The Professionals MK1 Review
It blurred the line between the criminals and those sent in to police them
“Anarchy, acts of terror, crimes against the public. To combat it I've got special men - experts from the army, the police, from every service - these are The Professionals”So says George Cowley (Gorden Jackson), head of Criminal Intelligence 5, or CI5 as it’s more commonly known. A no-nonsense war veteran who answers to no one but the highest authority in the country; whose remit is to protect the state from foreign and domestic assaults and to enforce his rule with a kick to the goolies or a gun to the head. But above all this the man has a sense of duty and is an unwavering paragon of justice and right; oh yes he will bend the rules, even break them if he has to, but always with right on his side. Cowley is a fierce leader, but he leads from the front and in his wake come his officers, brought up with the same strict sense of duty and honour - these are not police, they are not army, but some perverted amalgamation of the two which is formidable and unstoppable.Britain in the 70’s was a very different animal than it is today: tensions were high, sexism, racism, unions, civil unrest all where highly sensitive issues that were being dealt with in a very different way. Criminal institutions were taking advantage of this to become ever more prevalent and dangerous as a way to combat this new type of criminal, CI5 was formed and at its head, Cowely, a veteran who has seen it, done it, lived it and who’s head for justice cuts through the red tape that bogs down normal policing. Of his officers, there are two that are head and shoulders above the rest; agent’s 37 and 45, that’s Bodie (Lewis Collins) and Doyle (Martin Shaw), two similar but very different agents partnered together that enforce their line and rule according to Cowley’s direct instruction.
Whose remit is to protect the state from foreign and domestic assaults and to enforce his rule with a kick to the goolies or a gun to the head.
Bodie was a teenage tearaway who ended up as a mercenary, a member of the SAS in Ireland and was eventually recruited into CI5. His sense of duty is to Cowley, he is a soldier through and through; see him stand to attention when being berated, see him wrestle with his words when told not to speak; but see him in action and you know where his skill really lies. Working with his partner he becomes a one man killing machine, ruthless, without mercy but always for the right reasons; even (in much later episodes) when he is out for himself. He sees situations in black and white and berates his partner when tactical plans are changed on the fly, even when they might have put him in harm’s way. A hard man, a vicious man, sometime sexist, sometimes racist but always for the job (Martin Riggs?)
Doyle too was as much a tearaway as his partner, but joined the police force to gain some discipline, he was recruited to CI5 due to his gun training and disenchantment with the force whose corruption was rivalling those of the criminal fraternity it is supposed to be tackling. Doyle is as hard as Bodie, but in a different way, he is nowhere near as mercenary, and has some empathy with those in bad situations, but when push comes to shove he will shoot first and act later; his loyalty to his company, or partner, is without question. Somewhat sensitive his biggest problem is with himself, the acts he commits are, sometimes at odds with his outlook and this can (in much later episodes) cause him to suffer internally and wrestle with his own life. But here, in the opening episodes these two formidable officers are new recruits in this newly formed organisation – basically at the top of their game.
CI5 were a new division of police, somewhere between the S.A.S. and Special Branch.
The above characters were created by Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell for the TV show The Professionals which aired on British TV between 1977 and 1983. The show was a hard hitting look at crime in the country and what was perceived as an unstoppable tide of criminal activity needed a tough police force to deal with it. CI5 were a new division of the police, somewhere between the S.A.S. and Special Branch, answerable to the Home Secretary alone, their ‘loophole’ was “by any means necessary” which meant and almost James Bond ‘licence to kill’ approach to policing. This made the show very different to other police shows of the time; the closest would have been The Sweeney, but as hard hitting and realistic as that show was, The Professionals went a step further in both violence and fantasy criminality and terrorism (mass poisonings, assassinations, etc.) and very much blurred the line between the criminals and those sent in to police them.
The first season was beset with problems including last minute cast changes, uncooperative actors, tensions on set and filming and budgetary delays; but looking at the show you would never know it; it is polished, contemporary (even now!) and contains episodes that tackle some very sticky subjects – the most famous of which must be Klansman that looked at racism in the only way the show could, like a bull in a china shop; head on. Infamously never shown on terrestrial TV in the UK due to its subject matter it has nevertheless been shown throughout the world and, indeed, here on cable/satellite, without the walls of civilisation crumbling down. It is, however, a troubling show, not least because of Bodie’s characterisation; even though he is redeemed it does seem out of nature in what is an otherwise terrifically scripted show – whose twist ending is delicious.
Indeed the whole of the first season is without any real dips in quality, even if the ideas in place might be farfetched. Each director gives the scripts a sense of pace, all three main actors are really on their game and the slightly antagonistic relationship between Collins and Shaw makes for an electric tension between them. As the series moves on they really become the character, their mannerisms become ever more natural and a spark grows that would stay with them throughout the entire run of the series. Backstories are only hinted at and each episode stands up well in its entirety, but as a flowing show, shown for the first time in production order, you get a real appreciation of where the show was heading, how the actors tackled their roles and watch as the chemistry becomes part of the show. This set also replaces all of the original credit sequences (both opening and closing) as well. Indeed, as the picture and sound portions testify, this whole set has been lovingly restored and has simply never looked to good. Fans of the show, or anyone interested in hard hitting police stories that tackle a myriad of ideas, should check it out, it comes highly recommended.
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