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
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice