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On the surface the success of The Professionals is something of an enigma.
Two characters with embarrassing haircuts, dreadful dress-sense, little
respect for birds... err, women, in a show almost universally panned by
Yet the Professionals not only succeeded in its day but continues to do so in repeat runs almost 25 years on.
Bodie and Doyle's characteristics arguably had near-plagiaristic similarities to that of Starsky & Hutch. The action and (more particularly) violence depicted was essentially a continuation of the "rules" laid down by The Sweeney. Yet The Professionals still carved out a niche for itself. What sets it apart from the other shows is the firework chemistry between the two leads (as much down to the good fortune of casting Shaw and Collins together - two completely different actors) and the jibing, black humour they share and harangue each other with.
Gordon Jackson's searing performance as Cowley, meanwhile, proved to be a formidable boss for the two reprobates.
The humour also extended to the situations and the show was not afraid to make fun of itself occasionally.
In the early years the exciting, varied plots were a bonus, too (Contrary to other remarks, they were often quite complex). Action-wise, Collins and Shaw gamely tackled much of their own stuntwork.
Although characterisation was never the primary objective of the show, the characters were given a reasonable opportunity to add facets to their personae. Doyle, in particular, emerged as a surprisingly rounded, unpredictable and constantly surprising character - due mainly to Shaw's splendid acting skills.
Unlike other British action shows, the Professionals gained an immense female following - indeed its fandom is probably split 50:50 between the sexes.
In the meantime London Weekend Television exported the show massively to eager overseas broadcasters (and continues to do so to this day).
However the programme was not without faults. By the fourth season (1980) the writing team were struggling to find new ideas and the boys of CI5 often found themselves lumbered with jobs that more traditional law forces would normally take on.
By 1981 the show was clearly running out of steam and with Shaw and Collins keen to move on to other things, LWT decided to call it a day after a grand total of 57 episodes.
Today it's easy to say the whole reason it's such a success again is because of its refreshingly un-PC image. Yet there is more to it than that and, indeed, what were seen as the strengths of the show in 1977 are being appreciated by new audiences the world over.
"The Professionals" has been slated from all sides over the years. It's fallen foul of, among others, the self-appointed moralist zealots of television watchdog groups because of its often hard-hitting violence, and the feminist lobby for its portrayal of most of its female characters as bimbos and ciphers. Even Martin Shaw, one of its three main stars, was so embarrassed by the show that for years his veto prevented it from being repeated in the UK (or perhaps it was simply because he was ashamed of the perm which he sported throughout the show's six-year run and which led to co-star Lewis Collins giving him the nickname "the Bionic Gollywog"). Whatever the reason, "The Professionals" won few critical admirers at the time and now - in the age of political correctness - is perhaps even more widely pooh-poohed. So why did it run for 6 years and become one of British TV's biggest ever, and most popular, exports? And why does it still enjoy cult status? The answer, paradoxically, lies in the reasons why it was so widely reviled in the first place. It's violent, politically incorrect and - to put it kindly - doesn't demand that its audiences have the intellect of rocket scientists to follow its plots. It was escapist entertainment aimed at boys of all ages from 10 to 50. Pictures of Bodie & Doyle adorned the bedroom walls of teenage girls up and down the land as they got in on the act too. And the show practically became an hour-long advertisement for the Ford motor company. In the UK during the late 70s and early 80s, it was positively hazardous to venture forth on a Friday night during a "Professionals" run, for fear of being knocked over and hospitalised by some young Johnny screeching round the corner in his Ford Capri, pretending to be Bodie & Doyle. Sure, "The Professionals" (like most shows of the genre) had its moronic moments, but who can forget classics like the episode in which two anti-social misfits holed up on a high rooftop and started taking pot-shots at a nearby hospital? Or the one with Bodie trapped in a country house, under siege by a bunch of German terrorists and with all contact to the outside world lost? Everything the critics accuse "The Professionals" of may well be true. But who cares? It's still a cult classic. They don't make 'em like that any more.
I was only born a year after this series started production, so I only
it by re-runs, thanks largely to my mother who loves the
There are a great many TV series with the premise that you've got good guys running around trying to catch bad guys, and there are guns, cars and explosives thrown in for good measure. Some are good, some are not. The Professionals is a cut above the rest, not because of any trick or gimmick but simply because of superb writing, casting, directing and acting.
Shaw (Doyle), Collins (Bodie) and Jackson (Cowley) excel in their roles and are really the glue of the whole series. The constant jibing between Doyle and Bodie is an absolute delight to watch, as is Bodie's unashamed love for fast-driving and shooting stuff.
The action is very satisfying, with many shoot-outs, explosions and car chases. The plots are actually more varied and sophisticated than most people seem to remember, some of them require a very sharp mind to keep track of the wheeling and dealing. There's espionage, grand-theft, madmen with nerve-gas and more than a few personal vendettas. The characters, too, are deeper than most people seem to remember.
My favourite episodes are: "Discovered in a Graveyard" - Doyle is shot and seriously wounded by an unknown assasin. While Bodie and Cowley hunt down the shooter, we are given an insight into the thoughts going through Doyle's comatose mind.
"Blind Run" - what starts as a simple escort run for Doyle and Bodie turns into an urban war as their charge turns out to be much more significant than they thought. This is one of the most action-packed episodes, featuring multiple shootouts and car-chases.
"Mixed Doubles" - Bodie and Doyle are assigned to organise protection for a very high-level foreign diplomat who is almost certain to be an assasination target. As we see our two heroes making preparations, we also see the two hired assasins making theirs and we get an incredible insight into just how similar the two doubles are, and how sad it is that only one pair of them can survive the day.
Arguably one of the best British action series ever made. The Professionals
has a gritty, streetwise style, strong plots and scripts and excellent
acting. Out of the episodes made between 1977 and 1981, there is hardly a
bad one: the quality spoke for itself.
Many episodes see what feels like two hours' worth of storyline packed tightly and competently into the single hour. The editing, photography, direction, stunts and score stand comparison today. The ingredients endeared the series to its many fans, probably attracting viewers from outside its target market. It was an example of how we could have it all - and its longevity was not down to luck alone.
It is even credited for the long production life of the Ford Capri sports car, driven by the two main agents in the series, Bodie (Lewis Collins) and Doyle (Martin Shaw). The rapport between the two actors is superb and at no times are their performances unrealistic.
The series sees a fictional unit, CI5, which is not answerable to any one ministry. Its controller, Maj George Cowley (Gordon Jackson), commands loyalty and respect amongst his men, and would fight to the ends on their behalf. His access to the highest levels within Westminster is without doubt. Bodie, ex-SIS, and Doyle, formerly with the police, are faced with perilous situations against terrorists, spies, and traitors. Thanks to their specialist skills and attitude, they cope well in any situation.
The Professionals is still a demonstration of British television at its best.
All I can add to what has been said before is, what an excellent series this
was. It had to be London Weekend Television's most expensive production at
the time, and you could see that every penny appeared on screen. There were
shoot-outs, explosions, and fist-fights galore every friday night at 9pm,
when the episodes were originally shown during the late '70s and early '80s.
The sexist banter between the heroes Bodie and Doyle is typical of the
period, but stills remains funny to watch. One episode called 'Klansman',
about a British right wing group to which Bodie becomes sympathetic, has to
this day never been screened in the U.K. for fear of inflaming racial
tensions, which were at their height during the Professionals' five year
run. It has however, been transmitted in other parts of
Due to the media, and the then Tory government's paranoia about 'Video Nasties' and TV violence, a sixth series was never made with the original actors. Unfortunately though, it's creator Brian Clemens, decided to update and resurrect the series about four years ago. It sank without trace.
My fave episode has to be 'Hunter Hunted', in which the heros have to recover a stolen prototype rifle, which has a laser aiming system. This series was truly revolutionary!!!
When 'The Professionals' was aired at first in Germany - I believe it
must have been some when in the eighties - I *loved* this show. I had
never seen anything that grim and realistic before. What I liked most
about it was that the 'good guys' weren't really 'good', they were
complex character- and morality- wise and, especially the Bodie
character, could as well have played on the other side of the fence.
The violence was portrayed rather realistic and unstylised and the
characters looked gritty enough to feel real.
Feeling somewhat nostalgic (must be my old age) I just bought the complete DVD set and found that I still like it a lot - although I see it differently nowadays. Analysing my feelings for it I found that what I like most about it now is the interaction between the main characters, and on my second watching of the complete series I find myself often ff-ing through the story to the parts with the lads (MS and LC). For me it's all about seeing pretty (but undoubtedly male) men run, jump, fight, shoot, saving each other's lives and - banter with each other. No wonder that it still has a major following among females and inspires reams of fanfiction!
Nearly thirty years since it was first seen on TV and still highly enjoyable despite the outdated fashion, hairstyles, motors and technique (have a look at those computers!) - this is a true classic that has proved its erstwhile critics wrong. An endeavour all participants (including Martin Shaw) can and should be proud of, I think, because it is no small feat to inspire such love and loyalty in their fans.
The Professionals is an extremely high quality cult t.v series that well
truly deserves its tag of "t.v legend".This is due to its excellent
courtesy of Brian Clemens and co. and the outstanding theme and incidental
scores of the incomparable Laurie Johnson.The series itself has a truly
filmic quality due to the varied locations used - from beautiful shots of
the English countryside with the immortal Ford Capris speeding by to the
sweeping panning camera shots of the city of London.Everything about this
series is memorable , from the exhilarating opening theme complete with
wahwah guitar and "Shaft" style hihats to the abrasive , yet humorous
relationship between the two leads.Even though most people seem to
this series as so-called standard crime/adventure viewing , in reality ,
is more than that.Particular episodes , such as "Wild Justice" , is about
the character Bodie (Lewis Collins) in particular and asks whether he is
able to continue working effectively under the stress placed on him by the
demands of a job in an organisation such as Ci5.This sounds a reasonably
formal premise for a plot , but on viewing the episode itself we see that
unusual elements (such as Bodie going to an oriental martial arts/medical
expert for help and advice) have been thoughtfully added by the writer to
give an extra edge.To enhance this interesting angle further , the
character then proceeds to give Cowley - Bodies boss (Gordon Jackson) a
lecture about where the soul might be placed in the body , definetly an
unusual and welcome aspect to proceedings and it is precisely these
that make the Professionals linger in the mind long after an episode is
Unfortunately , at the time the show was mauled by critics , being cited as "moronic" and overly violent.It is undoubtedly fair to say that the show most certainly was the latter of these two things , being primarily a contemporary crime/drama series.It is also fair to say that whenever there was violence present on the screen it was handled with a certain flair and portrayed realistically.However , the reason the vitriolic attack from the critics didnt sour the publics appetite for the show was this - excellent acting from the trio of Gordon jackson (Cowley) , Lewis Collins (Bodie) and Martin Shaw (Doyle) in the lead roles , first class writing and production , the special atmosphere that permeated every episode , the memorable chemistry between Bodie and Doyle and the music , which spawned a theme which is now a signature within the genre itself and incidental music which managed magnificently to capture many differing moods and emotions , some normally found outside the often narrowly viewed crime/drama division section of television entertainment.The Professionals was and still is different and set new standards in many areas that television today is still catching up to.BUGS , anyone ?
I remember watching this British TV show when I was stationed in England
the 70's. I remember it was (in a way) similar to Starsky and Hutch but
much more hard core. Two guys ( counter- terrorist agents type) would
crime. Very fast moving and explosive. (I learned quick that British TV
was much more liberal than regular TV shows in the states-I missed it
I wasn't even born when this show was first shown on British TV in the
70's. It was created by Brian Clemens, was a follow-up to a cop show
The Sweeney and starred Gordon Jackson as George Cowley, Lewis Collins as
Bodie and Martin Shaw (who hated the show and his character) as Ray Doyle,
working for a spy agency called CI5.
Violent, sexist and very politically incorrect, The Professionals was just good fun and it knew how daft it was. Basically an episode would go like this: Bad guy of episode shows up, usually foreign and he was a hitman, terrorist, spy or something like that. He would commit a crime and then the main titles which still impress would come on backed by the great theme tune. Bodie and Doyle would be given the case by Cowley, and then there would be 45 minutes of fights and car chases (in their Ford Capris) which ended with the bad guy dying in an explosion.
The plots were interesting and there were a lot of good ideas from the writers. After the show ended there were lots of pretty awful follow-up shows like Dempsey and Makepeace and Bergerac and have mostly been forgotten. Although The Professionals is not often seen on TV nowadays it's a cult classic, and way better than any of the stuff they put on nowadays.
'The Professionals' came into being at a time when the media was
obsessed with secret services, specialist divisions, gun crime, and
terrorism. For five years this expensive LWT series had a prime time
slot just after the watershed and entertained us with its mix of
violence, cars, guns, and sexist banter.
Lewis Collins (Bodie) and Martin Shaw (Doyle) became household names in their portrayals of the laconic, cynical, and fearless agents who saved the day from grenade-carriers, gunmen, and gangsters. Gordon Jackson as Cowley, their boss, had another plum TV role and was perfect in it. Sexist and silly the series may have been, but it has perhaps stood up better than other crime programmes made in the late 1970s.
Curtailed too soon because of the mood of the time, 'The Professionals' still looks good when viewed today, and enjoys re-runs on one of the many digital TV channels.
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