Wednesday, 18 March 2009


Starring Shane Richie and Lex Shrapnel, the reinvention of the cult classic Minder by Talkback Thames for Five is now available on DVD. This is an excellent occasion to watch and watch again a show which deserves to be considered as one of the best pieces of contemporary UK television, and as a future classic in its own right.


« I don't mind paying for good old British service with a smile. » (Archie Daley)

Created by Leon Griffiths, the original Minder ran from 1979 to 1994. It starred Dennis Waterman (right after The Sweeney) as Terry McCann, a sympathetic former boxer who served time in prison because of his loyalty, and becomes the "minder" (i.e. bodyguard) of Arthur Daley - played by George Cole - a lovable rogue "entrepreneur". In 1989, Gary Webster replaced Waterman, as Arthur's nephew, Ray Daley. The show, produced by Verity Lambert for Euston Films (a subsidiary of Thames Television), is considered in the United Kingdom as a monument. As is its theme song, I could be so good for you, performed by Dennis himself .

In 2008, Jay Hunt, then head of programmes at Five, asks producer Sean O'Connor and Irish actor-director-writer Tim Loane (Teachers) to devise a series that would be brand defining for the fifth and final British terrestrial anologue tv channel. O'Connor digs into the valuable Talkback Thames back catalogue and has the idea to revive the format of Minder. Hunt is enthusiastic and suggests that Shane Richie (Alfie Moon in EastEnders), could star in the new version (

Richie becomes Archie Daley, Arthur's nephew, and the RSC actor Lex Shrapnel (the Thunderbirds movie) is cast as the new minder, Jamie Cartwright. With this Minder 2009, Five shows an unusual and real quality ambition. The channel gambles high on the new series, with a national advertising campaign (, and signs up Scottish band Attic Lights to perform the 2009 version of the theme (

In the first episode, Better the Devil you know, Jamie Cartwright, a former boxer turned cabbie, is signing off near the Gherkin (like in Hustle, the building seems to be the totem of London under credit crunch) when sharp-suited, fast-talking Archie Daley hops into the back of his black cab, trying to escape from "Gorillas in Armani suits" (« Just bleedin'floor it, will ya? ») Jamie teaches the "neolithical" a lesson but losts the cab in the operation (« Haven't had so much fun since I had my prostate check. ») An amending Archie offers him a job: to deliver a briefcase with "fifty grand of Her Majesty's finest" to Petra Bennett (Jenna Russell), the owner of a 300 year old pub.

« Nothing dodgy, straight up. Trust me. » But nothing is as simple with Arthur Daley's nephew and the adventure begins for Archie, Jamie and Petra. Their adversaries: nefarious property developers Mark and Nick Gold, crooked councillor Conway, a couple of cockroaches ready to mate, and DI Murray, a tenacious female copper who keeps an eye on Daley's deals (« No I'm here because word on the street says that your import exploits aren't quite kosher. »)


« What business are you in?
- You name it, I deal in it. Everything to nearly new to spanking new. Personal services to personal protection. I can offer any enterprise I can muster. But always with a smile. » (Jamie and Archie)

New people, new time but the same location... with a difference. Minder is reimaginated with absolute brilliance by Tim Loane, series consultant, and writer of the six episodes of the new Minder series (with Jeff Povey for Episode 5). He captures the essential of the original show: the relationship between the lovable wheeler dealer and his minder (« We make a great team, James. The possibilities are infinite »), and its atmosphere, recreated in the 2008 London where History meets modern architecture (1).

« Hang on a minute. Why are you helping me out like this?
- Someone did the same for me once. » (Jamie and Archie)

The new tandem played by Shane Richie and Lex Shrapnel evoke with subtlety the duo of George Cole and Dennis Waterman without trying a second to impersonate their legendary predecessors. The two stars being closer in age than the originals, the unlikely friendship between Archie Daley and Jamie Cartwright rather recalls the partnership between Lord Brett Sinclair and Danny Wilde in The Persuaders.

But the legacy of the original Minder is assumed with elegance through many references: the Winchester, Daley's malapropisms (« Is that what they said to Michelangelo the bloke who cut his ear off? » or « You should now that's his modi operandus » ), and nods to the past like the iconic shake hands across the front of the cab in Episode 1, or « If my uncle Arthur could see me now. »

The sensibility remains the same but the tone and the pace are different. There's some Richard Curtis type of comedy in the superb Episode 2, In Vino Veritas: Tim Loane is at his best with one-liners like « She's reached that stage in every woman's life where nothing's a surprise and everything's a disappointment », and scenes with the photographer (« More of a film maker, really. ») or Charlie Cupid, the depressive wedding singer. There are also many "Guy Ritchiesque" moments or figures, especially in Matter of Life and Debt (Episode 4) - with would-be martial artist Chan Donovan (« The future is just a new-laid egg fragile in our fingers. »)

« In case you forgot I'm the brains in this partnership. Remember, give and take.
- Yeah, I give and you take. » (Archie and Jamie)

The creme de la creme of British acting guest stars in Minder: Rik Mayall, Meera Syal (Jekyll) Nickolas Grace, Rory Kinnear, Clare Higgins, Steve Pemberton as Vlad the Imposter (!) - a psychic (« Did you say he was psychic or psychotic? »), Clive Wood, and many others. And recurrent characters are well served too, with Josette Simon (Blake's 7) as DI Murray and Paul Brooke as Dickie Mint - Archie's lawyer.


« It's a deft balance of power and elegance. » (The name's Daley, Archie Daley)

The antics of the Daley family have been updated for the 21st century: Arthur Daley's nephew gets into contemporary art in The Art of the Matter (Episode 3), when he discovers on a wallpaper a work he believes from a "guerilla artist" called Banksy. He transforms his warehouse into the Daley Gallery (2) and exposes the picture in the middle of other works made of... out of date chickens (« His poultry sculptures break new ground. »), sweets and action figures! But Jamie discovers that the Banksy is a fake and Archie is mistaken for a mysterious art fraudster known only as "Picasso" by a frustrated investigator (« You practically fed me to Inspector Lecter, Jamie. »)

In Thank your Lucky Stars (Episode 5), "Bermondsey snap champion" Archie Daley and Jamie Cartwright gamble their fingers against a control freak poker player who collects « things you can live without but can bear to lose ». The episode, which reveals one of the many talents of Jamie, has shades of Man from the South (the story by Roald Dahl) and Maverick. Finally, in Till Debt do us Part (Episode 6), Jamie is back in the ring to help Archie settle the score against She Who Must Be Paid, aka Daley's estranged wife Delilah (« Why, why, why?») by beating her protégé, boxer Carlos Rocks (« You don't want David Beckham for his wit and repartee. »)

« You had anyone famous in the cab lately?
- I have, actually. Drove Big Boris home after a night out. At least I think it was home. » (Archie and Jamie)

Minder 2009 is cleverly written and beautifully filmed (cf. the "Shadow over Bermondsey" sequence in Episode 5). Fun, fast-paced and anchored in its time (« I'm talking about this unnatural disaster that is our economy ») . The actors are impressive, particularly Shane Richie, who delivers a wide range of emotions far beyond the appearances of the fast-talking opportunistic "man of enterprise". And Lex Shrapnel is the perfect successor to Dennis Waterman even if he doesn't sing "the feem toon" (the rendition by Attic Lights is excellent).

To be perfectly honest, the show did certainly not reach Five's rating expectations regarding their investment. And the future of this channel probably weights on the future of the series. BUT Minder deserves a second series (3), no matter who commissions it: Five absorbed by ITV, or the BBC. Talkback Thames produces QI for the Beeb and the new Minder would be at ease amongst entries like Hustle or Ashes to Ashes. The first season of this masterpiece that is Minder is now on DVD thanks to Fremantle Home Entertainment in a 2 disc set with the 6 episodes of the series. Plus extras including a jovial behind the scenes feature shot during Episode 6, bloopers, deleted scenes and the promotional trailer for the show.

See also:

Minder on the Five website: (with a funny video of the theme song by Attic Lights).

(1) For details about the locations of the new Minder series, please see: and
(2) These scenes are illustrated by the theme from the Vision On gallery!
(3) We'd like to see, for instance, more of Felix Cornell (Clive Wood), the villain of Episode 5. And could Maria Grant (Jayne Wisener), who leaves Jamie Cartwright at the end of A Matter of Life and Debt, become his Philippa Vale?

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