  But here we have the more imposing form of D.I. Barnett (Allan Surtees).

Although Terry’s never really in serious trouble, it’s the tone of the scenes at the station which feel different from similar moments from later series.  The bleak, whitewashed walls do seem to have a more oppressive feeling here.  Even Terry’s temporary cell-mate, Whaley (a decent cameo from Roy Kinnear), might not be all that he appears.  On the surface, Whaley looks like a friendly chap, genuinely interested in Terry’s plight – but is he one of Barnett’s tame grasses, there to act as a possible prosecution witness?  We never find out for sure, so Terry may just be acting a little paranoid (possibly brought on by his brief confinement).

George Baker is imposing and powerful as Bobby Altman.  His meeting with Terry demonstrates he has trouble keeping his temper under control.  This, together with his group of minders (including Brian Hall and Prentis Hancock), give us an early indication that he won’t be a pushover.  When Altman tells Terry that he’s going to kill Arthur, we believe him.  And whilst Terry could easily take the older Altman, he’s told quite plainly that with the superior numbers on his side, Altman would always emerge victorious.

There’s a fairly heavy use of library music in this episode and since most of the cues tend to be dramatic and suspenseful ones, that simply adds to the tension.

Later, Altman abducts Arthur and gives him one more chance to tell him where the bonds are.  As Arthur doesn’t have them he can’t do this – but Altman has long since passed the point of reason.  A health-fanatic, he forces Arthur to go for a jog with him and pushes him to the point of collapse.  When Terry rescues him, it’s slightly played for laughs, but before this it’s another disturbing scene.

Luckily for Arthur, Terry arrives in the nick of time with the bonds, which had been in the possession of Lady Ingrave (Deborah Grant).  Despite their mis-matched backgrounds, she was in love with Billy and the pair planned to disappear together (although his death – he’s later fished out of the river – puts paid to that).

The Arthur/Terry dynamic is quite obviously what makes Minder work.  Arthur might be self-centered and manipulative, but there has to be some kernel of respect between the two of them – otherwise the series simply wouldn’t work.  This is demonstrated when Terry finds a barely-conscious Arthur, with Altman towering above him.  He hands over the bonds, but has no hesitation is aiming a well-thrown punch in Altman’s direction, knocking him down.

Honour is therefore satisfied.  Altman’s got his bonds back, but Terry’s struck a blow for his friend.  And despite the power (and man-power) Bobby Altman has, he knows that this is one time he should walk away.

You Gotta Have Friends brought the first series of Minder to a conclusion.  It would be Leon Griffiths’ last script for a few years, due to ill-health, but he’d set up a very firm foundation which ensured that the many writers who followed in his footsteps would have plenty to work with.

Minder – National Pelmet


Terry is far from impressed with his latest minding job – a racehorse called Pelmet – but the sight of its attractive jockey, Jocelyn Maxwell-Saunders (Liza Goddard), softens the blow somewhat ….

National Pelmet, scripted by Willis Hall, was the first episode of Minder‘s second season and was originally broadcast on the 11th of September 1980.  It opens at a racecourse and after a couple of minutes of horsey colour we see Arthur and Terry emerging from a marquee.  Naturally, Arthur has entered into the spirit of things – he’s an absolute vision. decked out in wellingtons, binoculars, walking stick and a bow-tie.

Early on, the Arthur/Terry dynamic seems firmly slanted in the older man’s favour.  Arthur rubbishes Terry’s choice of a horse (“Lily Law?”) and advises him to stick his money on Spring Return.  Terry does so and it’s utterly predictable that Spring Return refuses the first fence whilst Lily Law (with Jocelyn onboard) romps home to an easy victory.

Arthur being Arthur, of course, is completely unabashed after leading Terry astray.  “If you have a fancy, a feeling in your water, stick to it. You shouldn’t listen to me, you should be strong-willed in this world, Terry. Implacable, like me”.

Arthur has two gross of 100% genuine reproduction statuettes of Milton (“Paradise Lost, Paradise Got Back”) and believes that his well-healed contact Jeremy Burnham-Jones (Robert Swann) will be able to help him shift them (Jeremy has an antiques shop in Brighton).   And since Jeremy has a racehorse called Pelmet which he wants protected before the big race, Arthur sees a way to kill two birds with one stone.

En-route to Brighton on the train, there’s a telling non-verbal moment which suggests that Terry’s not always going to be a pushover.  Arthur and Terry visit the buffet car and Arthur asks for a couple of light-ales and sandwiches.  After Arthur’s been told the price, he looks encouragingly at Terry who ignores him, forcing Arthur to find the money himself.  This is very underplayed – there’s no outward change in either of their expressions – but it’s a good character moment nonetheless.

As they settle back into their seats, Arthur – always a nostalgic – bemoans the fact that luxury rail travel is now a thing of the past.  At one point, he tells Terry, all the famous theatrical knights would be on the London to Brighton train – but not any more.  “Can you see Johnny Gielgud, Sir Johnny Gielgud no less, with his light ale slopping around in his plastic beaker while he stuffs an individual fruit pie into his north and south?”  Simply glorious.

There’s plenty of comedy to be mined from Terry’s reluctant guarding of Pelmet – from the fact that the horse is rather flatulent, to the way that Terry accidentally eats food prepared for one of the other horses (which has a dose of laxatives included!)  It’s not subtle but it passes the time nicely enough.  Indeed, National Pelmet is a story that’s low on incident and action – we’re more than thirty minutes in before the mysterious stranger who’s been keeping tabs on the stables – Brickett (Ken Hutchinson) – makes a move and attacks Terry.

The ensuing fight is brief but thanks to the combination of straw from the stable and an overturned lamp, it creates a fire which wakes everybody up and moves the story up a gear.  But it later becomes clear that this is something of a cheat – Brickett isn’t interested in Pelmet, he’s the ex-husband of stable-girl Rita (Jane Carr) and although they’re now divorced he’s still following her around the country, attacking anybody who even speaks to her.

From the first time we meet her, Rita is clearly shown to be interested in Terry, but he’s utterly dismissive of her.  Given Terry’s insatiable interest in the opposite sex this is a little difficult to fathom – possibly Rita was written as a more dowdy character but as Jane Carr isn’t unattractive and plays Rita as a perfectly pleasant young woman it makes Terry’s indifference and cutting remarks seem rather cruel.

When Terry and Rita confront Brickett, it gives her the chance to explain exactly what the situation is – which she does most forcibly.  Carr delivers this impassioned monologue very well (Rita’s ex-husband turned overnight from a normal chap into a religious maniac) although this sudden lurch into drama seems a little out of place with the light-hearted tone of the rest of the episode.

You might have expected that Jocelyn, especially given the casting of Liza Goddard, would have played a larger role in the story but she’s somewhat of a peripheral figure.

It doesn’t take a mind-reader to guess what will happen when, towards the end of the story, Arthur confidentially predicts that Pelmet is a dead-cert.  This time Terry is wiser (especially after having witnessed Jeremy placing all his money on the second favourite) and puts his bet elsewhere.  Jocelyn falls off (a blatant dive) which means that Arthur’s lost a bundle whilst Terry’s emerged ahead for once.

When we learn that Jeremy and Jocelyn are an item, all becomes clear.  This surprises Terry who’d tagged Jeremy as gay (Terry’s hostility towards anybody he considers to be “queer” is one of his less attractive traits in these early stories).  It’s slightly unexpected that Jocelyn turned out to be a wrong ‘un, but since she wasn’t too developed a character it’s not the jolt it could have been.

Arthurs’ incurable optimism can be seen at the end, in my favourite scene from the story.  Arthur’s still lumbered with his Milton statuettes but he has a plan – paint them blue and white and they can be sold as Chelsea footballers!  When Terry points out that Milton’s a famous poet with a book in his hand, Arthur has a ready answer.  “FA handbook, innit?”

Possibly not the tightest script that Minder ever had, but Willis Hall’s first contribution managed to easily nail the Arthur/Terry relationship and if that’s right then it’s possible to forgive a slightly humdrum story.

Minder – Whose Wife Is It Anyway?


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.

Minder – You Lose Some, You Win Some

lose some

Professional gambler Maurice Michaelson (Anthony Valentine) has organised a group of ordinary punters who, under his instructions, intend to make a killing at the roulette table. Unfortunately for Maurice, casino boss Parsons (Leslie Schofield) is keeping tabs on him, which makes it essential he protects his team from Parsons’ intimidating ways.

Ever the good Samaritan, Arthur suggests that Terry’s flat would be the ideal place to keep them safe, although Terry – who had planned to spend some quality time alone with Penny (Ginnie Nevinson) – needs a little convincing ….

Following on from his S1 appearance in Aces High and Sometimes Very Low, Anthony Valentine makes a welcome return as Maurice (although sadly this would be the last we’d see of him).

Maurice has assembled together a mixed group of individuals who include the lovely Beth Morris as Jackie, the imposing Peggy Thorpe-Bates (probably best known as the long-suffering “She” – wife to Leo McKern’s Horace Rumpole) as Mrs Beecham and Ronald Leigh-Hunt (a very familiar television face) as Major Lampson.  And after appearing, uncredited, in Gunfight at the O.K. Laundrette, Lynda Baron has a more substantial role – here she plays Sadie, a friend of Maurice’s long-suffering wife Maureen (Lesley Joseph).

Penny’s disdain for Arthur, and his manipulation of Terry, is made plain.  She tells Terry that “you never make any plans, you just drift around letting that Arthur con you out of your hard-earned wages”.  And when Arthur calls round to Terry’s flat, her antipathy is even more pronounced.  After she angrily tells Arthur that he needs Terry more than Terry needs him, Arthur responds derisively (George Cole on great form here).

Terry is adamant that he’s not interested in Arthur’s latest minding job, but it would be a rather short episode if that was the case.  So when Arthur mentions that there’s six hundred pounds in it for him, Terry starts to waver.  Arthur then explains the mathematics to him.  “Look, my agreement with Maurice is 10% of his 50%.  He reckons they can clear five grand a night, work it out for yourself.  No maybe not”.  For once it appears that Arthur’s not diddling him, Arthur’s 10% would work out as £1,500.00 – 60% for him and 40% for Terry.  Although you might want to wait until the end to see if Arthur keeps his word.

Once Terry’s togged out in a nice suit provided by Arthur (at a price of course) he’s able to start protecting his charges, although the odds seem to be against him.  How can he look after six people when they all go their separate ways at the end of the night?  This leads them to bunk up at Terry’s (luckily Arthur’s got a consignment of sleeping bags from the last Everest expedition!).  Poor Terry, he’s no match for Arthur.

There’s some nice comic moments during this section – from the Major’s bitter comment that he was more comfortable out in Kenya, fighting the Mau Mau, to Penny’s forced politeness as she takes the drinks order (tea, coffee and either a cocoa or hot chocolate, if possible).  Penny’s quiet week with Terry has suddenly become very crowded ….

When Terry sets out to find Maurice’s wife, Maureen (who’s disappeared) it’s Arthur who’s left in the flat, minding the punters.  He later bitterly remarks that even ‘Er ‘Indoors would be preferable to this.  There’s another lovely scene when Arthur attempts to wake Penny, who is occupying the sleeping bag next to him.  In her sleepy state she mistakes him for Terry and prepares to give him a fond embrace.  He mutters “geroff” whilst she reacts in horror once she wakes up!

Anthony Valentine’s on fine form as usual (since there was clearly more mileage in Maurice, it’s odd that he never appeared again).  Stock music makes an unwelcome comeback (it’s rather strident and electronic) as Terry and Maurice attempt to find Maureen.  And when Maurice finds himself getting a beating from Parsons’ goons there’s a touch more stock music (this time it all goes a bit funky).

Although the casino stuff is entertaining (especially when Terry tangles with – and bests – Parsons) the hunt for Maureen is a little less involving.  Not quite top tier then, but with a cast of familiar faces and Terry’s relationship with Penny placed under extreme pressure, the episode zips along nicely.

Minder – Don’t Tell Them Willie Boy Was Here


Boxer Willie Reynolds (Paul Barber) has returned to the UK for a comeback fight.  Terry is assigned to be his minder and, after a few early disagreements, also agrees to coach him back to winning ways …

Paul Wheeler’s script may be rather predictable, but the journey is pleasant enough.  It’s fairly obvious that although Willie starts off as deeply antagonistic towards Terry (viewing him as little more than a hired help) they’ll form a bond over time.  No doubt Terry (who could have been a contender) sees more than a little of himself in Willie – a man at the mercy of others, especially his manager Barney Mather (Alfred Marks, on fine form as usual).

The opening – a chat show with Willie and Jackie Collins (playing herself) – is an unusual touch for Minder.  Although it doesn’t quite work, it’s a useful dramatic device as it helps to quickly show us that Willie is something of a loudmouth and braggart (dubbed “The Mersey Mouth” – no doubt a tribute to Muhammed Ali’s nickname of “The Louisville Lip”).  Jackie Collins isn’t called upon to do a great deal except gaze adoringly at Willie and ask him if he’d be interested in a part in her new film, Black Stud.  A sequel to The Stud no doubt.

Undoubtedly best known for playing the hapless Denzil in Only Fools and Horses, Paul Barber’s credits stretch back to the mid seventies.  One of his first regular television roles was as Malleson in Gangsters, in which Tania Rogers (who here plays Willie’s wife, Ruth) also appeared.  Barber’s good value as the arrogant Willie, managing to put a little meat on the bones of what is a rather two-dimensional character (an over-the-hill fighter who’s concerned he now lacks the killer instinct).

This is a Terry-centric episode, although Arthur does get a few moments to shine.  Arthur’s surprisingly hard-edged at times – tipping a pint over a young man (played by Jesse Birdsall) at the Winchester for example.  It’s also one of the rare episodes where Arthur ends up on top (having made a nice little bundle after betting on Willie to win).

I love Arthur’s monologue to Terry, where he bemoans the state of the country.  “It’s dog eat cat in this world today. I mean I often wonder to myself what has happened to all the smiling bus-conductors or the service you used to get? Whatever happened to flying boats?” Out of all the things from the past to hanker for, flying boats was a very leftfield choice.

Barney’s first meeting with Arthur is a treat.  Arthur’s offered a cigar (“made in Japan? What will they think of next?”).  The sight of him spluttering on his Japanese cigar after taking a few puffs is a lovely one (George Cole milks the scene for all its worth).

Arthur may consider himself to be a shrewd businessman, but he’s an amateur compared to Barney, whose sense of PR is firmly on show when he organises a couple of attractive girls (one played by future Allo Allo! star Vicki Michelle) to pose with Willie.  “Teeth and tits” is what Barney requires from them (their t-shirts, emblazoned with “I like Willie” is a classy touch).  Within a few minutes we’ve had plenty of evidence that Barney is a monster and Alfred Marks, a vision in his check suit, seems to be having a ball playing him.

Another familiar face can be spotted when Willie and Terry head out to the disco.  Imogen Bickford-Smith (Fawlty Towers/Doctor Who) plays the object of Willie’s unwelcome attention.  The music chosen for the disco scene is very odd – it’s supposed to be 1980, so you’d have assumed the young people would have been grooving to the latest New Wave hits.  Instead, they’re jiving to a piece of library music dating from 1971 – Atomic Butterfly by Barry Stoller – which sounds incredibly out of place ….

After Willie’s sparring partner twists his ankle, you just know that Terry’s going to volunteer to take his place.  And so he does.  It’s also less than surprising that Terry easily manages to get the best of an out-of-condition Willie.  Dennis Waterman’s in his element here, with no doubles being required.

The fact that Willie eventuality triumphs against all the odds does seem a little unrealistic, but it does ensure a suitably feel-good ending.  But before we get to that point we have the obligatory training scenes – the Rocky theme would have been the perfect accompaniment, but we have to make do with the Minder theme instead!

Barney, concerned about Terry’s influence over Willie, fires him.  Terry leaves Willie with something to think about.  “We never did sort out your punching problem, did we champ? But I’ll tell you what to do. You have a look around you. ‘cos these nice gentlemen here are using your skin to make a packet. Go on, you have a good look. And when Jack Straw starts hurting you, you remember their faces”.

Don’t Tell Them Willie Boy Was Here might be slightly corny, but the two leads (as well as the strong guest cast) aren’t pulling their punches, leaving us with a convincing win.

Minder – Not a Bad Lad, Dad


Terry’s latest minding job is an unusual one – a nine-year old boy called Peter (Warren O’Neill) who might possibly be his son ….

Given that Terry’s something of a bird magnet, it would be surprising if he didn’t have a few children dotted around that he knows nothing about.  Could Peter be one of them?  When his mother, Beryl (Sharon Duce), leaves him in Terry’s care, he’s certainly left with that impression.

Even this early in the story, the viewer might have a few questions – firstly why has Sharon come back into Terry’s life after so many years? It’s also very strange that she dumps her son on Terry’s doorstep and then disappears (although she does keep a watching brief, hidden around the corner).

Arthur’s not happy.  Peter’s a distraction who could blunt Terry’s effectiveness and this concerns Arthur greatly.  As the series progressed over the years, the rough edges of the characters were gradually smoothed down, but this is very much the early, selfish Arthur – a man who only thinks of himself and is quite happy to manipulate others to achieve his ends, no matter what the consequences might be.

Early on, he tells Terry that it’s unnatural for him to imagine he could be a father. “I’m referring to your erratic lifestyle, your total lack of ambition, your cavalier attitude to matters domestic. It don’t exactly make you odds on favourite for the fatherhood stakes”. Arthur’s advice about Peter is stark (“dump him”). Not in the river, he qualifies, but down at the social.

Tony Hoare’s script offers a change of pace for the series as we see Terry slowly adjusting to the possibility of being a father (although Peter’s under the impression that Terry’s his uncle).  As the episode progresses it’s plain that he’s doing all he can to entertain the boy – games of football and trips on the river – but the negative aspects of Terry’s personality surface from time to time.

Peter’s a lad with attitude, best demonstrated when he gets into a mild fracas with a couple of older youths (Terry’s been forced to take him along to his bouncer’s job at the local pub).  Terry attempts to draw a line under events with his usual diplomatic skill.  “Shut your mouth, sonny or I’ll squeeze all your pimples. Now on your bike, both of you!”  The lads don’t take the hint though and when one of them wonders if Peter will grow up to be as big a pillock as his uncle, Terry responds in the only way he knows how – violence.

We’ve seen Terry hand out similar punishments on numerous previous occasions, but due to Peter’s presence this feels somewhat different.  The way that Peter looks at him afterwards is a telling moment – suggesting that Terry’s world of violence disturbs him. It’s an interesting touch that as Terry and Peter look at each other, the ambient sound fades away. This helps to make the moment seem a little more claustrophobic (the fact that Terry is unable to hold Peter’s gaze is notable too).

Giving Terry a son (even if he didn’t appear in every episode) would certainly have changed the dynamic of the series.  If they’d been thinking ahead, making him a teenager would have meant he could eventually have taken over from Terry (as it was, the family tradition was maintained from the Daley side, with young Ray).  But since Minder was never a series with continuing threads, it’s no real surprise when Beryl’s husband, Ronnie (Dicken Ashworth), turns up, with Beryl not too far behind, both intent on reclaiming their boy.

If Ashworth’s size wasn’t enough to create a sinister impression, there’s also a sprinkling of stock music which helps to hammer this point home. Whenever Ronnie appears he’s accompanied by ominous-sounding music which tells us he’s a man who’s no stranger to violence. We’re never in any doubt that Terry will be able to deal with him (they have a cracking fight though) but Beryl and Peter’s fate is less certain.

The ending didn’t please everybody (one correspondent to the TV Times complained that it was “a poor man’s Kramer vs Kramer with slow motion and sentimental music”).  I’ve never minded it too much, although it’s easy to see why it wasn’t to everyone’s taste.

Beryl’s manipulation of Terry (raising his hopes for a while that Peter was his child) does seem somewhat cruel, although since Ronnie is a man who’s been violent to both his wife and son on numerous occassions, it’s not surprising that she’s acting a little erratically. But if Peter’s speaking the truth when he tells Terry this is the first time he’s left Warrington, how has Beryl coped on all the previous occassions when Ronnie became agressive?

Apart from a few quibbles about the script and the oversentimental ending, Not A Bad Lad, Dad engages, thanks to the partnership of Dennis Waterman and Warren O’Neill.

Minder – The Beer Hunter


Arthur’s reunion with Yorkie (Brian Glover), an old pal from his army days, doesn’t go to plan after Yorkie disappears following a night of drunken revels. This means that Arthur and Terry have a race to find him before his wife, Dora (Pat Ashton), arrives from Rotherham …

The sight of Cole and Glover, drunkenly singing off-key, is an early episode highlight. Arthur and Yorkie have clearly been having a good evening, Terry less so. He’s been dozing in Arthur’s car, waiting to pick them up and drive them home.

The sight of Terry in an expensive motor catches the eye of a passing policeman but although there’s a brief moment of tension when Terry admits he doesn’t know the registration, the officer accepts his story and walks on by.

Yorkie’s presence helps to shade in a little of Arthur’s backstory.
We learn that Arthur’s military career was far from distinguished, but possibly Yorkie was the key to his survival anyway. Arthur tells Terry that Yorkie was “my best mate in the Army. I would go to hell and back again on my hands and knees for Yorkie”.

Did he operate pretty much as Terry does now, as a minder, keeping Arthur safe from his fellow soldiers? It’s easy to imagine Arthur back then running various dodgy schemes and if Yorkie did have his back it makes sense why Arthur now feels indebted to him. It would also explain Terry’s presence today- a Yorkie substitute, if you will.

Naturally, it doesn’t take long before Willis Hall’s script undercuts Arthur’s drunken reminisces of heroic endeavour (lovely playing, as usual, by Cole). Terry reminds him that he wasn’t called up until 1949! It quickly becomes clear that Arthur spent most of his service time propping up the bar, but it’s entirely characteristic that over the decades he’s rewritten this humdrum chapter of his life into something much more impressive.

We get a close encounter with ‘Er ‘Indoors – possibly about the nearest she ever came to making an onscreen appearance. As Arthur, propped up in bed, makes an early morning phone call to Terry, we see and hear the curtains being quickly drawn back (causing Arthur a momentary spasm of pain) followed by the slam of the bedroom door. Two off-screen moments which suggest his better half is not amused.

Carlos Douglas plays the imaginatively named Carlos, one of the hotel staff at Yorkie’s seedy hotel (Janine Duvitski is another) . He’s probably best known for playing the equally imaginatively-named Carlos in Duty Free. An uncredited Phil Rose (Friar Tuck from Robin of Sherwood) makes a brief appearance whilst Harry “Aitch” Fielder pops up as one of the patrons in the Winchester – if his face is instantly recognisable then, like me, you’ve clearly watched far too much old television …

The mystery of Yorkie’s disappearance isn’t a mystery for long. He’s ended up in the bed of a prostitute called Renee (Georgina Hale). Hale had previously appeared in Budgie (scripted by Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse) which might explain her presence here. Hale’s acting style has always been unique – thanks to her drawling delivery – and she’s typically entertaining here, as poor Yorkie wakes up to find he’s lost his trousers and Renee does her best to help him.

A later highlight has to be when Arthur interferes with a school rugby match – he picks up the ball and runs off, pursued by the pack of kids! Arthur subsequently compares himself to Gareth Edwards, although Terry thinks Jimmy Edwards is nearer the mark. And Arthur’s earlier comment, as he runs onto the rugby pitch (“don’t you speak to me like that! I used to play for the All Browns!”) is another wonderful line from an episode packed with first-class comic moments.

Yorkie’s hero-worship of Arthur is also developed as the episode progresses – he tells the disinterested Renee that Arthur’s got more cars than British Leyland. This sort of dog-like devotion might also explain why Arthur enjoyed having him around during their service days.

There’s some other lovely performances scattered throughout – Alan David as a chef who’s obsessed with hats that don’t stand proud, for example – and although The Beer Hunter does feel at times like a series of vignettes, there’s plenty to enjoy in this densely-packed script, not least the wonderful performance by Brian Glover. The sight of Glover hiding in a Wendy House is just one treat amongst many.

Minder – A Nice Little Wine


When Clive Stannard (Peter Jeffrey), a business associate of Arthur’s, is robbed by a prostitute in his hotel room, he’s convinced that Arthur’s set him up.  So Arthur and Terry have three days to find Stannard’s stolen money, otherwise Arthur will receive a beating from Billy Gresham ….

Arthur’s social climbing is always a wonderful source of comic material.  Stannard is a wine dealer and his erudite knowledge of the trade clearly impresses Arthur.  The sight of Dave acting like a wine waiter at the Winchester is something of a treat as is the scene where Arthur and Stannard pop round to Terry’s flat to drop off Arthur’s purchase.

Arthur can’t bring himself to admit that his business associate could possibly live in such a run down part of the city, so he tells Stannard that it’s simply Terry’s London address, where he stays for the odd day (he has a much more palatial property in the country).  Of course the sight of Terry in his dressing-gown, wondering why his living room is filling up with boxes of booze, rather punctures this picture, but to be fair to Terry he plays along.

The wine part of the story doesn’t really continue after the first ten minutes or so (apart from one later section and the tag scene).  Instead, the action switches to a reasonably palatial hotel where Stannard plans to spend a relaxing evening.  But when a note pushed under his door offers a discrete massage service, his plans change.  Bettina (Rachel Davies) is an alluring young lady, but she doesn’t stay for long – once she’s drugged and robbed Stannard there’s no reason to.

After setting up the reason for the plot, Stannard then drops out of the picture until the final few minutes.  And it’s interesting that although he tells Arthur that he’s got friends in low places (Billy Gresham) who are capable of handing out considerable punishment, we never actually see Gresham or any of his associates.  This means that although there’s a sense that the clock is ticking for Arthur, it’s never reinforced by anybody popping up to ram the point home.

If Bettina is a tart without a heart then Sandra (Lois Baxter) is a tart with one.  With Terry posing as a punter looking for a massage, she’s able to provide him with a link to Bettina.  Coincidentally, both Peter Jeffrey and Lois Baxter appeared in the same Doctor Who story (The Androids of Tara) although they don’t share a scene here.  Sandra is a prostitute purely out of necessity and, unlike Bettina, never robs her clients.

Terry tracks Sandra down to her house, where he meets her mother (played by Pam St. Clement) and one of her sons.  Everyone is clearly unaware of her double-life and Baxter exudes a touching vulnerability as Sandra asks Terry if he’d like to come out for a drink sometime.  He does ring her later on, but when her mother tells him that she’s out working he takes it no further.  A nice, bittersweet moment.

When Terry poses as a guest in the same hotel where Stannard was robbed, the porter George (Ron Pember) decides he must be part of the wine conference and points Terry in the direction of the tasting.  This part of the story feels a little contrived – Terry hardly looks like a wine buff, plus it’s rather a coincidence that, given the theme of the episode, a tasting is taking place right under Terry’s nose.  No matter, as it leads into another strong comedy scene where Terry holds his own amongst the erudite connoisseurs.

But possibly the funniest moment of A Nice Little Wine occurs when Terry and Arthur’s investigation leads them to a dodgy shop in Soho.  Terry goes inside to”persuade” the staff to tell him where Bettina is whilst Arthur remains in the car.  So far, so good, but he’s parked on a double-yellow line which irritates a passing policeman (played by Davyd Harries).  Arthur claims that a migraine has made him unable to move the car and every time he witnesses a spot of violence coming from the shop it gives him an authentic twinge.  George Cole is as good here as you’d expect, and whilst it seems more than a little unlikely that the copper wouldn’t twig something odd was going on, they just about manage to get away with it.

A Nice Little Wine is packed with familiar faces.  We’ve already seen the likes of Ron Pember and Pam St. Clement, whilst Burt Kwouk also pops up as another of Bettina’s victims.  Cyd Child might be less of a household name (she plays Bettina’s flatmate) but the reason for her presence – she was an experienced stuntwoman, doubling for Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson on The Avengers – becomes clear after Terry and Arthur attempt to retrieve the money from Bettina.  This they do, but only after the girls put up something of a fight.

Patrick Malahide appears for the third time (and the first during S2) as Chisholm.  At this point in the series the character clearly wasn’t viewed as a potential regular, as his part is limited to turning up and carting off the unfortunate Stannard, who therefore turns out to be just as big a crook as Arthur.

Stanley Price’s sole script for the series (during the 1970’s he was a writer in demand – penning a number of film screenplays, including Gold, Shout at the Devil and Golden Rendezvous) is a most agreeable episode.  Not the finest vintage that the series produced, but not unpalatable either.

Minder – All Mod Cons

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Terry and Arthur’s relationship is put under strain after Arthur attempts to sell Terry’s flat without his knowledge.  Further complications in the property game occur after Vickery (James Ottway) and his granddaughter Kate (Toyah Wilcox) ask Terry to evict several squatters from one of their properties.  But things aren’t as straightforward as they first appear ….

It takes a little while before the plot(s) of All Mod Cons kicks into gear.  First, we have the unusual sight of Arthur playing Space Invaders.  He doesn’t appear to be very good but things change a few minutes later after a couple of passing punters challenge him and Terry to a Space Invaders contest, with a hefty side-bet to make it interesting.

Were there really Space Invaders Sharks, like Pool Sharks?  It’s hard to believe, but once there’s money on offer Arthur suddenly becomes an expert, shooting aliens left, right and centre!  This doesn’t really ring true, but it’s amusing nonetheless.

Arthur’s ruthless side is on show after he offers Terry’s flat to McQueen (Michael Robbins).   True, if Terry does clear Vickery’s property of squatters then there’s a flat in it for him, but Arthur’s still motivated by pure self interest here.  And if Arthur is thinking of himself as usual, the more gullible Terry still shows Arthur a degree of loyalty he probably doesn’t deserve.

Terry’s girlfriend Helen (Annette Lynton) works at a swanky nightclub and after Terry, popping by to see her, easily deals with a couple of intoxicated toffs, the manager, Simon (Simon Cadell), has no hesitation in offering Terry a job.  It would mean good money and decent hours, but Terry declines, feeling obligated to Arthur.

It seems that Helen’s been on the scene for a while – plainly long enough for her to have formed a low opinion of Arthur and also to have expressed a wish for Terry to better himself. When Helen asks Terry what he’s going to be doing some ten or fifteen years down the line, it’s interesting that she’s echoing an enquiry made by Penny a few stories back.  “You’ll be older, slower and some young bloke will come along and cripple you for life”.

It has to be said that the well-spoken Helen seems to be somewhat out of Terry’s league and we can assume that Terry’s reluctance to break with Arthur severed their relationship.

Terry sums himself up.  “I’m as thick as two short planks, I’m generous when it suits and as for ambition … a three figure break at snooker would make me a happy man”.  He’s obviously being hard on himself, but there’s a kernel of truth here – Terry seems to have a fear of commitment, meaning that a steady job and a settled relationship with Helen isn’t something he desires, even if many others would.

Michael Robbins (best known for On The Buses of course) is good fun as McQueen, a plumbers merchant with a thriving business.  He’s interested in Terry’s flat for his niece (hmmm) and he’s also able to do Arthur a good turn (“Kevin, can you put Mr Daley’s bidet in his car. Midnight purple”).  McQueen later turns up at the Winchester with his shirt open to the navel, displaying both a generous amount of chest hair and a gold medallion.  Glorious!

When McQueen introduces his niece Shirley (Frances Low) to Arthur and Dave, it’s obvious that Dave knows Shirley.  But the way Dave mutters that he didn’t know McQueen and Shirley were related (and McQueen’s shifty expression) shows the bond they share isn’t a familial one. Further evidence can be heard later at Terry’s flat ….

The other part of the plot – Kate turns out to be collecting rent from the people she’s tagged as squatters without her grandfather’s knowledge – doesn’t quite hold water.  Since Kate turns out not to be the innocent girl she first appears (we later see she has no trouble in recruiting heavies) why didn’t she simply organise her own muscle to evict them?  This does lead to a pulsating fight between Terry and Kate’s heavies though – one of the best from the second series.

When Terry learns that his flat has been sold under his nose it sparks what appears to be an irrevocable split between him and Arthur.  Of course, we know this isn’t going to happen (Minder is a programme that has to hit the reset button at the end of every episode).  The way that Arthur frantically attempts to buy the flat from McQueen is clear evidence of his desperation to win Terry back, but this is another part of the story which doesn’t really work.  Even if Vickery’s property had been renovated and turned into flats, it would have been some time before any were ready for use.  So what would Terry have done until then?

Although Terry accepts a job at the nightclub, Simon’s corrupt ways disgust him and so he resigns.  Therefore after finding that the grass isn’t greener elsewhere he ends up back with Arthur and life goes on just as before.

A few gaps in logic aside, All Mod Cons is entertaining, if not stellar, fare.  But the number of familiar faces present – Michael Robbins, Toyah Wilcox, Simon Cadell, Mike Savage, Tony Osoba and Harry Towb – help to make up for this.

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