Friday, May 4, 2012

MINDER - a format for a new television series

Here is a copy of the document that writer, Leon Griffiths, used to sell his television series idea to Thames Television. Griffiths found a champion in Thames Television's script editor/oproducer, Linda Agran, who sheparded it into eventual production. The rest is history.

by Leon Griffiths

"Minder" is a new type of action/character television series featuring an independant bodyguard who often operates on the fringe of legality but alwyas seems to end up on the side of the angels.

Do you remember the opening minutes of "Rocky" when th hero is collecting a debt for some heavies? He is tough but nice, mildly threatening but certainly not vicious. That incident could easily be a sicty-seconds pilot for this series.

The hero of "Minder" is "The Magnificent Seven" minus six; a hero who takes on jobs outside the scope of police and such organisations as Securicor.

It is a "street" series relying heavily on the new "exotica" of London. No more shots of Tower Bridge opening and closing - but a reasonable number of stories set among the Greeks of Camden Town; the Irish around Holloway and Kilburn; Indians in Southall; Bengalis in the East end; Italians who've moved from Clerkenwell to Stanmore (is Stanmore the Tuscany of the suburbs?); West Indians in Brixton and Cricklewood; Chinese in Gerrard Street; new towns full of old East-enders; smart clubs where the new aristocracy of property dealers, BMW commissinaires and wheeler-dealers of the pop industry congregate.
The series is predicated on several prejudices shared by most viewers and a lot of writers and directors:
  • They're getting sick of seeing cops chasing robbers through the streets of San Francisco and Belgravia.
  • The free-lance do-gooder is only believeable if you place him in the unreal world inhabited by the Saint and the Avengers.
  • The criminal as a hero is not acceptable as the protagonist of a long-running series.
  • One British private-eye is enough.
  • Heroes employed by strange unknown "trouble-shooting agencies are unbelieveable and they'd rather have Starsky and Hutch anyway.
Yet there is a need for a hero who is on our side, who is rebellious, independent, tough and amusing and is not a villain. His name is TERRY and he is the hero of "MINDER".

As I outline some of the stories themorality of such a series will become apparent. It will also become clear that there is no "police" or "private-eye" story that cannot be adapted to the format of "MINDER".

Violence is implicit in the character, but need not be explicit in the series. Terry is not a stunt-driver, so there won't be spectacular car chases that land everybody in the local Magistrates' Court the following morning. For Terry it is often enough to squeeze somebody's elbow and suggest that they stop being a "silly feller" to avoid unrealistic shoot-outs and shattered balsa-wood bannisters.

Most successful series feature two cunning characters. "Minder" is no exception, but the relationship is more complex than in most series. It is not simply that one is older than the ohter, or jokier than the other.

ARTHUR is a "face", a "well-respected" man in certain parts of London. He fancies himself as a Godfather but often emerges from the stories more like a well-dressed, dodgey employee of the Citizens' Advice Bureau. He is often to be found trying to shift 400 Dralon sofa covers while hiring Terry out to someone who needs a bit of looking after.

Arthur always takes the bigger share of the fee and is certainly not a man to depend on in a tight corner. Arthur lives in a world of favours bestowed and the'd better be returned.

Arhtur is the fringe villain that all your rich friends know and think of as a "card". Arthur is a myth perpetuated by himself.

Arthur is amusing but a bit unscrupulous and he'd hire out Terry to protect somebody from the armoured dvision of the Red Army if the price was right.

TERRY is never going to reach the finals of "Mastermind" but he catches on quick in the world he knows and understands. He has a past and is desperately anxious to stay "straight". He knows he isn't much more than "hired muscle", but at least he's good at it. He's got a reputation and is smart enough to know that there will always be another fast gun riding into town.

Do you doubt the existence of the Minder? Well, no pop star would be seen without one and ditto most international pop stars. The euphemism is "driver" or "my man". But we don't want it to be a series about show business. So who else would use a "minder"? The man who owned the Spaghetti House chain for starters.

Our version of that story would probably run like this:

"Siege At The OK Corral". Albert Delano is a second-generation Italian who owns six down-market restaurants trading under the name of OK Corral Steak Houses. Friday nights he collects the takings and he doesn't want two guys wearing funny crash helmets and uniforms accompanying him. He knows Arthur and had done so ever since "the old days" and he regards Terry as a greater deterrent to most of the criminals who might be tempted to nick the takings.

The four black villains who attempt the robbery are amateurs. Terry saves the money buit finds humself trapped with Albert, a couple of customers and the four villains in a downstairs store-room.

Arthur hears about it on his car radio. He is soon on the spot hectoring and hindering the police. After all... that's his meal-ticket in there.

The police bribg all the usual techniques into play... concealed microphones, video cameras on the drain holes, psychologists, sharpshooters, etc

But is Terry who eventually strikes up a rapport with the villains; it is Terry who unutes villains and hostages in a common suspcion of the police methods; it is Terry who finally "outfronts" the one really dangerous villain... and it is Terry, with his known police record, who is carted off to the local nick under suspicion of being party to the robbery in the first place.

Arthur and Mr Delano manage to establish his innocence and Arthur, naturally, gyps him on the fee... "after all Terry, you got all the publicty."

What will become clear as the series progresses is that although Terry sometimes finds it hard to distinguish betwen legal right and wrong he is always certain about good and bad.

When he does get into a fight we will want him to win as fervently as we wabted Shane to win when confronting the bar-room bullies.

Inevitably many of the people who emply Terry have something to hide, answers ti questions they'd rather not be asked.

We would not tackle a story like "OUT" because Frank Ross wouldn't want Terry's help and Arthur would be unlikely to offer it. But we could will go into the area of "George Somebody-or-other is innocent."

In "Innocent O.K.?"  a journalist is writing a book on a man doing a life sentence. The journalist wants to meet people involved in the case... villains, suspects, coppers, wives, sweethearts, grasses... but his publisher is fearful for his safety. Terry will be his guide and protector.

But Terry finds that they are straying beyond the boundaries of his tribal territory. The journalist is being threatened as he upsets villains and coppers alike. Terry is "on wages" which gains him a kind of immunity from some of the villains but also means that he must go all the way with the crusading journalist.

And all the way means forcing the real villain out into the sopen, seeing that justice is done without informing or transgressing his onw simply constructed moral code.

Simple matters of protection soon develop into tough, complicated situation for Terry and Arthur. In "The Bengal Tiger" Tariq, the local newsagent, seeks Arthur's help because he's having a hard time from some tearaways and realises that if he takes up arms or pick-axe handles to oppose them he'll be the one taken to the local nick accused of starting a race riot.

Arthur has long operated a nice take-away service at Tariq's expense - he takes away newspapers, magazines and a few Panatellas and puts them on a non-existent bill. For L300 he'll help Tariq. "kids," he tells Terry, "bunch of yobboes. Sit in the shop for a week; there's a hundred and twenty in it for you."

Yariq appears to have quite a few problems. His daughter, Shiva, is a pretty seventeen-year-old with an East-end accent deeply opposed to the idea of a contracted marriage "to some bleeding rice picker from old Bengal." Also the "kids and yobboes" who are harrassing Tariq turn out to be mature heavies from South of the river. Shiva disappears. Has she run away or been kidnapped? For now Terry has discoverd that Tariq deals in more than the Daily Mirror and half ounces of Olf Holborn... he's running a racket in forged entry permits to Mother England. In finding the girl Terry is obliged to break the racket...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you ever been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The full glance of your web site is excellent, as neatly as the content!