1 9 7 9 – 1 9 9 4 (UK)
106 x 60 minute episodes
2 x 90 minute episodes
Produced by Euston Films as a vehicle for former Sweeney star Dennis Waterman, Minder gave us one of the most memorable characters in British television history – A man whose name became synonymous with dodgy goods and shady deals and who knew a ‘nice little earner’ when he saw one.
The man was, of course, the endearingly ineffectual spiv hero Arthur Daley.
In reality, it was a role that was perfect for George Cole, who had played the ultimate spiv Flash Harry in the St Trinians movies of the 60s and similar roles in countless British movies, and it was a role that he slipped into like a tailor-made Savile Row suit.
When he accepted the role, Cole had no idea that Arthur – with his posh suits, expensive overcoat, trilby, cigar, unseen wife and magnificent malapropisms such as “the world is your lobster, my son” – would pass into folklore.
He also never imagined that people would worry about cashing his cheques, automatically assuming they would bounce like Arthur’s.
The original outline for Minder was for Waterman, as ex-boxer and ex-convict, Terry McCann, to star in a series of action-packed adventures as a boneheaded bodyguard (or ‘minder’ in cockney slang) who just happened to be in the employ of Daley. Arthur would set up the deals which usually involved a hefty profit for himself and a small one for Terry, all this of course without Terry’s knowledge.
In the course of their dealings, which usually strayed ever-so-slightly on the wrong side of legal, the duo would try to avoid the law as represented by local officers Chisholm, Rycott and Jones.
For rest and recreation, Arthur and Terry would frequent the Winchester Club, where barman Dave would listen to Daley’s tales of woe and ‘Er Indoors.’
There were actually two interiors of the Winchester Club – one in a boy’s school in Olympia, the other on the first floor of a converted warehouse near Wormwood Scrubs in West London. The beer there was real – two brewers supplied it, happy to be associated with the show.
There have been several outside locations for the club too. In series one it was the Eton Club in Chalk Farm, North London, which was later replaced by locations in Notting Hill and Wandsworth, and – during the Ray Daley years – Acton.
Cole and Waterman had a wonderful on-screen chemistry that was an instant hit with the viewers. When the first series was deemed too violent, the producers turned up the humour and Minder became a runaway success.
In 1980 the theme tune I Could Be So Good For You, written and sung by Waterman himself, reached the top five in the charts, followed by Arthur Daley (‘E’s Alright) by The Firm in 1982, and a Christmas record for Terry and Arthur in 1983 entitled What Are We Gonna Get For ‘Er Indoors?. There were also two 90-minute specials.
In 1991 Waterman decided that he’d had enough and quit the series.
Undeterred, Arthur continued to ply his trade with the aid of naïve young nephew Ray Daley, and the series slipped even further into comedy, but not in the ratings, remaining a firm favourite until its final instalment in 1994.
Quite what they made of “a skyful of Eddie’s” in the Philippines or Swaziland or any of the other countries where Minder was a ”nice little earner” is anybody’s guess. (It’s a pocketful of ready cash to you, my son).
Minder was originally created by Leon Griffiths. Born in Sheffield and raised in Glasgow, but with an ear for London slang second to none, Leon originally wrote a tough, humourless film story.
His agent told him to dump it all except for two characters – a used car dealer and owner of a lock-up containing items recently fallen off the back of a lorry, and his bodyguard (who had done time and didn’t want to get in trouble with the police again).
Euston films liked Leon’s cockney twosome and his idea of using the ‘new exotica’ of London’ – the cul-de-sacs, breaker’s yards and railway arches in places like Fulham and Camden Town, not shots of Big Ben – as a backdrop.
But after the first series, Leon suffered a massive stroke and it seemed unlikely that he would ever work again. Script Executive Linda Agran had to commission new scripts quickly.
In 1980 Leon won an award for Minder despite not having been involved. This was said to have been a jolt to his pride and he resolved to make it his own again and slowly returned to writing.
A revival, without Cole, starring Shane Richie as another Daley nephew, failed to win over the public in 2009, confirming their lasting love for the original.