CI5 Operational Control




The Sunday Times


29 March 1998


Rohan Daft

Spotted by

Jill Woolfenden

Dressed to Kill

The Professionals, the naffly-dressed 1970s crime-fighters, are set to return. Except now they've swapped leather blousons for designer suits and bubble perms for hair gel. ROHAN DAFT reports

Bodie wouldn't have liked this one bit. It would have confused him: Hugo Boss on his back, Quorn burgers in the fridge and a bathroom cabinet fit to bust with Jurlique's all-natural unguents for men.

"What's going on, Ray?" you can hear him blurt, nervously.

But, alas, this is 1998, not 1978. The original Professionals - Lewis Collins' Bodie and his partner Martin Shaw's famously bubble-permed Ray Doyle - are now, in essence as much as name, history.

A new series, called CI5 - The Professionals, is currently in production at Teddington Studios and will be screened in October. Bodie and Doyle have been replaced by Messrs Curtis and Keel, who, decked out in their smart new gear and with a new-found passion for consumer durables, epitomise the 1990s Maxim reading male.

This time around, they will be joined by a cute girl agent called Tina Backus - a small nod to political correctness, even if she does spend most of her time in the office.

Finally, there's Edward Woodward in the role of Declan Malone, a former CIA agent who has "risked his life in all four corners of the globe". Woodward replaces the hard-bitten controller previously played by the late Gordon Jackson.

Forget the dowdy beige shades of the 1970s: some serious product placement has gone into these stylised new professionals, and, to a large degree, the programme's success hinges on it.

"It's not just a case of making the boys look good," says Christopher Marlowe, costume designer on the series. "There has to be a vague notion of character. Keel (first name Chris, and played by the 28-year-old Canadian-born Kal Weber) comes from a moneyed, grand, American background, so his style is low key. We've kept it very simple by kitting him out in lots of black, navy-blue and brown. He wears V-neck T-shirts and plain shirts. But Keel isn't self conscious about his clothes; they are strewn all over his flat."

Also to be found in Keel's flat are the aforementioned Jurlique toiletries and Quorn burgers as well as Holsten Pils, draught Guinness and copies of glossy magazines such as GQ and FHM. Yes, he's a new lad. Look outside, and you'll spot his brand spanking new Ducati.

But it is the Lotus-driving Curtis (first name Sam, and played by 34-year-old Colin Wells) who is the keener follower of fashion. "Curtis wears more colour and a more stylised look," explains Marlowe.

To this end, Hugo Boss was approached to kit out Curtis, and the sleek high street-chain Jigsaw to do the same for Keel. "It was felt that Hugo Boss was right for Curtis's character," continues Marlowe. "Curtis has come from a poor background and has worked his way up. He's concerned with style. He's sartorial and elegant, but macho, too. Boss uses blood reds and very vivid blues; the clothes cut a dash without being foppish." Just the job for watching West Ham at Upton Park, where Curtis has a season ticket.

Backus (played by 26-year-old Lexa Doig, another Canadian) wears a sassy combination of Red or Dead, Agnes b, Whistles and DKNY. And, like the boys, she wears a Hugo Boss wristwatch.

All of this, of course, is a very long way from Bodie and Doyle's passion for blousons and jeans. Wardrobes were rather smaller and, one would hazard, a little more hurriedly assembled in 1977, when the first series was aired. Fans will know that Bodie was a polo-neck man, while Doyle wore his favourite jeans, faded-blue flares with a bizarre 1 1/2 in turn-up, in virtually every episode. Sadly, there is no longer room in a Professional's wardrobe for jeans. Moreover, while the old Professionals seldom ventured further afield than red brick Victorian country houses in places such as Chalfont St Peter to ice the bad guys, the new lot go as far as Cape Town and Toronto; and the action along the way is altogether more high-budget, encompassing much more than the heady, screeching handbrake turns in a Capri and fisticuffs of old.

"You're going to see locomotives driving through walls," says an excited David Wickes, the series producer, who also directed a number of the original Professionals. "You're going to see helicopter dogfights. You're going to see underwater stuff. You're going to see elephant hunts. You're going to see vast explosions."

This is not to say the new series won't appeal to the original fans. Brian Clemens, the original series creator, is writing most of the new scripts. A promotional video for the new Professionals features the superbly-thrusting original theme music, a  time-honoured scene of a man being thrown off the bonnet of a car (not, I'm afraid to say, a Capri), and Woodward's Malone soberly announcing: "He assassinated a whole family when the man he was really after was living in the next street."

This latter is just the sort of behaviour that used to make Bodie and Doyle very angry. We can only hope Curtis and Keel feel as passionate about getting the bad guys as they do about shopping.

(c) Times Newspapers Ltd, 1998.


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Stills Footage
Colin Wells
Kal Weber
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