Review: The Professionals – Mk1 / Cert: 15 / Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Gordon Jackson, Martin Shaw, Lewis Collins / Release Date: March 31st
A massive hit when it debuted in 1977, this classic piece of cult TV gets an astonishing HD makeover thanks to Network.
Bodie (Collins) and Doyle (Shaw) are two hard-hitting agents of CI5, an elite force who are above the police and work outside their boundaries. Headed by George Cowley (Jackson), they attempt to stop terrorists and high-profile murderers by any means possible.
It's easy to see why the show was such a success, the fast moving, uncomplicated plots and likeable leads make for fun viewing. Not every episode is a classic, and as would be expected with the format, the 'threats' are dealt with in a timely manner, quite often ending with a three-shot of the leads having a good old laugh over a single malt. Created by Brian Clemens (who also wrote many of the episodes, and had previously co-created '60s hit The Avengers) it is, effectively, a heightened reality (one episode even has an assassin fire a rifle at a range of 2 miles) version of shows like The Sweeney. But while those were grounded within the realms of the law, the 'no bureaucracy' angle of the fictional CI5 allows the leads to be as brutal as the villains they face. The yin and yang of Bodie and Doyle (one an ex-SAS mercenary, the other a former beat bobbie) gives just the right amount of friction between the team. Jackson's Cowley – quite a different character to what TV audiences had been used to him playing – is just as bad-ass as his recruits, not afraid to get his hands dirty himself if needs be. Throughout this first series (we didn't call them seasons back then) there's a wealth of brilliant British character actors popping up, from the likes of David Suchet and Roger Lloyd Pack to Diane Keen (ask your dad) and the performances are always of a high standard; even the oft-criticised Collins is not as wooden as people say.
As is often the case with vintage TV, there is occasionally some jaw-dropping casual sexism, and in Klansmen, an episode pulled from the original broadcast, some racist behaviour which makes for very uncomfortable viewing. That episode aside, it's never too violent, and the sight of the team rolling around on the floor and throwing themselves over car bonnets in their tight-fitting trousers while funky wakka-wakka music is played is more likely to raise a smile than offend. The fact it spawned several tie-in annuals and even a comic strip in the short lived Look-In rip-off Tops is testament to its 'family' appeal. And the theme tune is still fantastic.
Network's restoration of the original negatives (made possible by the practice of shooting '70s drama shows on 16mm film) is superb, breathing new life into the image, and giving it a 'just filmed' look (fashions not withstanding), and the sound is clear as a bell, in both the original mono and new 5.1 mix.
Extras: Exclusive book written by archive television historian Andrew Pixley, fully detailing the history and production of the first thirteen episodes / All episodes feature original Assault Course titles (and Cowley narration on the first three episodes) / All episodes are presented in their original production order/Brand-new Dolby 5.1 mixes along with original as-broadcast mono and music-only tracks / Without Walls: 1996 Channel 4 documentary on The Professionals / HD image galleries including shots of Anthony Andrews as Bodie/Raw title sequence, original ad bumper and series two titles demo / Additional footage / PDF material