Minder – Aces High and Sometimes Very Low

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Professional gambler Maurice Michaelson (Anthony Valentine) has a problem – he’s simply too good at his job.  Because of his skill at poker, he’s found himself barred from a local casino and is later robbed of his winnings.  He’s convinced that he can make good though, thanks to a high stakes poker game run by some shady Greeks.

With Terry onboard as his minder, Maurice loses heavily.  Convinced the game was crooked he manages to persuade Arthur to advance him some more stake money (using his Jaguar as collateral) and prepares to do battle once more.

Some of the regular television characters that Anthony Valentine had played in the past tended to follow a familiar pattern.  For example, Toby Meres in Callan (charming and borderline psychotic), Major Horst Mohn in Colditz (not charming and borderline psychotic) and Raffles (charming and not borderline psychotic at all), etc etc.  Maurice Michaelson, on the other hard, is charming but he’s not really a criminal type or a sufferer of any form of neurosis – he’s just been blessed with a skill that he can’t exploit to the full.

Both Terry and Arthur take something of a back-seat in this one, as Maurice’s gambling exploits are the key focus.  But although they aren’t as prominent in the narrative as usual, they do have some good moments.  Terry tangles with the alluring Stella (a pre-Star Trek:The Next Generation Marina Sirtis) whilst Arthur naturally attempts to make the maximum amount of profit from Maurice’s car (much to Terry’s amusement).

This episode also gives us the unusual, if not unique, sight of Terry and Arthur sitting in the Winchester playing cards.  It’s obvious though that the scene only exists so that Maurice can turn up and criticise Arthur’s playing style (and their low stakes – a penny a point) and then demonstrate his own undoubted skills.

Maurice would return in the series two episode, You Lose Some You Win Some, and whilst the later episode is my favourite of the two since it has a more entertaining storyline (Maurice recruits a group of non-gamblers to work undercover at a casino he’s barred from) this one does have an authentic, seedy and smoky atmosphere – conjured up by Minder’s creator, Leon Griffiths.

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