The British dramedy "Minder," which BFS Entertainment makes available on DVD to audiences on this side of the pond, is a great program if only because it exceeds all positive expectations regarding it.
On the surface, the concept of used car dealer/small-time crook Arthur Daley simultaneously the scam of the week and hiring out his clone of Jim Rockford of the awesome James Garner U.S. series "The Rockford Files" the titular minder (a.k.a. bodyguard) former professional boxer/reformed ex-con Terry McCann is an amusing premise.
Just below the surface, the 11 hour-long episodes in the 1979-1980 first series (my people call them seasons) is among the best television to ever arrive at the Unreal TV offices.
The fact that "Minder" lasted 10 seasons before wrapping up in 1994 and warranted a "next generation" style series in 2009 further speaks to its quality. The fact that it did not win any of the awards for which it received nominations is a much larger crime than any caper that Daley perpetrated.
George Cole, whose career seems as prolific as that of Michael Caine, does a perfect job portraying Arthur as an aging scoundrel who shows affection in his own ways, does an awesome job justifying dodgy deals, and craftily shorts everyone with whom he does business.
It is equally good fun to see Arthur rent out Terry to a friend or colleague for some form of at least dirty and often degrading task and then coercing Terry into accepting that work.
It is always just as certain that Arthur is cheating Terry regarding his wages for the assignment and that said assignment will place Terry in far more peril than he could have anticipated despite a brighter man likely recognizing this pattern after a couple of weeks.
The fact that Arthur and his cronies always have each other's hands in each other's pockets and seemingly would cheat his (no women in this boy's club) own mother wonderfully adds to the fun of the escapades.
"Minder" is additionally a wonderful fit for Dennis Waterman as Terry; he comes to this role straight from playing Jack Regan, who is a police detective who shares characteristics with Terry, in the dramatic British police series "The Sweeney."
The James Garner parallel extends to Terry insisting on limiting his use of weapons to the ones that are attached to his wrists; his philosophy regarding guns is like that of Garner's titular character in the shamefully ignored Western dramedy "Nichols" that using guns just leads to the wrong people being shot.
The following segment, courtesy of YouTube, of a documentary on "Minder" provides a nice sense of both the awesomeness of the show and well-earned enthusiasm of fans. The fact that this review and that clip independently consider this series "must-see TV" also speaks to its awesomeness.
The wonderfully titled "Gunfight at the O.K. Launderette" episode gets "Minder" off to a great start; Terry is freelancing as a bouncer at a strip club, and Arthur soon rents him out for the simple task of accompanying a friend while that person collects his proceeds from the titular laundormat.
A robbery attempt at the not-so-beautiful launderette soon leads to a "Dog Day Afternoon" style hostage situation with the captors and captives holed up in the storage room of that business while a not-so-bright police official attempts to resolve the matter. Predictably, Terry is the brightest and most reasonable member of the entire group.
A mid-season episode titled "Come in T-64, Your Time is Ticking Away" is arguably the most clever one of the lot. This one has Terry driving a dilapidated car for a taxi service in which Arthur is a partner; a series of attacks against other drivers and vehicles prompts putting Terry on the road to both prevent further mayhem and discover the identity of the malfeasors.
The pervasive wanton destruction, goofiness of the hired thugs causing said damage, and Terry's mishaps while on the road are high entertaining. The motive for the campaign against the company is a nice surprise that sets this episode apart from the excellent other 10 episodes in this season.
Other episodes involve clever subterfuge regarding a participant of a robbery in which the loot is still concealed being released from prison, Arthur and Terry having a falling out after Arthur is scammed related to falling for a woman whose physical attractive far out distances her singing ability, and an amusing offering that centers around above-ground and underworld poker games.
The only thing that is left to be said regarding this set of "Minder" is that it is a safe bet for anyone with a taste for good humor and battered heroes.
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