ETCETERA / Long Runners: No 18: Minder

Age: 14. It started six months after Mrs Thatcher arrived at No 10.

Frequency: since then, there have been 107 episodes in nine series.

Formula: in each hour-long episode (by Euston Films, for ITV), shady second-hand-car-salesman-cum-small- businessman Arthur ('Arfur') Daley (the ineffable George Cole) sets up several dodgy deals, which all threaten to backfire. His minder - first Terry McCann (Dennis Waterman), now Arthur's nephew Ray (Gary Webster) - then wades in with a combination of nous and knuckles to bale him out.

Can the formula remain fresh? Surprisingly, yes. The series averages 11.1m viewers and has been sold to 70 countries. But executive producer John Hambley is feeling the strain. He and Cole announced last October that Arthur would be doing a runner from our screens after this series. 'It is now harder to get absolutely top-class scripts,' Hambley says. 'I'd like to go out at the top.' This does not preclude the occasional special. Cf. Minder's cousin, Only Fools and Horses.

What has kept the show going for so long, then? Hambley reckons that Minder's popularity stems from 'the British love of slightly dodgy anti-authority figures. Arthur is someone who gets away with bucking the system.' But, further, he does it with such panache, manifesting a winning mixture of bluster, bravado and bullshit. Malcolm Bradbury described him as 'the Richard Nixon of the forecourt' and compared him to Bardolph, Moll Flanders and the Artful Dodger. So popular is Arthur Daley that his name is regularly invoked - both as an insult and a compliment - in the British and Australian parliaments. Cole also appears as a pretty fair approximation of the character in some building-society ad; no doubt this has proved 'a nice little earner' for the actor. Arthur's lingo, meanwhile, has passed into common usage: ' 'er indoors' is in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Other good points: Arthur's wardrobe - he is rarely seen without his camel- hair coat and trilby - and his joyous malapropisms: he tells people 'the world's your lobster', calls a priest 'your honour', and bids a Swede goodbye with the word 'smorgasbord'. The programme titles are also a source of pleasure - 'Guess Who's Coming to Pinner', 'Gunfight at the OK Launderette'. The theme tune, 'I Could Be So Good for You' - a version of which by Dennis Waterman reached No 3 in October, 1980 - is a classic of laddish charm. And the supporting cast - invariably featuring characters with such names as Dipso Pete and Hacksaw Harry - has no weak links. Vide Patrick Malahide's Inspector Chisholm, one of the best baddie coppers on the beat.

Anything that makes you want to kick the set in? The Arfur Spin-off Industry - viz, politicians trying to play the cred card by invoking Arthur, and that building-society ad campaign.

Little-known facts: in the first series, the focus was on the minder (hence the title), as after the success of The Sweeney, Waterman was Euston's 'house star'. Denholm Elliott was originally lined up to play Arthur. Cole and Waterman released a novelty Christmas record - 'What Are We Gonna Get 'Er Indoors?' - in 1983. And the new boss of BSkyB, Kelvin MacKenzie, counts Minder among his favourite programmes.

Creator: Leon Griffiths, a playwright (Dinner at the Sporting Club). He said Arthur 'was an amalgam of lots of people,' Hambley recalls. 'There's someone like Arthur in everyone's life. He's just a hyper-real version.'

The bottom line - is it good? Po- faced people might knock Minder for romanticising crime, but they misread it; it's now more of a comedy than a drama. The scripts (by a variety of hands, including Griffiths and Tony Hoare) boast gloriously rich dialogue. Confronted by a snarling Argentinian heavy last week, the cowardly Daley wailed: 'I'm on a shortlist of one to be made into a tin of Fray Bentos.' Arthur is Thatcherism's funniest by- product. And you can't say fairer than that, guv.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat