Reinventing the world of Arthur Daley was always going to come in for some flack (not least from me). Some British institutions just shouldn’t be tampered with and Channel Five’s attempt to bring dodgy dealing, witty repartee and a smattering of London gangsters could never hope to match up to the brilliance of the original.
So, this review was never going to be a question of whether this first episode would be good or bad. This was always a case of just how bad it would be.
Those involved in the show have consistently gone on record as saying this wasn’t ever meant to be a remake of the Cole/Waterman days, hence we get Archie Daley and not Arthur Daley (Archie is Arthur’s nephew) and we get a whole new minder in Jamie Collins, played by Lex Shrapnel. The problem in setting out to distance itself from the original though lies in the fact that it’s still calling itself Minder and that Archie is quite clearly meant to represent Arthur Daley for a new generation. He’s a geezer, a wideboy, a guy who’s in it to win it and has fingers in plenty of pies. Whether this kind of character is still relevant in today’s digital society, where Internet fraud is taking in victims on every street corner and knock-off Nigels can be far more profitable from the comfort of their own bedrooms is up for debate.
I’ll put that to one side though and take a closer look at this opening episode of the series, starting with the awful credits. As a stylised, choppy credit sequence plays out, complete with a typeface taken straight from RocknRolla, a horrific rendition of I Could Be So Good For You is played by Attic Lights, an apparently popular modern indie combo. On Five’s own website, the song is described as being iconic. Why rehash it then? Surely a completely different theme song would have been wiser?
After this poor start, we’re introduced to messers Daley and Collins as Archie hitches a ride in the back of Jamie’s taxi. Some thugs are chasing him and, asking very few questions, Jamie takes Archie under his wing, displaying a capacity for looking after himself along the way (we later find out that he spent some time in prison for GBH). Having formed something of an alliance, it’s onto the meat of the plot, which is where this first episode really lost it for me. Amounting to little more than a town planning dispute (some local goons called the Cole brothers and a dodgy councillor want a pub out of the way so that a vast shopping complex can be built on the ground) the boys get themselves deeper and deeper involved while the audience gets more and more bored. Taking an hour to tell a story that could be easily dealt with in less than half the time, the episode felt rather ponderous.
I can only assume that the reason the tale did take an hour to tell was because we needed a full and proper introduction to the two lead characters, to witness their relationship blossom and get ready for episode two. If that’s the case, then I hope that second episode cracks on a bit as watching Richie and Shrapnel play off each other was embarrassing at times.
Acting was a problem in this episode. Richie did nothing to convince me that he holds the star potential needed to drive a series like this. Shrapnel fared better, but then he didn’t have as much to say or do, other than run around a lot looking quite hard. The programme notes on Five’s website claim that ‘At the core of the show is a funny, infuriating, warm and unbreakable relationship between two unlikely men’. While that may have been true of the original, the only word of that sentence that sums up the interplay between these two is infuriating. There were glimpses of light to be seen – the scene when Archie picked Jamie up from the cells showed an understated understanding between the pair that was nicely handled – but there were also plenty of duff points. Perhaps none worse than the final scene when Archie turned to Jamie and asked him to trust him. The acting was forced, not helped by the anodyne script.
Mind you, there was worse acting on show. The Cole brothers (black-haired brother in particular) were utter crap.
So, all in all not a brilliant start but despite all its problems, the show was far from the calamity that some reviews would have you believe. Shane Richie is not a leading actor but he’s also not a dreadful one and while his mugging to camera and attempts at humour – and frequent malapropisms – regularly bordered on the theatrical, he was still quite watchable. The plot was far too thin for the runtime (especially the final showdown at Battersea Power Station) but there were again glimpses of something much better – the early standoff with the thugs was a highlight. And the Cole brothers were arrested at the end so at least they won’t be back next time round.
However, this first episode had one problem that I fear it will struggle to fix. Minder 2009 was charmless and that’s something you could never say about the original.