DVD Review: Minder: The Dennis Waterman Years

(FremantleMedia Enterprises, �99)

BEFORE veering towards powerful one-off specials starring ex-soap stars on golden handcuff contracts, ITV did actually produce a pretty high standard of drama, and the decade-long run of the legendary Minder is indicative of this success.

Although starting off as a post-watershed series which wasn’t averse to the odd swearword and naked breast, it evolved into a show with an obvious cross-generational appeal that even had its own Christmas specials.

As seen from the lacklustre attempt to produce a 21st century incarnation with Shane Richie, and the later series of the original run when Gary Webster took over in the title role, it was the partnership between Dennis Waterman and George Cole which undoubtedly contributed to its longevity.

Waterman played former professional boxer Terry McCann, who served a long stretch in Wormwood Scrubs for armed robbery after refusing to grass on his accomplices. He is recruited as a personal “minder” by unscrupulous importer-exporter, used car salesman and dodgy geezer Arthur Daley (George Cole), who needed someone to protect him from the crooks and thugs he encounters in the course of his money-making ventures.

The loyalty and dedication which Terry displays towards Arthur is at the heart of their relationship, no matter what scrapes they find themselves in, and that bond was always evident throughout the series’ run, as Cole became a co-star in a programme which was originally supposed to be a Waterman vehicle.

After a lukewarm reception from both the critics and general public, Minder was saved from the axe by Thames managing director Bryan Cowgill, who persuaded the powers-that-be to give it a chance to find an audience, resulting in it becoming a major hit by its third series.

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The semi-nudity, harder drama and tough action sequences were eventually toned down or abandoned altogether, and the comedy, banter and get-rich-quick schemes were expanded upon, elements which would see Minder become one of the most successful ITV series of the 1980s.

This box set includes all of the seven series starring Waterman, a fantastic 68 episodes over 20 discs, and, in the words of Arthur Daley, you’ll realise the world is your lobster. A welcome release for a truly timeless television series: “This could be so good for you!”