Seen as a whole the entire series is a remarkable achievement
This job doesn't get easier.
It's no wonder with all the sophisticated weaponry they've got... and we've got to stop them!The last two recording blocks of the famed TV police action drama The Professionals were the most fraught. In addition to Martin Shaw, who had been very vocal about his dissatisfaction with the show, contract and part, his co-star, Lewis Collins, began to express the same complaints while behaving ever more erratically on set. Indeed the ITV network were considering cancelling the show altogether and it was only a fortuitous sale of the show to America that saw its fourth recording block green lit. Unfortunately for the producers this was incredibly short notice and left virtually no time to produce scripts; all this had a detrimental effect on the show. Money was spent trying to bring bad scripts to acceptable rather than good scripts to great, which means that these final eighteen episodes are the weakest.That is not to say they are all bad. Indeed the show was not afraid to go into new realms. Staples like ‘Fox Hole on a Roof’ although reminiscent of the very first episode (Old Dog with New Tricks) its execution and result are typically action packed and fast paced, while ‘Wild Justice’ looks at Bodie’s fragile psyche and the stains it places on relationships. Although it is with ‘Discovered in a Graveyard’ where the show breaks from the norm to deliver not only an action episode, but also an intellectual delivery on the morality of CI5; all within the confines of a dying Doyle’s mind. But these brief highlights cannot hide what is an otherwise very pedestrian last two seasons which tended to rehash old ideas, stretch credibility and have the autonomous CI5 reduced to little more than regular police.
Picture QualityThe discs present a broadcast correct fullscreen 1.33:1 1080i transfer using the AVC codec and are Region free.
Once again the restoration work afforded these episodes by Network and the BBC is a revelation giving rise to a gloriously bright, detailed, well coloured image. Detail is terrific with skin texture and clothing weaves being brought to the fore, while middle to background still hold fine edges; the establishing landscape shots, be it countryside or London streets are sharp and defined, while office clutter or peeling paint and worn carpets show just how much detail is on offer. Indeed it’s so good you can see how shabbily cars were put together in the early eighties with ill-fitting panels (check out the iconic Capri and how the bonnet is never in line with the offside wing!)
Once again the restoration work afforded these episodes is a revelation.
Colouring is also excellent, all the primaries are bold and strong with no hint of wash or bleed; check out the blue skies, or the lush greens of fauna, while red holds its own. Contrast and brightness are set to give good strong blacks that add good punch to the picture, there's a little shadow detail on offer with no crush, while at the other end the whites never clip.
Digitally there are no compression issues, edge enhancement or any other digital problems. The original print has cleaned up amazingly; there are rarely any instances of damage, there is a good organic layer of grain and the frame is steady and unwavering – it looks as if it were made yesterday. Amazing stuff.
Sound QualityI went with the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track. Just as the picture has cleaned up, so has the surround track with no distortion, hiss or otherwise. Dialogue is clean and precise, sounds very natural, is covered by the frontal array and never lost in the mix. The surrounds are mostly used to fill out ambiance, be that street noise (cars, pedestrians, wind etc.), countryside (wind, birdsong etc.) or interior (office clatter/chatter etc.). Effects are well realised with the surrounds being used to bulk out the sound and give directionality – the helicopters flying above and around are the best examples, but gunfire, cars and explosions have their fair share. Bass is, as before, somewhat limited, but keeps everything sounding natural and helps to fill out the lower end; LF effects are confined to explosions mostly. The score makes full use of the surround environment and also has strong bass. All-in-all a wide and dynamic surround track.
ExtrasRestoration Featurette – A five minute feature showcasing the remarkable efforts undertaken to restore all the episodes from the original camera negatives; has some split screen showing the before and after image – astonishing results.
AVT Today – Two short news clips (poor quality) featuring Lewis Collins (on his charity runs) and Martin Shaw (for his challenging theatre run).
The Professionals Serving the Professionals – Twenty minutes of outtakes from a Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes promotional tape (again poor quality) featuring Lewis Collins and Gordon Jackson with plenty of skylarking around, mistakes and laughing.
Gallery – Hundreds of production, behind the scenes, charity and memorabilia photos.
Then and Now – PDF documents detailing the various filming locations of the series.
PDF Material – Featuring scripts and memorabilia.
Programme Notes Book – TV historian Andrew Pixley once again writes exhaustive notes on the production of the programme beginning with a recording overview and then onto each individual episode in absolute detail; his writings include much of what happened after the show up to and including this Blu-ray release.
Blu-ray VerdictThe final two seasons of The Professionals (which only comprise of 18 episodes) where the most fraught to be filmed; with both Collins and Shaw no longer wishing to be typecast and both vocal about their dissatisfaction with the show and their respective contracts and plenty of uncertainty regarding the show from the channel, things were very bleak. However, overseas sales saw a resurgence in the show and it was given the green light for one more season (4) which was hastily drawn up in very short order. And it shows. Many of the stories were rehashed ideas and those that were original are weak in terms of structure and action.
ITV, in wanting to get as much as they could out of the show, agreed to run the actors contracts to the full and green lit the final recording block of five episodes which brought the show to a close. Although interest was still high, scheduling conflicts, finances and the erratic behaviour of the stars meant the show was beginning to lose favour; its time was up – however it marks a high point in TV, where production and narrative were extremely strong and its lineage can be traced through to today. While the final seasons are not a patch on what had gone before, seen as a whole the entire series is a remarkable achievement and still has a huge fanbase.
Network has done it again!
As a Blu-ray package, Network has done it again! The set has all the episodes from the final two recording blocks in their production order; all digitally remastered from the original camera negatives to give a bright, detailed and colourful image with strong blacks; the image is absolutely remarkable, like it was filmed yesterday. The sound is available in remastered original mono, and a 5.1 surround mix which is wide, clean, clear and well mixed with a decent surround environment. The extras are a little weak, but with a set this good who needs them? Excellent stuff.
You can buy The Professionals MkIV on Blu-ray here
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