THE sad, unexpected news of Dennis Waterman’s death will have hit a generation of viewers like a right hook from Terry McCann yesterday.
For those of us of a certain age, the actor and his two greatest creations embodied a golden and better age not just for TV but the country itself.
The first was his 1975-78 role as DS George Carter, alongside John Thaw’s equally memorable Jack Regan, in The Sweeney.
They were Flying Squad officers whose violent, alcohol-sodden crime-fighting was criticised by the cultural busy-bodies and loved by everyone else.
If you mention the show to a 50-plus viewer, a wistful glow of satisfaction, tinged with regret, will spread over their faces as they mutter: “Get ya trousers on, you’re nicked.”
Almost impossibly, though, Waterman’s second great role, as Minder’s long-suffering Terry McCann, was even better.
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The show could draw over 16million viewers, its two central characters lovable rogues many of its viewers wanted to be.
The fact it can lay serious claim to be the greatest ever British television series owes a lot to the writing of Leon Griffiths and the performance of George Cole as the eternally corrupt West London spiv Arthur Daley.
But the fact it was at times brutally realistic and had a heart of gold was down to the presence of the reassuringly hard Waterman, who was born to play ex-con and boxer Terry McCann and spend his life chasing payments from “Arfur. ARFUR??!”
He also sang the show’s I Could Be So Good For You “feme toon”.
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However, after spoiling us silly for ten years, Waterman left the ITV series in 1989 and went on to appear in many other successes, such as New Tricks.
True TV fans will mourn the passing of a fine actor, his unforgettable shows and a time when a cop, like Carter, could tell a villain: “You bruise him and you’ll need an embalmer, not a brief.”