TV Highlights

Arthur Daley

Arthur Daley
Character: Arthur Daley (George Cole). shifty latterday spiv, who did his business in the dodgy Winchester club and employed – cash payments, nuff said – Terry McCann (Dennis Waterman) as his muscle. Answerable only to "'er indoors" – the missus who was never seen.

Comedy: Minder (1979 - 1993) Cole had been doing morally questionable characters like this since playing black marketeer Flash Harry in the St Trinians movies in the fifties and was surely born to sell second-hand motors, no questions asked.

Standout moment: Daley’s habit of trying to display wisdom by speaking proper but getting the words wrong, ie "the world is your lobster".

Memorable catchphrase: "A nice little earner"

Lowest ebb: The plodding but infectious-as-bird flu theme tune – one of many sung by Denis Waterman which inspired Little Britain's "Write the feem tune, sing the feem tune" gag.

Big screen potential: America had Robert Redford and Paul Newman looking the epitome of twenties cool in the Sting, Britain had Arthur in a car coat and Terry in a bomber jacket trying to make a few quid in a highly dubious lock-up in the shadow of a block of council flats. Meanwhile on telly these days we have to make do with Hustle – similar scams, sharper suits.

Why are they a hero? Before Thatcherism got all stripey-braced and nasty and before Del Boy cornered the market in knock-off goods from Eastern Europe, Daley was a symbol of British entrepreneurial get-up and go, though most of the time it got up and went without making much of a profit. Never mind, there was always a drink waiting for him back at the Winchester.

Factoid: Cole was briefly reunited with Waterman in a recent episode of BBC1’s geriatric crime show, New Tricks – for which Waterman sang the feem tune but tragically didn’t write the feem tune.

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07-07-2011