Going Professional and
Not a Ford Capri in Sight
nights just wouldn't have been the same
without The Professionals. The music,
the action, that credits sequence with
the Ford Granada crashing through a plate
as a rival to The Sweeney, the show ran
from 1977 until 1983, and you either loved
it or hated it.
Doyle was the curly-haired sensitive type,
his partner William Bodie, the leather-jacketed
hard man. George Cowley was the grumpy
old war hero who followed them around
in his Ford Granada.
three worked for CI5 - an elite squad
of agents hand-picked from the British
armed forces and police for counter-terrorism
operations. No job was too tough, no task
too much. Anarchy, acts of terror, crimes
against the public. That's why Professionals
bastion of Great British morals, Mary
Whitehouse called it: "Violent, uncouth
and thoroughly unsavoury." That neatly
explained why it was so popular. And now
it's back on our screens. Or rather CI5
is back, Bodie, Doyle and Cowley having
been pensioned off some time ago.
- The New Professionals is a new series
produced by David Wickes, who directed
several episodes of the original series,
with input from Brian Clemens, the man
who created CI5 in 1977.
Lewis Collins was to reprise his role
as Bodie but the production was dealt
a major blow when a deal couldn't be agreed.
Martin Shaw's view of the original show
(he has stepped in to prevent TV repeats
on several occasions) it's not surprising
to learn he was never asked to reprise
his role as Ray Doyle. Sadly, Gordon Jackson
died several years ago so he wasn't around
to recreate the George Cowley character.
Instead, Edward Woodward takes on the
role of CI5's elder statesman and a team
of relative unknowns are the new agents.
Canadian Kal Weber and British actor Colin
Wells take over from Collins and Shaw.
of criticism that the original show was
incredibly sexist (women were either love
interest or hostages), the producers have
added a fourth operative, played by Canadian
Lexa Doig. Wickes has explained that,
as the new series was firmly set in the
present, it had to reflect the role women
play in our society. Despite these laudable
aims, fans who have already seen The New
Professionals say she rarely joins the
men on the front line of counter-terrorist
action. More often than not she ends up
back at the office tapping away at a computer.
An article discussing the new show on
the Authorised Professionals web site
refers to her as "the token female" adding:
"On the occasions that she manages to
escape from headquarters, there is often
little real point, other than to stand
around pointing guns at people while the
men are sent off to do the real stuff.
have gone the Ford Capris and Cowley's
Granada in favour of a whole garageful
of vehicles including a Nissan 4x4, a
Lotus Esprit, a Range Rover and a Ducati
motorcycle. At least the driving stunts
are once more handled by Peter Brayham,
who worked on the first series. Brayham
recently told Top Gear magazine that nothing
did a handbrake turn like an old Granada.
an effort to give the series wider appeal,
CI5 now operates all over the world. This
global remit takes the Professionals to
South Africa and America as well as their
more familiar hunting ground in southern
England. Giving The Professionals a worldwide
role seems to have worked in the producers'
favour. So far the 13-episode series has
been sold to scores of countries, including
Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark,
France, Germany, and the Philippines (not
surprising in a country where "Dirty Harry"
was once an official police training video).
TV bosses in China, India, Malaysia and
Singapore are said to be interested too.
In some territories the show is known
simply as The Professionals. German network
chiefs have gone one further and called
it The Professionals - The Next Generation.
worrying, however, is the lack of a network
deal in Britain and America where TV officials
have apparently given the series a lukewarm
welcome. In the UK it has been left to
Sky TV to give The New Professionals a
break. According to whispers from the
set, filming was a far from smooth process,
too. Edward Woodward, in particular, has
made it known that several members of
the crew departed early. Fan sites also
claim the scripts had to be improvised
on a day-to-day basis and Brian Clemens
never visited the set.
what's the verdict of those fans who have
already seen The New Professionals? Jesper
Antvorskov from Denmark wrote to the authorised
web site to say: "The female character
is annoying and unnecessary, she always
seems to be in the way of the action.
"I like the new series on its own terms
but I can't help comparing the two, and
the new one seems weaker." A fan from
Singapore added: "I always got the impression
that there was a deeper tension between
Bodie and Doyle. These guys just seem
a little too chummy."The general opinion
seems to be that if you are a fan of the
original the new series is a pale imitation.
So it's not surprising to hear the producers
have asked the website to remove all pictures
of the new show and have stopped supplying
it with publicity material. So have things
moved on so far since 1977 that there
is no longer a place for The Professionals?
Only time, and audience figures, will
can learn more about CI5 at www.carnfort.u-net.com/Professionals
starts on Sky One at 8pm tomorrow.
North of England Newspapers, 1999.
NORTHERN ECHO 18/09/1999 P12