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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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.