Manages to remain stoic and resilient, even if the tone and focus of the show was becoming lighter
The Professionals Review
Espionage, terrorism, security: there is nothing the Professionals can’t handle – except disenchanted actors and union strikes!After the rip roaring success and relative stability of the recording block on season two, season three was up against it from the start. A severely disenfranchised Martin Shaw was very vocal about the production and how he was tied into a four year contract, Lewis Collins was becoming very slack on set, new writers had to be appointed and series creator Brian Clemens was taking a further back seat. To make matters worse the ITV network unions were continually striking causing the channel to broadcast a test-card; all of which made production quite stressful. And even though there were thirteen episodes recorded only eight were shown (the rest were held over for the fourth season) and of those, three were from the second recording block, and none were in the ‘correct’ order. Thankfully, Network has put this right with their latest Blu-ray release, MKIII, which contains all thirteen episodes and in their correct production order.The tumultuous nature of the production does not readily show too much on screen and, apart from one or two duff (or incomprehensible) stories, the season as a whole is pretty solid. Indeed it contains my very favourite episode of the entire run “Mixed Doubles”; the plot of which comes secondary to the nature of the assassins and those assigned to protect the target (our heroes) and how they are essentially different sides of the same coin – beautifully shot, edited and intertwined with excellent performances throughout. With a series that had become conscious of its hard hitting nature, stories involving espionage and the re-treading of older stories started to creep in. The overall tone of the show was becoming lighter and season three was where the first cracks began to show. However despite this, the good far outweighs the bad in a series that continued to blaze its way ahead.
Blu-ray Picture QualityThe discs present a broadcast correct 1.33:1 1080i transfer using the AVC codec and are Region free.
Just as with MkI and MkII, the image on these discs is truly breath-taking; the work undertaken to restore the picture is astonishing and the results are a revelation. Detail throughout is pin sharp from close up skin texture and clothing weaves, to far distant building edges or tree branches. Indeed checkout the cranes and power pylons against the skyline in any epode to see that they all remains firm and unshaken, black against the white(/blue) which says as much for the contrast setting as it does for the detail level. Road surfaces and grass verges have a resolute feeling to them, office space is myriad with nick-knacks all readily discernible; brick walls, wooden panelling and artex ceilings have a relief that is tangible, 3D pop is also occasionally apparent.
As with the previous releases this latest Blu-ray is a revelation, with breathtaking images.
Colour has been extremely well graded to give excellent primary representation; reds are bold, greens lush and blues cool – there is never any hint or wash or bleed. Brightness and contrast, as hinted at above, are set to give wonderful depth to the image and extraordinary black level that hides its own shadow detail when called for and adds a punch to the picture. Crush and clip are non-existent. Digitally there are no compression artefacts, no edge enhancement, nor smearing or any other digital issues. The original print is in near pristine condition with only the rarest of damage visible. Grain is even and organic and save the occasional drop in picture quality that is almost always associated with stock filmed footage, there is nothing to report. Astonishing stuff.
Blu-ray Sound QualityThree tracks: English dts-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0 mono and a separate score only track. The sound has had just as good a clean up as that of the picture, however, the limitations of the mono source recording are the only drawbacks of this otherwise dynamic and engaging track. Dialogue is clean, clear and very precise, dominated by the frontal array and never drowned by any of the mayhem on screen. Stereo effects are somewhat limited, though speeding cars, swooping helicopters and gun shots do fair very well within the mix. Bass, unfortunately, is rather limited, the sub does come into its own to help with the aforementioned effects and, of course, the score makes good use of the lower end, however for some of the quieter episodes I did catch the sub pop into standby mode only to roar back into life on the next gunshot! The score, deserving of its own track, makes the most of the speakers and stereo effects.
Blu-ray ExtrasPicture Galleries – Hundreds of behind the scenes (and production) pictures set out in episode order.
PDF Material – Scripts and the like.
Booklet - Exclusive book of programme notes authored by TV historian Andrew Pixley, which documents the complete production history for the 13 episodes in series three. It's extremely comprehensive and based upon the opening pages description of the tumultuous recoding of the third season, it's quite amazing anything was ever filmed really!
The Professionals MkIII Blu-ray VerdictThe third season of the much loved late 70’s action show The Professionals comes from Network to Blu-ray with all thirteen episodes in their correct production order, re-mastered to look better than they ever have before, probably better than when they were first aired (although what is with that cover picture?)
The third production block saw many production problems including Martin Shaw being very vocal about his distaste for the show and his contract and Lewis Collins becoming very lax on set. The ITV network were also on near constant strike resulting in the channel not broadcasting anything for weeks. This, however, only had a marginal effect on quality which managed to remain stoic and resilient, even if the tone and focus of the show was toward espionage and re-treading old ground rather than the hard hitting challenging storylines of the first two seasons.
The first cracks were beginning to show, although there are some extremely high points within the season. Episodes such as ‘The Purging of CI5’, ‘The Acorn Syndrome’ and ‘Take Away’ proving the show still had something to say, as well as my own personal favourite episode ‘Mixed Doubles’ which is a master class in editing and story development, means that while the show was beginning to decline, the good was still far outweighing the bad and the season remains strong throughout.
Network have once again come up with the goods regarding the picture and sound
As a Blu-ray set, Network have once again come up with the goods regarding the picture and sound. Restored from the camera negative and cleaned up to reveal an astonishing amount of detail and colour the picture rivals modern day TV shows for clarity, with only the 16mm film nature (rather than digital camerawork) giving away its age. The sound has cleaned up very well and the natural sounding 5.1 surround track enhances the visuals even if it is ultimately limited by the source material. The extras this time around are rather sparse which is a shame, but this should not affect anyone picking up what is one of the great TV shows of all time.
You can buy The Professional MkIII on Blu-ray here
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