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Title

GOING PROFESSIONAL AND NOT A FORD CAPRI IN SIGHT

Source

THE NORTHERN ECHO

Date

18 September 1999

Author(s)

Nigel Burton

Spotted by

Jill Woolfenden

Going Professional and Not a Ford Capri in Sight

SATURDAY 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 glass window...

Created as a rival to The Sweeney, the show ran from 1977 until 1983, and you either loved it or hated it.

Ray 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.

All 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 were needed.

That 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.

CI5 - 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.

Originally Lewis Collins was to reprise his role as Bodie but the production was dealt a major blow when a deal couldn't be agreed.

Given 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.

Mindful 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.

Out 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.

In 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.

More 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.

So 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 tell.

You can learn more about CI5 at www.carnfort.u-net.com/Professionals

The New Professionals starts on Sky One at 8pm tomorrow.

(c) North of England Newspapers, 1999.
NORTHERN ECHO 18/09/1999 P12

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CI5: The New Professionals belongs to Brian Clemens and David Wickes Productions. The owners of this site make no claim to own the characters or concept of The New Professionals. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made from the content of this site.