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.