Admin: Happy Birthday to “Minder”. It debuted October 29, 1979 and went strong until March 1994. We here at the Appreciation are pretty much only concerned with the Chisholm episodes which ran sporadically from ’79 to ’88, but those 24 episodes give us a very good idea of what it is about “Minder” that made it last so long and have allowed it to remain popular 26 years after its finale.
“Minder” has a timelessness about. While it is in many ways of its time, the central idea of a small man (Arthur Daley) trying to to make a successful living in a big city while avoiding all the pitfalls of bureaucracy (actually, avoiding bureaucracy itself) is a theme that will likely never die. His mild disdain for the rule of law never goes into outright horrible criminality, so we wind up with a character who is easy to relate to. Basically, wheelers and dealers will always be with us.
RF: Daley is that rarity, a “lovable scamp” that actually manages to be lovable – or if not lovable, at least highly entertaining. He’s the one who’s always trying to find a shortcut to vast wealth, except he isn’t totally clear on what an effective shortcut should be – goldfish being exchanged for clothes out of the back of a dodgy van? Cleated football shoes being sold as stylish trainers? Musical monkeys playing “Scotland the Brave”? His schemes were always unique head-scratchers. And yeah, his willingness to flout the law ensured that he’d always be under Chisholm’s watchful eye.
Admin: The musical monkeys really should have hit off big. 🙂 And, yes, Daley is a very entertaining character. You just can’t help but like the ol’ spiv.
RF: It helped that Arthur never broke any heavy-duty laws and had no ambitions towards higher profile illegal activities. A criminal mastermind, he wasn’t. When someone once tried to suggest Arthur was fencing stolen jewelry, Chisholm knew that was far beyond his scope.
Admin: One of my favorite episodes, “What Makes Shamy Run“, deals with pirating VHS tapes of popular Bollywood movies. Yeah, VHS is dead as the dodo, but piracy continues to be a burning issue, and Bollywood has only become increasingly popular, garnering followers from all over. The details may have altered, but the general concept is daisy fresh.
RF: True, and Daley’s scheme involving bootleg mobile phones was a form of piracy, too. Only nowadays I suppose he would be stealing wifi, selling dodgy burner phones, and/or hacking into people’s Cloud accounts. Mind you, Arthur would have to get a talented nephew (or great-nephew) to help him with the latter.
Admin: And of course our favorite character, DS Chisholm, is timeless as well. A mildly depressed, eternally frustrated, highly sarcastic copper married to the job is just one of those beloved archetypes that will likely never cease to be relevant.
RF: Poor Chisholm! His greatness goes unrecognized and his light is hidden under a bushel. 😉 Life for him is one unfairness happening after another. That’s right, he really has no life outside of his job, nor does he want one. His entire identity is bound up in being a copper. As a result, even when he’s not being one, you can tell he is one (but he’d likely consider that a compliment). His standard attire of a thin mac, trilby, and off-the-rack suit would likely be considered hipsterishly (is that word? it is now) mod today, too. However, despite appearances, he’s got a sharp mind, acerbic wit, and a surprising fount of literary and humanist knowledge.
Admin: There is indeed something steadfastly reassuring about Chisholm’s obvious copper-esque appearance. He’s an honest cop. Not just in the legal sense (nothing bent about him), but also in the sense that anyone can tell what he is right away. He’s reliable that way, and that adds to his timelessness.
Admin: Granted the London of “Minder” is a very different one from today, but the same can be said of almost all communities 25-40 years later. The changes haven’t been so extreme as to render things utterly unrecognizable.
RF: Chisholm and Jones might be driving around in a Prius instead of a Ford Cortina.
Admin: It is interesting that it is the trendier characters that have “aged” the most. Yeah, I’m talking about Terry there. 🙂 He has somehow become the most dated and least stylish. Dapper Daley with his ’50s look and Chisholm with his conventional hand-me-down wardrobe both look attractive by today’s standards. So, ironically, by inserting such old fashioned characters into the narrative, “Minder” gave itself a greater sense of timelessness. Chisholm in particular could be played exactly the same way today as he was in the early to mid ’80s.
RF: I wonder what the job market is like for ex-boxers turned minders these days? 😉 Agreed that Terry, and to some extent Jones (with his sheepskin coats and jeans, heavy-framed glasses, and ever-changing haircuts) are the most dated-looking elements these days – as well as those lovely old-fashioned rotary phones and electric typewriters. But Chisholm and Daley could be plopped down into modern London with only a little tweaking. Chisholm might have a few problems with the more socially sensitive aspects of his job, though: “I am a people policeman.” 😉
Admin: But, again, Chisholm’s mild defiance in the face of political correctness (he’s never obnoxiously right wing about it…just a bit adorably baffled) remains pitch perfect today. 🙂
RF: That’s true, Chisholm was more or less resigned to having to do his “people policeman” workshop. You can bet Rycott was a lot more annoying about it.
Admin: More specifically, the Chisholm and Jones partnership remains relevant today. Meic Povey’s portrayal as the much put-upon, yet oddly loyal, DC is perfect. Even today you can easily see how well suited Chisholm and Jones would have been for their own television series. Their chemistry transcends time and is every bit as funny and charming today as it was during their heyday.
RF: Chisholm and Jones had wonderful chemistry. Even when they were quarreling, it was more like watching a long-married, bickering couple than anything else. And for all of Chisholm’s lack of success nabbing Daley, he was actually a good copper in most other ways, and he’d even listen to Jones’ suggestions from time to time. I think Jones far preferred being partnered with Chisholm than with Rycott or Soames.
Admin: Yes, Rycott was obnoxious and a tad bent and Soames was an overly officious creep. With Chisholm he knew exactly where he stood.
Admin: So Happy Birthday, Minder. I hope you stay relevant for many more years to come.
RF: Yes, Happy Birthday, Minder! We’ll always find something to enjoy watching and re-watching. 🙂