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This review is from: Minder: The Dennis Waterman Years [DVD] (DVD)
I've spent a wonderful few months immersed in this excellent box-set, & bathing in a bit of 80s nostalgia - back to a time when there was actually something worthwhile to watch on ITV!
This box-set spans the whole of the Terry McCann era of Minder, its golden era - & perhaps, arguably, the series itself should have finished too when Dennis Waterman moved on to pastures new... but that's another story.
But, back in its 80s heyday, Minder was gritty light-entertainment par-excellence.
I'd imagine most people buying this are already familiar with the series, but for anyone who isn't, this was a vehicle devised for Dennis Waterman (following the demise of the equally-popular Sweeney, also made by Thames TV's Euston Films arm) charting an ex-con/ex-boxer's adventures & scrapes (Terry McCann) as he is picked up off the ground & given a new lease of life as a 'minder' by his rather dodgy, older, wheeler-dealer used-car salesman friend Arthur Daley.
This part had originally been suggested (by Dennis himself) to be played by Denholm Elliott (can you imagine!), but of course ended up being played impeccably & unforgettably by the excellent George Cole.
Arthur's 'lock-up' - filled from floor to ceiling with 'bent gear' - has become the stuff of legend.
As with The Sweeney, the show was shot on 16mm film & filmed on locations in & around Hammersmith & London, & was very glossy entertainment for its day.
By season two, it really finds it feet, & there is outstanding episode after outstanding episode.
There are lots of great supporting actors too - it's fun spotting the lesser-known actors of the time who later went on to bigger things - there seems to be nearly one in every story.
The rhyming slang is often inventive & hilarious, & the schemes & scams which Arthur employs that seem to create his own downfalls (whilst Terry is often left to save the day by using his noddle) are a joy to watch. Arthur also meets his match in detective adversaries Rycott & Chisholm - relentlessly pursuing him as he seems to forever slip through their fingers once more.
Having viewed the series chronologically, it does seem though that it had run out of steam by the end of 1984 - the 6 episodes broadcast in 1985 & the further 6 made in 1988 (seasons 6 & 7) showing a gradual dip in quality. This appeared to be exacerbated too by the spotlight falling more onto Arthur now than Terry, & the emphasis being more on the comical side of the stories, rather than the grit, drama & punch-ups of the earlier episodes. There doesn't seem to be much left for Terry to do anymore, as Arthur takes centre stage & the show becomes more his vehicle.
It would have been good too to have had the advert-captions left intact - these stings at the beginning & end of the ad breaks seemed to punctuate the stories & add to the overall drama, as we paused & waited for the next act to unfold, much like a stage play. This was true of many ITV series from back then, such as The Professionals, Thriller & The Sweeney - back in the days before the incessant 'sponsorship' of programmes & interminable ads that plague ITV today. The ad-caps do seem to have been rather clumsily edited out too.
But, that small gripe aside, this is an excellent & outstanding series which stands up very well today - its 1980s setting & fashions now adding to its charm, &, as with The Sweeney, delightfully un-PC.
In my opinion, it has one of the best opening title sequences ever - giving us all the information we need about these two characters, not to mention a great title theme, sung by Dennis (& co-written by he & Gerard Kenny on Dennis's then-wife Pat Maynard's piano) to boot.
It's a bargain at the price... & don't just take Arthur Daley's word for it!