40 Years of Minder – A Celebration

October 29, 2019

When Gunfight at the O.K. Laundrette aired at nine o’clock on Monday the 29th of October 1979, many Britons were unaware as to what precisely constituted a “Minder”’. However, the opening credits promised an everyday slice of London low-life in the great Euston Films tradition. It was intriguing to see Dennis Waterman on the other side of the law, and the second lead was the great George Cole. Besides, it had to be more entertaining than a screening of Caravan to Vaccarès on BBC1.

“A British institution.”

By the time Minder commenced its seventh season on Boxing Day 1988, it was one of the few television programmes to merit the description ‘a British Institution’. Greil Marcus observed how certain films achieved a folkloric state, one where ‘the borders between the movie and nation cease to exist. The movie becomes a fable; then it becomes a metaphor. Then it becomes a catchphrase, a joke, a shortcut’. Such was the case with the misadventures of Terry McCann and Arthur Daley, but the process was not instantaneous. Season one of Minder is akin to The Sweeney with its very real violence – an elderly lady is threatened with a shotgun in the opening episode – and an air of grey, almost resigned, seediness. There is also the remarkable sight of Sgt. Chisholm sporting long hair.

Some critics were uncertain how to react to Minder. Nancy Banks-Smith wrote in The Guardian: ‘Dennis Waterman is solid and shining (I never saw a man sweat more) but the effect of the series on the satellite stars is oddly unhappy. George Cole, that fine comic actor, seems subdued as Waterman’s greasy governor’.

But here one must take issue, for Leon Griffiths and one of Britain’s master character actors created an unforgettable figure from the outset of Minder. The writer later observed ‘I’ve always been fascinated by low-lives, the semi-villains of this world. I like observing them, wondering how they make out’. Arthur’s accent is not quite in place in the early stories, but his venal nature is much in evidence, whether he is plotting over a vodka & slimline in the Winchester Club or hiring out the services of Terry.

“The best thing of its kind on the air.” Clive James.

By 1982, Clive James thought Minder ‘the best thing of its kind on the air’, singling out Cole’s Arthur as a figure whose ‘past might catch up with him’. You can image a young Arthur rubbing shoulders with Harry Fowler or Harold Lang, as they carry out the orders of Sydney Tafler. Daley may well have children attending a private school and delight in wearing mock-Savile Row suits, but he forever carries a taint of smog.

The following year saw the release of What Are We Gonna Get ‘Er Indoors, a definitive sign that Minder was now widely regarded as a comedy programme – Waterman and Cole’s performance live on Top of The Pops remains one of the most bizarre sights of 1980s television.

The series was intended to conclude with the 1985 Christmas Special Minder on the Orient Express, but three years later Terry and Arthur returned for seven more stories. The guest stars were as splendid as ever – especially Michael Kitchen’s “Maltese Tony” – but any relationship between McCann and Daley seemed to have dissipated. Yet, even though the mood was now overtly comic (in An Officer and A Car Salesman, Chisholm appears to be channelling the spirit of Lionel Jeffries), Cole never lost sight of the fact that Arthur is not a nice man. With Only Fools and Horses, Derek Trotter gradually became “lovable”, to the detriment of the show, but Daley always remained his mercenary and unprincipled self.

Perhaps that is the key to the success of the McCann era Minder, for the underlying theme was always that Arthur used Terry to protect him from the consequences of his own greed. In Mr. James’s truly memorable words, Cole’s portrayal of Daley attained ‘such heights of seediness that a flock of starlings could feed off him’. The actor was initially concerned that the character might resemble Flash Harry, but the resident spiv of St. Trinian’s was an amiably dim-witted figure while a younger Arthur might have conceivably sold a used Vauxhall Cresta to an acolyte of the Krays. The Daley business philosophy is ‘You only get out of life what you put in and a bit more if you can find a couple of mugs’ – and poor Terry is frequently one of them.

Film Historian Andrew Roberts MA PhD FRSA

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Comments:47

  1. John Cutter Reply
    19/10/29

    Please give Minder the same amazing remaster treatment you gave the Professionals!.

    • Simon Reply
      19/10/29

      I second that, John Cutter. I would love to upgrade to a HD boxset of Minder. The Professionals restoration work was first class and the next best thing to a time machine ride to 1977-1981.

  2. Graham Reply
    19/10/29

    Please release Minder on blu-ray. Thanks.

  3. Jeff Lobel Reply
    19/10/29

    ….and please do it without lopping out the break bumpers. Your current masters, no doubt the same ones Clear Vision produced, take bits of the programme away where the the theme tune playing in at the start of each part has been chopped away. The Australian Umbrella set was perfect,

  4. Paul Stokes Reply
    19/10/29

    My blu-ray player is able to upscale the Minder DVD’s to 1080p HD, but it would not be true HD so I would love to have the series on blu-ray in remastered HD.

  5. Roger Shore Reply
    19/10/29

    Zero interest in the same cut to bits DVD set that’s been doing the rounds for years. AS John above said give use a proper remastered HD version uncut and I’ll buy ASAP.

  6. Leslie Hanagan Reply
    19/10/29

    Quite agree. There’s your mission for the New Year Network people, the complete Waterman era remastered on blu-ray.

  7. Steve Reply
    19/10/29

    A fabulous series from ITV’s glory years, when the broadcaster made authentic, honest drama, albeit Minder was frequently interspersed with comic elements. Dennis Waterman and George Cole convinced utterly as Terry and Arthur, with the latter giving one of the great performances in British television history.

    The scripts, particularly those from creator Leon Griffiths and Tony Hoare, immersed the viewer in West London’s twilight world of dodgy deals and shady drinking clubs, a feeling which was reinforced by a continually excellent supporting cast.

  8. John Johnson Reply
    19/10/29

    This series seriously needs a Blu-ray release

  9. stuart rasburn Reply
    19/10/29

    Please remaster minder to the same quality of the professionals.

  10. Jay Reply
    19/10/29

    Absolutely agree. A Remastered Blu-ray boxset of Minder would be so welcome.

  11. Ray Reply
    19/10/29

    I agree Minder deserves a Blu Ray set.

  12. Mark P Reply
    19/10/29

    Would only consider remastered Blu-ray

  13. Alan Miscandlon Reply
    19/10/29

    Put down as another who seriously wants a Blu Ray box. I thought it was planned at some point?

  14. Cymon Reply
    19/10/29

    You have done a great job with Gerry Anderson series in the past improving the picture and sound on the blu rays. Please would you do the same with Minder, it definitely deserves it

  15. Michael Levin Reply
    19/10/29

    I Agree a great HD remaster is to be wished for same quality as The Professionals!
    My only BEEF with Network .. after what seems like nearly 10 years of waiting… WHERE are the remaining series of THE SWEENEY on HD Blu-Ray? Your finest Euston Films … Masterpiece and you’ve abandoned us/ it, Having given us a FAB taster of how good the quality is!!!!!!!!!
    Come On, Network!! I WANT them
    Before I die please!!!!!!! We all know you’ve done most if not all the basic work.. if there are issues with the odd episode or two, or fights issues? we won’t hold it against you
    If you give us what you do have! Your loyal followers DESERVE to have more HD Sweeney !!!!
    Even a helpful bit of news.. no official comment so far only insider whispers I hear!
    Make our Xmas!

  16. David Davis Reply
    19/10/29

    I would buy this (and Sweeney seasons 2, 3 and 4) on BluRay, but I’m not buying it on DVD sorry

  17. Michael Levin Reply
    19/10/29

    Correction! RIGHTS issues not Fight issues! !

  18. Myke Reply
    19/10/29

    Got all the DVDs. Have been waiting patiently for a blu-ray release. Even The mostly-video Python is getting one! (Which I’ve ordered.) Please make it happen!

  19. Peter Denmark Reply
    19/10/29

    Andrew – I assume you know Minder was a British programme and as such was made in SERIES, not SEASONS.

    • Stephen Jezzard Reply
      19/10/29

      Well said, Peter.

    • Johnny B Reply
      19/10/30

      Well said Sir, yes we have ‘Series’ here in Her Majesty’s Britannic Kingdom
      of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Seasons are the part of the year one is in, ie Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter. If you’ve enjoyed all episodes of a television programme, you comment on how good the Series was, not the Season.

  20. stuart thomas Reply
    19/10/29

    yes a blu-ray complete box set is what is needed as most fans/collectors already have this on dvd.
    stuart

  21. Chris Packett Reply
    19/10/29

    Already watched the previous DVD and plenty were off air recordings. Nothing her tempts me to buy again.

  22. Kevin broad Reply
    19/10/29

    Would love to see networks own remastered version of the complete minder series. With the ad bumpers reinserted like with the sweeney series. Mainly the Dennis Waterman years. Perfect for Dennis after leaving the sweeney. The Fremantle dvd release is just bare Bones. Haven’t seen orient express or car salesman in years. Please network give us terry and arther fans a professional. Release like with the professionals.

  23. Scott Fraser Reply
    19/10/29

    One of the greatest programmes ever made. The cast, the storylines and the look of the show are perfection. It’s lovely to look back to a time when London had such character and atmosphere unlike today and I’ve just rewatched GUNFIGHT AT THE OK LAUNDERETTE at 9 0’clock in tribute to this TV legend.

  24. Nigel Fannon Reply
    19/10/29

    Yes! Blu-ray remaster would be a nice little earner for Network!

  25. Dave D Reply
    19/10/30

    I was excited to receive this email, hoping that there might be some news of an HD restoration for Minder, so I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed when I read through until the end. I have owned the full Umbrella releases of all 10 series of Minder for many years (which in my opinion are superior to subsequent releases), which are certainly serviceable in the big screen TV era, but I would be more than willing to part with my hard earned wedge for newly restored versions, given what Network has been able to achieve with other series (The Professionals being a superb example). I’m tipping I wouldn’t be the only one!

  26. Steve Sullivan Reply
    19/10/30

    At the risk of disturbing all those Minder fans out there, I have to disagree with many comments made in this promotion as, first series excepting, Minder outstayed its welcome in my humble opinion. Yes, the first series was good – it had guts and we can see the remnants of The Sweeney in some stories. Towards the end the series had grown well and truly lame and overstayed its welcome – probably due to its longevity and the series writers finding it harder to come up with original and interesting plots. I have the complete series on DVD but I won’t be buying this series on BD should it be released. Now if Network was to release series 2, 3 and 4 of The Sweeney on BD that would be bought immediately. Network never explained why they stopped at series 1. Strange.

    • Steve Reply
      19/10/30

      Minder did run out of steam in the last couple of series and the quality of scripts dissipated after 1981, however there were still gems such as Rocky Eight and a Half (“the world is your lobster”), Willesden Suite and High Drains Pilferer, in which David Calder was terrific as Micky the Fish. Dennis Waterman and Linda Agran felt Minder should have ended after the third series but the show was too popular for ITV to cancel production.

    • Aaron Reply
      19/10/30

      I agree with Steve Sullivan with regard to The Sweeney on Bluray. I bought the “Regan” pilot episode and Series 1, but have been waiting for the remaining three series ever since…

    • Simon Reply
      19/10/31

      Yes, it is strange that the first series of The Sweeney on BD was released back in 2012, now not stocked by Network, with no follow-on releases of S2, S3 and S4. I would add, in my opinion, The Sweeney would be a higher priority than Minder to get the HD treatment, but I do hope Minder is done and not too far in the distant future. Network have been putting out a prodigious amount of British TV shows and films to a very high standard of quality and we got the two Sweeney films this year, so hopefully we will see all the episodes in HD.

      Minder may have waned towards the end, however some people did prefer the later Gary Webster episodes. Also in my opinion there is nothing on current TV that comes near the charm of any Minder episode from 1979 to 1994.

  27. Gary Dipple Reply
    19/10/30

    I have to agree the sweeney series 2,3 & 4 on Blu-ray would be very welcome but so would Minder.

  28. David Whitehead Reply
    19/10/30

    For me, MINDER was and always will be magic. I remember very clearly (and very fondly) that evening, October 29 1979, and watching the first episode of this new show, MINDER. Watching the series over again, as I have many times since, you can see that it did take time for Dennis Waterman and George Cole to really settle into the characters of Terry and Arthur, but it was, I believe, the changing times that were really against the original concept of the show. There came a backlash against violence, so Terry’s fight scenes were cut. Then came AIDS, and Terry’s bed-hopping was curtailed. However, the sheer joy of watching these two fine actors playing off each other, with some truly scintillating dialogue and many laugh-out-loud moments, always more than compensated. Out of 100+ episodes, I can only think of a couple that didn’t really work for me, but I was always of the opinion that ANY MINDER was better than NO MINDER. Truly a classic on every level.

  29. Jamie Reply
    19/10/30

    Lets get this great series remastered on Blu Ray and while your at it do the same with the Sweeney!

  30. jno Reply
    19/10/30

    Blu Ray … where are you? Plenty of extras not yet released still out there (I have them in my private collection of Minder goodies, just get in touch).

  31. Paul Marshall Reply
    19/10/30

    4real a Blu-ray restored realese would be amazing stuff Minder was way before my time but I really appreciate the magic of old London TV lol I have the complete Network of Minder but I don’t watch it as much as I would like to because the picture quality is not what it could be if Network was to restore this series… hehe and the rest of The Sweeney series also

  32. Andrew Staton Reply
    19/10/31

    Shame on the BBC executive who Stole the Minder” idea and concept from Actor/Stunt Man Paul Weston, But all will be revealed in Paul’s new book!

  33. Keith Reply
    19/10/31

    I bought the complete boxset of MINDER from Network. Great programme but disappointing boxset…no Thames logo and no commercial break bumpers. Looks like you just copied the ITV Freemantle versions. Exactly the same as what you did with WITHIN THESE WALLS!!

    • Mark Punter Reply
      19/11/04

      Couldn’t agree more! Network’s USP with ITV shows is keeping the cuts faithful to the originally transmitted versions (Station idents, Ad break bumpers) All hallmarks of original memory and a true indication they’ve not been messed with. Please, let’s have this series released with that reassuring cover stamp ‘Complete and Uncut’.

  34. Marc caine Reply
    19/10/31

    Brilliant

  35. adam chuter Reply
    19/11/01

    Blu ray edition of Minder please !!
    And also whilst on the Waterman subject , please release the rest of The Sweeney series too.. blu ray of course

  36. Simon Reply
    19/11/01

    I do like the humorous play on film titles with the Minder episodes, for example, Senior Citizen Caine (scene shown in the first photo of this article) Aces High and Sometimes Very Low, A Fridge Too Far, All Quiet on the West End Front, The Beer Hunter, The Birdman of Wormwood Scrubs, The Coach that Came in From the Cold, The Cruel Canal, From Fulham with Love, Get Daley, High Drains Pilferer, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Entrepreneur, The Long Good Thursday, An Officer and a Car Salesman, Uneasy Rider.

    On next month’s election night, I will be watching the episode The Balance of Power, the second screen shot photo, when Arthur Daley stands for election, back to back with Network’s The Prisoner village election episode Free for All.

    VOTE DALEY!

  37. Paul Stokes Reply
    19/11/02

    As much as I would love to buy the DVD’s, I would prefer to see Minder receive the same HD treatment as The Professionals and Robin of Sherwood and given a blu-ray release with the Thames mirror image idents and ad bumpers included and the music video for I Could Be So Good For You as one of the special features. I have had my blu-ray/multi-region DVD combi player for nearly 4 years now and prefer to buy blu-rays, unless I know for a fact that the films/TV shows which I would like to buy are not eligible for a HD remaster then I will buy them on DVD and the HDMI cable for my player will assist to upscale the DVD’s to HD.

  38. Matt Reply
    19/11/03

    Speaking of George Cole, I’ve been waiting/hoping for years for Network to release Root Into Europe.

  39. Ste Richmond Reply
    19/11/03

    One of my all time favourite shows but could never get back into it after Terry left. I’ve got the boxset but just watch them on the itv player these days

  40. Mark Witherspoon Reply
    19/11/13

    Great article, I love the show. Would be great to see a remastered uncut Minder Blu Ray , how about a season one box set or a much needed Minded on the Orient Express to test the water.

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