Monday, 8 August 2016

461 The Professionals

First  viewed  : September  1980

We  say  a  belated  hello  to  Bodie  and  Doyle  here,  now  into  their  fourth  season. As  regular  readers  might  recall  the  first  Friday  night   season  clashed  with  Gangsters  on  BBC 1  and  for  the  subsequent  two  Saturday  night  seasons  we  stuck  with  Starsky  and  Hutch  (  a  major  inspiration  for  The  Professionals )  . However  I'm  sure  I've  seen  many  episodes  from  those  first  three  seasons  on  repeat.

The  Professionals  was  developed  as  a  replacement  series  for  The  New  Avengers  with  Brian  Clemens  wishing  to  produce  a  more  realistic  drama  series. The  science  fiction  elements  and  campy  humour  of  the  previous  series  were  dropped  but  it's  debatable  whether  much  "realism"  was  ever  achieved  with  Gordon  Jackson's  shouts  of  "Oh  My  God  he's  a  KGB  agent ! " mid-plot  and  Bodie  and  Doyle  besting  a  whole  squad  of  Angolan  mercenaries  in  unarmed  combat.

The  "Professionals"  were  a  duo  who  worked  for  the  fictional  C.I.5  who  sat  neatly  between  the  Flying  Squad  and  M.I.5  giving  the  scriptwriters  freedom  to  go  either  way  between  serious  crimes  and  national  security  storylines. Bodie  ( Lewis  Collins )  and  Doyle  ( Martin  Shaw )  always  worked  together  and  there  was  some  on-screen  chemistry  although  their  dialogue  rarely  rose  above  laddish  ribaldry  for  which  the  series  was  often  criticised. There  was  however  one  glaring  difference  between  them. Shaw, as  his  subsequent  career  proves, was  a  decent  actor ; Collins  wasn't  and  relied  on  one  facial  expression  , an  arrogant  smirk  , to  accompany  his  wooden  delivery. They  reported  to  former  hard  man  George  Cowley  , played  in  an  hilarious  piece  of  miscasting,  by  Gordon  Jackson, fresh  from  Upstairs  Downstairs.  No  doubt  he  thought  he  was  proving  his  versatility  by  taking  the  role  but  he  always  looked  like  a  fish  out  of  water.

The  series  employed  a  number  of  different  writers  and  so  the  stories  varied  from  being  reasonably  engaging  to  mundane  and  formulaic. There  was  always  a  car  chase  and  some  violence  , whether  a  shoot-out  or  fisticuffs  and  usually  some  mild  titillation  such  as  the  memorable  scene  where  Bodie  had  to  retrieve  a  hand  grenade  that  had  fallen  down  Pamela  Stephenson's  blouse ( see  above ).

The  ones  I  recall  are :

  • An  episode  where  the  agents  question  themselves  over  the  use  of  dum  dum  bullets  , complicated  by  the  fact  that  they  unwittingly  become  friendly  with  their  eventual  adversaries
  • A  story  where  the  lads  investigate  a  chief  constable  who's  taking  zero  tolerance  a  bit  too  far
  • A  sniper  storyline  which  has  Karl  Howman  in  drag  ( not  a  pretty  sight ) 
The  series  was  a  regular  target  for  Mary  Whitehouse  but  in  the  end  it  was  Shaw  and  Collins  who  decided  to  pull  the  plug  on  it. Shaw  had  long  been  publicly  unhappy  in  the  role   while  Collins  had  landed  the  star  role  as  an  S.A.S.  chief  in  Who  Dares  Wins  and  imagined  a  glittering  film  career  lay  ahead  of  him.  This  was  in  1981  although  the  last  episodes  were  not  broadcast  until  1983. Shaw  is  still  a  bankable  TV  name  but  poor  Collins  suffered  a  steep  decline  in  opportunities  as  he  aged  and  spent  his  last  decade  selling  I.T.  equipment  in  the  U.S. He  died  three  years  ago  aged  67. Cowley  was  Jackson's  last  regular  TV  role  but  he  still  acted  for  the  rest  of  the  eighties  in  mini-series  and  the  occasional  film  role  before  his  death  from  cancer  aged  66  at  the  beginning  of  1990.


  1. I remember this being repeated on ITV4 or suchlike when I was a teen, and it was entertaining enough. I particularly enjoyed Roger Lloyd-Pack portraying an apparently Middle Eastern assassin.

    Personally, I quite enjoyed Jackson as Cowley, but then I never watched Upstairs Downstairs... I always enjoyed when he gave a comeuppance to some upper-class type who thought he could do as he pleased.

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