A phenomenon in the making
Prelude to a phenomenon
Autumn 1979 was not a glorious time in Great Britain. Unemployment and inflation were reaching record levels. Public morale was low. The new Conservative government under Mrs Margaret Thatcher had recently unveiled a highly unpopular budget. The country was still reeling from the effects of months of industrial strikes that had brought down the Labour government and led to the `Winter of Discontent'. One such industrial dispute at London's Thames Television came to an end on 24 October after blacking out the entire Independent Television network for close to eleven weeks.
Against this dismal background, Thames Television introduced its new action series for the autumn season on Monday 29 October -- a programme with the intriguing title Minder. The show was already weeks overdue, the new season's line-up traditionally being unveiled in early to mid-September.
At that time, nobody could possibly have imagined the eventual success that Minder would enjoy. Today, probably due in large part to the series, the term `minder' is generally understood to mean a bodyguard or assistant. In 1979, this usage was much less familiar, and the idea that such a relationship could sustain a television series for over 100 episodes would have seemed highly improbable. But by the time the programme ended in 1994 it could account for 10 seasons, 104 52-minute episodes, a 60-minute Christmas special, a Christmas compilation of excerpts, two feature films and two different characters playing the minder. The programme became a major hit not only on British television but was also sold to over 70 countries around the world, making it one of Britain's top TV exports. At the peak of its success, in 1985, nearly 18 million people a week in Britain were watching the show.
But in Autumn 1979, Minder was unashamedly intended as a vehicle for its leading actor, Dennis Waterman, to capitalise on his popularity in an earlier Thames Television series The Sweeney, that had recently come to an end.
Dennis Waterman was no newcomer to acting and came with excellent credentials. Born in London on 24 February 1947, he attended the Corona Stage School. He made his debut at the age of 11 in the 1958 feature film Night Train to Inverness and later appeared in the West End production of The Music Man. In 1962 he was cast in the title role of BBC television's 13-part series William based on the stories of Richmal Crompton.
The Sweeney, in which Waterman co-starred with John Thaw, was a no-holds-barred action series based in London about two officers in Scotland Yard's Flying Squad (known as the `Sweeney Todd' in rhyming slang). Dennis Waterman played the part of Detective Sergeant George Carter while John Thaw played Carter's guv'nor, Detective Inspector Jack Regan. In its quest to achieve gritty realism, the programme's action sequences, tough dialogue, car chases and violence -- on both sides of the law -- set a new standard in British police shows. There were regular complaints from the police about its portrayal of police brutality but the public could not get enough of the programme or its two stars.
When The Sweeney finished its run in 1978, its production company began to look for another role for Dennis Waterman. The company, Euston Films, had been set up six years earlier as a subsidiary of Thames Television specialising in film production, and was headed by George Taylor and Lloyd Shirley. Before The Sweeney its major output had been the 1972 series Special Branch with George Sewell and Patrick Mower, and a six-part series under the general title Armchair Cinema. One of these episodes, Regan, written by Ian Kennedy Martin and directed by Tom Clegg, was the pilot of The Sweeney.
The successor to The Sweeney came in the form of a film script called Minder penned two years earlier by veteran television writer Leon Griffiths about an East End crime boss and his bodyguard.
As Terry McCann in Minder, Waterman played a young man with two prison sentences under his belt, one for grievous bodily harm and the other for attempted robbery. At least one of these was for a crime that his boss was involved in but escaped prosecution. At one time McCann had had a career ahead of him as a professional boxer but he lost his licence after a rigged bout in which he took a fall that was too obvious. According to his boss, Arthur Daley, he should have been nicked for overacting.
The character he took on in Minder, as the tough, streetwise yet slightly naïve underdog had many similarities to his role as Sergeant Carter in The Sweeney, the sidekick of the powerful Inspector Regan.
Born in Sheffield in 1928, Leon Griffiths (named after Leon Trotsky by his staunchly communist mother) had a tough upbringing in Glasgow where he developed a hankering to be a writer. After leaving school he obtained a job as an assistant director in a small film company. He left the company to perform his National Service and found himself working with the British Forces Network in Germany alongside fledgling broadcaster Cliff Michelmore. By the time he had completed his National Service the film company he worked for previously had gone bankrupt. To pay the bills he took up a writing post with the Daily Worker in the 1950s and eventually became their drama critic. He relinquished this position, and indeed his communist ties, following the invasion of Budapest by Russian tanks in 1956 and struggled to make a career on Fleet Street.
Griffiths got into television script-writing almost by accident following a chance offer to write some episodes of the independently produced The Adventures of Robin Hood series from 1955-59 starring Richard Greene. Griffiths was not the only one out of the political mainstream to work on the Robin Hood series. Executive producer Hannah Weinstein also used the talents of several blacklisted US writers (usually working under pseudonyms) who had taken refuge from Senator Joseph McCarthy's notorious communist witch-hunt back home.
In script-writing, Griffiths found a vocation and branched out into writing television plays and film scripts, often in the crime thriller genre and incorporating the undercurrent of dark humour, incisive wit and cleverly crafted dialogue that became his forte.
He wrote prolifically for television, ranging from the 1959-60 ITV series Four Just Men, based on the stories by Edgar Wallace, to Yorkshire Television's 1979-80 series The Racing Game based on the stories of Dick Francis. He was at home in the sleazy aspects of his plots, from horse-race fixing in The Racing Game to his 1978 BBC-1 Play for Today entitled Dinner at the Sporting Club involving rigged boxing contests -- a theme that was to reappear a few years later in a Minder episode. Coincidentally, in the 1978 story, it was John Thaw from The Sweeney who gave an exceptional performance as the boxing manager who suffers the indignity of seeing his prize boxer forced to lose a fight.
Among Griffiths' notable film credits was The Grissom Gang in 1971 based on his earlier play No Orchids for Miss Blandish, in which a kidnapped socialite falls in love with one of her abductors. In The Grissom Gang he took an essentially violent plot and interspersed a sprinkling of humour -- an approach that he also adopted later with the early episodes of Minder.
In an interview with TV Times in 1991, Leon Griffiths described how he used to go to afternoon drinking clubs in North London and meet people who gave him ideas for his characters, including Arthur Daley in Minder: `I've always been fascinated by low life, the semi-villains of this world. I like observing them, wondering how they make out.' He went on: `They lived on their wits and were great storytellers. I don't suppose half of what they said was true but it didn't matter. They were alive; they crackled with a sort of crazy energy.'
Griffiths' original conception of Minder was as a tough, hard-hitting gangland film which he had kept on hold for a couple of years on the advice of his agent who felt that it was a little too serious to sell at that particular time. The same agent later suggested that Griffiths rework the film into a television script using two of the characters from the film: a small-time crook with a second-hand car business and his streetwise bodyguard (or `minder', as the term was in East London).
When Euston Films saw the revised script they immediately recognised it as an ideal vehicle for Dennis Waterman to play the part of the minder, an ex-boxer with a prison record. When Waterman saw the initial scripts and story lines he was particularly taken by the underlying humour and needed no second thoughts about accepting the part.
The task then fell to producers George Taylor and Lloyd Shirley at Euston Films to cast the supporting role of Arthur Daley, the smooth-talking used-car salesman, always on the lookout for a quick quid. The script called for someone totally behind the Home Secretary as far as law and order is concerned. His favourite film is The Godfather and he dresses like a dodgy member of the Citizens' Advice Bureau.' A number of artists were considered but the final choice went to television and film veteran George Cole.
The script called for someone `the same age as some good-looking American film star' (Arthur Daley often annouced proudly that he was the same age as Paul Newman).
George Cole was no stranger to the Arthur Daley character he took on in Minder. In a career spanning over 40 years, he had already made a name for himself in the 1950s and '60s as the smooth-talking spiv Flash Harry in the highly popular St Trinian's comedy films about a girls' boarding school.
Born in London on 22 April 1925, Cole made his stage debut at the age of 14 in the 1939 West End production of White Horse Inn. The following year he was cast as a young wartime evacuee in the movie Cottage to Let starring the legendary comedy character actor Alastair Sim.
Alastair Sim became a tremendous influence on young George Cole's career. Cole recalls: `The toughest task Alastair and his wife Naomi had was trying to get rid of my cockney accent. It was very strong but they succeeded. Luckily, I was able to reclaim it for Minder.' Their technique, he described, was to get him to stand up and tell jokes and then cover their ears with their hands when he got to the punch line. Mild perhaps, but apparently effective.
Sim and Cole worked together on two of the St Trinian's films (The Belles of St Trinian's in 1953 and Blue Murder at St Trinian's in 1958) and in several other films and stage productions. Cole also appeared without Sim in Pure Hell at St Trinian's in 1961. The early St Trinian's films are clearly dear to Cole's heart, as they are to most people who had the good fortune to enjoy them as family entertainment when they were first released. He now talks with genuine sadness about the salacious direction the concept took with the 1980 release of The Wildcats of St Trinian's (in which he did not appear).
A number of stage and screen roles followed for Cole after St Trinian's, usually in the light comedy genre in which he seemed to fit naturally. He also had a long spell in the popular A Life of Bliss series on BBC radio and then in the same series on television, but it was Minder that propelled him to the pinnacle of his profession.
George Cole's Arthur Daley character was a successful middle-aged businessman who owned a second-hand car business and a lockup in Fulham filled with a motley collection of assorted items that had fallen off the backs of countless lorries over his questionable career. He had had some minor skirmishes with the law in the past but now managed to keep his activities one step ahead of the police. There are occasional references to him having served time in prison more than 20 years ago, but he writes it off as `just a bit of petty'.
Easily mistaken for a bookie with his fat cigar, trilby hat and expensive overcoat, Arthur Edward Daley was the quintessential small man made good. He mostly drove a Jaguar but, being in the car business, also drove other luxury cars from time to time including a Daimler, a Mercedes, and a Rolls-Royce, depending on what came his way. Creator Leon Griffiths actually wrote the Jaguar into the original script. He said: `Arthur could only ever have driven a Jaguar. It has always been the kind of car the people he admired aspired to.'
Daley had two children in private schools, lived in White City, and was in awe of his wife, who was never seen in the series, to whom he referred -- almost reverently -- as `'er indoors'. He deluded himself into believing he was a pillar of society. There are even occasional references, such as `attending a function', hinting that he is a Freemason but this is not specified.
We never hear in the series exactly where and how Arthur Daley and Terry McCann first met. The opening title sequence of the first seven seasons showed Arthur meeting Terry on his release from prison and trying to interest him in a Ford Capri on the car lot (in reality a location near Brook Green in London W14). Although we see the pair shaking hands on the deal, we never know whether Terry paid for the car or whether it was provided as some form of compensation, or even a bribe to win back Terry's loyalty. We do learn as the series unfolds that Terry's flat is provided by Arthur and that Terry pays him rent. He did not receive a regular wage from Arthur but occasionally took a small cut of whatever Arthur made by hiring him out. Although Terry always played second fiddle to Arthur, the show set out as a vehicle for Dennis Waterman, and it was Waterman's name that appeared first in the credits.
After 70 episodes, seven seasons and two feature films, Dennis Waterman quit the series, and his Terry McCann character was written out by having him emigrate to Australia.
Following the departure of his first minder, Arthur Daley was forced to take on a replacement. Reluctantly at first, he took on his nephew, Ray Daley, played by Gary Webster. Although with some stage work to his credit, 26-year-old Webster was a relative newcomer to television, his major experience playing the character Graham in ten episodes of BBC-1's EastEnders.
Ray Daley was very different from Terry McCann. Unlike Terry, who had received limited formal education but was streetwise and handy with his fists, Ray Daley was educated. He had `O' levels in French and woodwork. He knew how to handle himself when the going got tough but preferred to talk his way out of trouble. He was teetotal, unlike Terry who was an avowed lager drinker. Gary Webster continued to play Ray Daley for three seasons until the show came to an end in 1994.
The other stalwart of the show was Dave Harris (played by Glynn Edwards) who was always there in the background throughout the series as the unflappable, benevolent manager and barman of the Winchester Club. This was a fictitious private drinking club based on one in Chalk Farm that was frequented by Leon Griffiths and used as the location for the Winchester Club in the first few episodes. Here, Arthur Daley would make his plans, arrange his business meetings, and invariably end up downing a vodka and tonic to soothe the troubled waters when his dubious business deals went awry. Although it was a legitimate drinking club, the Winchester Club was also a magnet for petty criminals. Arthur fitted in well there.
Dave was the soul of discretion and had a generous share of common sense. Arthur, on the other hand, though impulsive, had business acumen, an entrepreneurial spirit and the smooth patter of an East London market man. As an ex-schoolmate, lifelong friend and counsel of Arthur's, Dave was the perfect buffer to exert some moderation over Arthur's dubious activities.
In one of the later episodes in the series, Gone with the Winchester, we see the relationship between Arthur and Dave nearly torn apart when another member of their boyhood gang appears at the club after a long prison sentence and starts putting divisive ideas into Arthur's head. But Arthur finally learns the value of friendship, and the relationship is restored. Glynn Edwards recalls this as one of his favourite episodes: `It was a part I could really get into and develop the character. For me it was a nice acting experience. But if you ask me which episode was the most fun, it would have to be the one where we all went off to Calais for the day with Arthur to buy some cheap booze. That was a lot of fun.'
Glynn Edwards, who appeared in 94 of the programme's 108 episodes, could not have been a better choice for the role. Trained at Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, he appeared in over 20 feature films including Zulu in 1964 and Get Carter in 1971 (in which he came to a painful end at the hands of Michael Caine). He had countless television appearances to his credit spanning an acting career of more than 25 years and he brought impeccable professionalism and credibility to the role of Dave. But it was a role that he nearly passed over. He recalls: `When it came up it was just another job. An idea of a series was the last thing on our minds. I was offered a day's work playing a barman. In fact, I nearly turned it down as it was such a small job. But my agent pushed me and said it was worth doing in case it led to something bigger. And then they called me back for another episode and the part really took off. It finished up as probably the most important job in my career.'
Without a doubt, Dave became a firm favourite with the viewing audience. Glynn Edwards believes that one reason for Dave's popularity was that Arthur's wife was never seen in the series. `Dave was a sympathetic soul,' he pointed out, `and a good listener. In a way Dave somehow took the place of Arthur's wife as someone to listen to his problems. He was a sort of confidante of Arthur's and I think the audience needed that.'
Glynn Edwards was born on 2 February 1931 in Penang in what was then Malaya where his father was in the rubber industry. He had a variety of jobs before embarking on his acting career including working on a sugar plantation in Trinidad. At one time he was married to the late Yootha Joyce who played Mildred in the popular television series George and Mildred.
Season 1 29 October 1979 -- 21 January 1980
Publicity for Minder's debut on British television in 1979 was sadly lacking, due in no small way to the industrial dispute that had shut down the whole Independent Television network and delayed the scheduled commencement of the series. To make matters worse, the TV Times was also affected by an industrial dispute and only a skeleton version was being printed. This prevented the hype and promotion that would normally accompany the start of a new series. The TV Times listing for the first episode described it simply as `a new series starring Dennis Waterman as Terry (the Minder) and George Cole as Arthur (his guv'nor)'. No other cast were listed. The following week the programme was listed as The Minder, `a thriller series starring Dennis Waterman as Terry, an ex-convict who must tackle a variety of difficult and dangerous bodyguard assignments arranged by his smooth boss'. Again, there was no cast list, episode title or other information. From the third week the programme was fully listed with cast, episode title, synopsis and major technical credits.
Gunfight at the OK Laundrette
The first episode, Gunfight at the OK Laundrette by Leon Griffiths, went out in the 9-10 p.m. time slot on Monday 29 October 1979. The opening credit sequence, which remained almost untouched for seven seasons (apart from slightly tighter editing and some new shots at the start of the second season), saw Terry McCann driving into Arthur's car lot in a Ford Capri (SLE 71R) with Arthur in the passenger seat. We then see a series of black and white stills interspersed with the film to explain how Terry came to be there: he is outside a prison gate; checking under the bonnet of the Ford Capri; the winner of a boxing match; shaking hands with Arthur on the car deal; and finally out on the town with Arthur in the West End.
Gunfight, with singer and entertainer Dave King co-starring in a straight role, could easily have filled a conventional drama slot. The story was based on a real-life siege at a pizza shop in Knightsbridge. While acting as a temporary bodyguard for Alfie, the character played by King, Terry accompanies Alfie to empty the coin machines at his laundrette business and walks straight into an armed hold-up. The robbers, who claim they are members of a black militant group, take Terry, Alfie and an elderly woman customer as hostages. Terry manages to defuse the situation but, with his criminal record for violence, is suspected of being an accomplice. Although he emerges as the hero, Terry suffers the indignity of being forced to lie face-down in the road while the police search him at the end of the siege. Arthur was there watching from behind the police barricades, wearing the fawn overcoat that became his trademark. The humour, which added little to the story line, came from Arthur's attempts to exploit the situation by selling the story to the press.
When the episode was repeated14 years later, after the series had come to an end, Max Davidson in The Daily Telegraph described it as `uncannily prophetic'. He wrote: `The way Terry was presumed guilty by the police on the basis of his previous form -- despite being, on this occasion, the hero of a siege in a laundrette -- anticipated a theme which has dominated police dramas since the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six cases.'
The episode began a tradition that extended over the programme's entire run of using a title that was a parody or pun of a well-known film title, book title, song title, popular expression, etc. Gunfight at the OK Laundrette obviously referred to the 1957 film Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Typical of the titles that followed were Minder on the Orient Express (after Murder on the Orient Express), The Dessert Song (a clever pun on The Desert Song for an episode involving dubious catering supplies), Monday Night Fever (after Saturday Night Fever), and The Birdman of Wormwood Scrubs (about a newly released prisoner who kept a cage bird while he was in prison, after The Birdman of Alcatraz).
Lloyd Shirley and George Taylor, who had worked together on The Sweeney, produced the first episode along with executive producer Verity Lambert and the three remained as the senior production team for the first three seasons.
The first episode was directed by Peter Sasdy, who directed two other episodes in the first season. Tom Clegg, a highly respected TV director who had been with Euston Films for years, was originally invited to direct the first two episodes but turned it down because he didn't like the story. Other directing stalwarts for the series who worked on the first season included Roy Ward Baker, Francis Megahy and Ian Toynton.
George Cole recalled how he and director Peter Sasdy were instrumental in establishing an important part of Arthur Daley's characterisation. He explained: `Peter had decided that he wanted Arthur to be a smart dresser, so he sent me off to Savile Row to buy two suits. But the producers were far from pleased when I got back and told them the suits cost £400 each. That wasn't in the budget! A bit later on we were shooting a scene in which I was supposed to grab one of the characters and start a fight. I said to the director, "We can't do that. Do you know how much this suit cost? If we so much as make a mark on it the producers will go mad." The director said, "Well what are we going to do then?" I thought for a while and said, "How about, when I see him, I duck around the corner and let Terry sort it out?" And from then on, whenever there was a fight scene, Arthur ran the other way!'
The first episode saw Patrick Malahide in the first of 24 appearances as the droll, bumbling Detective Sergeant Albert `Charlie' Chisholm, always determined to get Arthur `bang to rights'.
Malahide recalls: `For the first episode I was paid for just half a day to turn up to play this copper, and would I bring my own suit? In those early episodes you can still spot me with long hair and a trendy seventies whistle. From then on if they needed a copper they would call me. It wasn't until the second or maybe even the third series that they told me I was a regular. It was only then that I was allowed to really focus the character the way I wanted and the designer and I went out and bought this awful brown suit and a porkpie hat.'
An identity crisis
The first few episodes with varying amounts of humour, served to establish the characterisations, but suffered from a definite identity crisis. Was it comedy? Or was it drama? The TV Times had promised `a thriller series', but a thriller, in the conventional sense, it was not. The problem was not helped by Dennis Waterman's continued public identification as Sergeant Carter from The Sweeney.
One of the most important elements that contributed to the success of Minder, but added to the classification dilemma, was that it was made on film. At that time, editing of videotape was still notoriously time-consuming and expensive. Television drama was almost invariably made on videotape: in a studio with three or four cameras covering the same scene, extensive rehearsal, and with the director assembling the shots as they were being performed.
Recording on film provided considerably more flexibility than tape. Film cameras at that time were more manoeuvrable than conventional television cameras. A single film camera was usually all that was required for a shot. Film cameras could get into spaces that television cameras could not and allowed comprehensive and relatively inexpensive editing of the recorded material. But most importantly, film allowed the material to be shot on location, something that was technically difficult using videotape.
Minder was originally conceived to take over where The Sweeney left off. The Sweeney had been shot on film and much of its success had been achieved from its rich use of London locations and its fast-paced action sequences that would have been impossible in a studio. And so it was that in Minder we see extensive and imaginative use of locations. Indeed, the entire programme was shot on location: derelict factories, allotments alongside railway tracks, car repair shops under railway arches. There was an element of realism and credibility that would be hard to reconstruct in a studio.
On top of this there was the comic dialogue. This was confusing. British comedies were generally made in a studio in front of a live audience and with canned laughter added afterwards confirming that we were supposed to laugh. In Minder, the cues to the viewing audience were somehow missing. This also placed additional demands on the actors. They had to adjust their delivery to allow the audience time to laugh and not miss the line that followed. On top of all this, Minder was perceived as a follow-up to The Sweeney -- a programme notoriously short on humour. It was no wonder the audience was confused.
Beyond the siege
With only four cast members credited apart from Waterman and Cole, the second episode, Bury My Half at Waltham Green by Paul Wheeler, looked as if it had been made on a shoestring budget. The episode saw Terry minding a bank robber (played by Randall and Hopkirk [Deceased] star Kenneth Cope) on his release from prison. Unlike the previous episode, in which the humour was peripheral, the humour in this episode was central to the story line: a decoy prisoner, a clumsy minder and the payoff at the end. There was a mild car chase and only a hint of violence, but we were introduced to another facet of Terry's lifestyle when we saw him in bed with a woman he had just met, the wife of the mastermind behind a bank robbery who was still in prison. The producers were apparently still working on the characterisations and we heard Arthur Daley speaking with a cultured accent that was very unlike the accent we heard for the rest of the series.
The third episode, The Smaller They Are by Leon Griffiths, saw the introduction of violence as an integral part of the story line. The episode dealt with a small-time bag snatcher played by Phil McCall who unknowingly crosses a gang of international currency smugglers. The episode reintroduced Glynn Edwards as Dave, the manager of the Winchester Club. We also met Peter Childs for the first time as Rycott, the other member of the local plod with an interest in putting Arthur away. In this episode he is still a detective constable after 15 years on the force following some unspecified `trouble' earlier on. In later episodes we see him as a detective sergeant.
The third episode saw the first reference to Arthur's unseen wife as `'er indoors'. When Arthur and Terry see an attractive young girl at the bar of a pub Arthur says, `See, that's what 'er indoors don't understand. A young bird like that hanging round keeps yer feeling young.' Terry replies, `I thought it was Phyllosan and Grecian 2000.' Phyllosan was a proprietary vitamin tonic tablet aimed at the over-forties, and Grecian 2000 a hair dye.
The term `'er indoors' soon found its way into the vernacular and became an established way of referring to a spouse (replacing 'er with 'im where appropriate). The term was also the basis for a Christmas novelty record in 1983 written by Dennis Waterman. What Are We Gonna Get 'Er Indoors? (backed with Quids and Quavers) featured Cole and Waterman in their Arthur and Terry characters and spent five weeks in the UK pop record charts. The record reached number 21 in the charts and even merited an appearance of the duo on the BBC's flagship Top of the Pops music show.
Writer and creator of the series, Leon Griffiths, later said that he first heard the term used by a London minicab driver. The driver could have achieved some degree of fame for coining the expression except that when Griffiths saw the man a second time he denied ever saying it.
It was probably the same taxi-driver described by John Hurry Armstrong in Griffiths' obituary in The Independent. According to this version, the taxi-driver was a drinking companion of Griffiths and always used the term to describe his wife who was never seen with him in the pub. The story has it that Griffiths was terrified that his friend would be upset when the term was first used in the series. As it turned out, the taxi-driver was not at all concerned, firmly believing that all husbands called their wives 'er indoors and never took them to the pub.
Arthur referred to his wife as 'er indoors in virtually every episode that followed. But she was never seen and we never even got to hear her name. But there was no mention of this in the programme. (In Leon Griffiths' novel Minder, published as a tie-in three months before the programme first went to air, Arthur Daley's wife was called Sarah.) Dave at the Winchester Club would use 'er indoors to refer to her, or occasionally the more formal Mrs Daley. In later episodes, Arthur's nephew Ray would refer to her as Auntie. We never saw her but we felt that we knew her well. A simple, `She's got these feet' from Arthur was enough to elicit a whole story and make us realise that we've all met someone just like her at some time or another. Little hints were dropped from week to week until we had built up a mental profile of her: she doesn't actually play the piano, `she likes polishing things' ... `I must get home, 'er indoors is doing fish' ... `Don't keep on, you're beginning to sound like 'er indoors. There you go again, that's 'er to a T' ... `I promised to take her shopping at Brent's Cross. She'll go potty if I don't turn up.' Arthur liked to get out of the house, `what with 'er indoors hoovering under the bed all the time.' `(She's) like dodgy wine: she doesn't travel well.' But she had good taste: `'er indoors has been agging me for a couple of nice chairs to go with the regency stripe we've had bunged up on the lounge wall.'
With all this priming it would have been an anticlimax to show her.
The identity crisis continues
The fourth episode, A Tethered Goat, by Murray Smith, did nothing to help the viewer decide whether the series was comedy or serious drama. In this episode, Terry minds an Arab banker who is being pursued by some Middle-Eastern hit men. Some scenes could have come straight out of one of the tough police dramas that had gone before such as The Sweeney and The Professionals. There is plenty of action, cars driven at high speed, hit-men jumping through glass windows, realistic fights, guns and graphic violence -- even Arthur Daley takes a punch. Alongside the heavy drama was a hilarious performance by Kenneth Griffith as Dai Llewellyn, the Welsh manservant whom Arthur has conjured up to attend on the Arab.
Episode 5, The Bounty Hunter by Bernie Cooper and Francis Megahy, saw comedy provided by George Layton in the first of his six appearances as Des, a crooked motor mechanic, and serious drama by classical actor Derek Jacobi as the mastermind behind a Majorcan property scam.
An undercurrent of violence or implied violence continued throughout the remaining six episodes of the first season but the show seemed to become more sure of where it was going and the audience had come to appreciate the balance between drama and humour. The last episode in the season, You Gotta Have Friends by Leon Griffiths, ended with Arthur being forced to jog around Hampstead Heath by actor George Baker playing a health fanatic who has threatened to kill Arthur unless Terry can recover £70,000 he believes Arthur has stolen. The sight of Arthur Daley, bemoaning `I'm a goner' after his enforced jog and being helped along by Terry was a classic blend of comedy and pathos.
The season's ratings were far from excellent -- but sufficient for executive producer Verity Lambert to persuade Brian 'Ginger' Cowgill, programme controller of Thames Television, to fund another season.