Cheerful Charlie: Detective Sgt. Chisholm (update May 17)

Patrick Malahide played Detective Sergeant Albert Chisholm, sarcastically nicknamed Cheerful Charlie, from 1979 to 1988 on ITV’s hit show Minder.  He is a wonderful character: A gloomy, obsessive man, yet more than that because of  his nuance and depth.  No wonder The Telegraph includes him in their list of TV’s Best Detectives and Sleuths.

He’s Always on the Right Track

Nope, Arthur says he's there on jury service. Chisholm [incredulous]: "Jury service??"

Chisholm and his albatross.

Obsessed with catching Arthur Daley, Chisholm usually finds himself out of luck by the end of each episode with Daley, typically with the help of his unlikely “minder” Terry McCann, evading the sergeant’s clutches. Daley is an albatross around Chisholm’s neck. Whatever DS Chisholm investigates, Daley’s name eventually comes up. You really can’t blame Chisholm for wanting to arrest the guy. From Chisholm’s perspective, Daley is up to his eyeballs in criminality.

Daley never really is involved with serious crimes, but he sometimes tries to rub shoulders with bigger criminals and is happy to buy dodgy or hot goods.  And though Chisholm is generally somewhat correct about Daley’s involvement, he never pins anything concrete on him which interferes with his career advancement. If it weren’t for Daley the Albatross, maybe Chisholm would be Inspector.

Cheerful, huh?

 "Oh dear, oh dear."

“Oh dear, oh dear.”

The nickname Cheerful Charlie is sheer sarcasm. DS Chisholm is not a naturally cheerful man.   Half the time he looks as though the only thing missing is a little, black raincloud over his head.

That is not to say he is joyless. He gets a certain delight out of making things difficult for Daley. My personal favorite is when he is inspecting Daley’s cheap goods, accidently-on-purpose tearing a flimsy shirt with a snide, “dear, oh dear.”

And he is witty, his quick, sharp barbs often amusing his junior partner, the Welsh DC “Taff” Jones. Jones is very laid back, so they are a great contrast. Jones frequently finds himself on the receiving end of Chisholm’s barbs: “One of these days you’re going to have to make up your mind, Jones, whether you’re a Welshman or a policeman.”

Awkward or Confident?

Despite being witty and generally right about Daley, Chisholm is strangely ill-at-ease with himself.  It is clear he doesn’t like to be touched, as seen when Daley tries to put his hand on him in anyway and also when he is being measured by a tailor in Waiting for Goddard. He has other moments of social awkwardness when he is dealing with a large number of women who were the victims of polygamist in Too Many Wives and also when he meets some Indian gentlemen in Daley’s lock-up in See Shamy Run. He wants to be polite, and is, but comes across as unsure of himself.

Realizing he is getting a green drink.

Realizing he is getting a green drink.

In Minder on the Orient Express, he works with a French Interpol agent, in this his awkwardness really comes out. When offered a drink he is too shy to firmly request a light ale and looks so perplexed at the weird green liquor he is given.

However, once he realizes the Interpol agent is just a moronic show-off with a gun, Chisholm takes a far more confident approach, bravely forcing the gun from the “French cretin’s” (Chisholm’s description) hands when he uses it in the train’s crowded dining carriage.

Get_Daley_grass

Intimidating a grass.

And he is always confident when dealing with scummy sorts. He intimidates untrustworthy grasses, particularly in Get Daley and stands up to dangerous villains such as the very scary Freddie from Looking for Micky. He isn’t reckless, proven by his cautious manner in Looking for Micky, but he is determined to keep the streets clean of real villains.

Old Fashioned Mentality and Wardrobe

He looks like such a detective.

Old-fashioned detective.

Much of that determination stems from an incredibly old fashioned outlook on life.  He rails against newfangled notions like “community policing,” eschews warrants, and has no qualms letting scoundrels know what he thinks of them.

Chisholm typically dresses a good 20 – 30 years behind the times, but in a timeless rather than outdated kind of way. Usually kitted out in a brown suit and trilby hat, he dresses like a less flashy version of Arthur Daley.

The wardrobe issue took a few episodes to develop, and Mr. Malahide himself played part in deciding how Chisholm should look and be presented. You can read about that in the Defense of Chisholm’s Brown Suit post. It seems it was meant to be kind of a negative thing, but I personally think Chisholm’s old-fashioned style looks great and gives him a charming quality amidst all the gloom.

Do you know why Incapable is called Incapable?

Showing some sympathy for Incapable

In the earlier episodes, before becoming an official series regular, he is a little more laid back and comes across as a typical overworked copper who would rather being doing anything than wasting time on Arthur Daley.

And even after developing into the Chisholm we know and love, he still retains a lot of normal humanity. He takes a somewhat gentle view towards the escapee in Looking for Micky, noting that Micky is a simpleton being taken advantage of by real villains. He also displays a wry sympathy for “Incapable,” a homeless alcoholic in Dead Men Do Tell Tales. I like those little moments of humanity; they show his old fashioned outlook and prove he is a good copper who “knows his patch”.

Boyish Charm

But better not make a twit of himself.

Boyish charm on display.

Continuing along the theme of humanity, he sometimes shows boyish charm and enthusiasm.  His face lights up when he is told he is the one who gets to accompany Interpol, and he displays some brief delight using a police radio in Life in the Fast Food Lane, “Yankee 2, over.”

But where he really shows his enthusiasm is when he plans on riding in a helicopter in An Officer and a Car Salesman.   He is so delighted at the prospect of it that he is thoroughly adorable.

Conclusion

Chisholm’s final appearance is in the aforementioned Christmas special An Officer and a Car Salesman. By that point, Chisholm is shown in a more comedic light, perhaps too comedic, as are all the characters, so it is hardly unique to him.   But, our intrepid DS left behind a bunch of excellent episodes, showing a fascinating and memorable character, all thanks to Patrick Malahide and his fantastic talent.

Of course, there are loads more great moments, and even more facets of his personality that I haven’t hit upon.  Below, are all the episodes Chisholm features in.  The linked ones have been recapped on this blog, so you can read them for even more information on my favorite Detective Sergeant.

 List of Episodes:

1. Gunfight at the O.K. Laundrette (29 October 1979)
2. Monday Night Fever (7 January 1980)
3. A Nice Little Wine (23 October 1980)
4. Caught in the Act, Fact (27 November 1980)
5. Dead Men Do Tell Tales (13 January 1982)
6. Looking for Micky (3 February 1982)
7. Poetic Justice, Innit? (24 March 1982)
8. High Drains Pilferer (25 January 1984)
9. Sorry Pal, Wrong Number (1 February 1984)
10. The Car Lot Baggers (8 February 1984)
11. Get Daley (14 March 1984)
12. Goodbye Sailor (5 September 1984)
13. What Makes Shamy Run? (12 September 1984)
14. A Number of Old Wives’ Tales (19 September 1984)
15. The Balance of Power (31 October 1984)
16. Around the Corner (26 December 1984)
17. Give Us This Day Arthur Daley’s Bread (4 September 1985)
18. Life in the Fast Food Lane (11 September 1985)
19. The Return of the Invincible Man (18 September 1985)
20. Arthur Is Dead, Long Live Arthur (25 September 1985)-
21. From Fulham with Love (2 October 1985)
22. Waiting for Goddard (9 October 1985)
23. Minder on the Orient Express (25 December 1985)
24. An Officer and a Car Salesman (26 December 1988)

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