A month or so ago I was watching some programme on ITV4 on Saturday evening. The following morning I woke up early as is my wont and switched on the telly. ITV 4 was showing The Professionals and I rapidly became absorbed. Where possible I now watch it from 6.30/7.30 every Sunday morning.
It was first shown between 1977 and 1983 – the brainchild of Brian Clemens who made The Avengers. It was my dad’s favourite programme which we all watched as a family. As an early teen I fancied Martin Shaw (Doyle) rather the rough edged Lewis Collins (Bodie). Later I wrote a book on tv drama of the sixties and seventies. I noted a formula which began with The Man from Uncle of two well known actors, Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as Ila Kuryakin, with an elderly boss normally an experience film actor, in that case Leo Carroll. This followed in the wake of The Persuaders with Roger Moore as Lord Brett Sinclair and Tony Curtis, with their controller Judge Fulton( Laurence Naismith).
The crucial question is how have these dated. In the case of The Professionals rather well. CI5 is a crime solving unit positioned between MI5 and the CI5 and run by George Cowley (Gordon Jackson) who starred in The Great Escape with David McCallum. Bodie was a former mercenary and SAS man (he actually did try to join the SAS) and Doyle, a detective, are the action unit. The one last Sunday featured a disturbed ex-soldier beautifully played by Iain MacDiarmid who is on a vengeance trail slaying doctors after the pregnancy of his wife went wrong and she committed suicide. Doyle, the more sensitive of the two, tries to counsel him in the final showdown in Wembley Conference centre. The programme has high octane action sequences. I was expecting some political incorrectness but aside from the sexism of Bodie there was none. Martin Shaw went on to a successful career as a popular tv actor. Lewis Collins less so. He went to Los Angeles to start a production company without success and died of cancer aged 67.
I enjoyed seeing the trademarks of the seventies: the Capri, the huge glasses, those shirt like jackets, the bubble perm – but Brian Clemens had created something more enduring with the x-factor of highly watchable tv drama.