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
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
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.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas