8/101 Votes Alchetron
Theme music composer Laurie Johnson
No. of series 5
First episode date 1977
Created by Brian Clemens
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 57 (list of episodes)
Final episode date 6 February 1983
|Starring Gordon Jackson
Cast Lewis Collins, Martin Shaw, Gordon Jackson
The Professionals is a British crime-action television drama series produced by Avengers Mk1 Productions for London Weekend Television that aired on the ITV network from 1977 to 1983. In all, 57 episodes were produced, filmed between 1977 and 1981. It starred Martin Shaw, Lewis Collins and Gordon Jackson as agents of the fictional "CI5" (Criminal Intelligence 5, referencing the real life MI5).
- The cars
- The firearms
- Opening titles
- In popular culture
- United Kingdom
- Official Episode Guide
The Professionals was created by Brian Clemens, who had been one of the driving forces behind The Avengers. The show was originally to have been called The A-Squad. Clemens and Albert Fennell were executive producers, with business partner Laurie Johnson providing the theme music. Sidney Hayers produced the first series in 1977, and Raymond Menmuir the remainder.
CI5 (Criminal Intelligence 5) is a fictional British law enforcement department, instructed by the home secretary to use any means to deal with crimes of a serious nature that go beyond the capacity of the police, but are not tasks for the security service or military.
The choice of name CI5 is possibly inspired by Criminal Investigation Department and MI5. The premise allowed the programme-makers to involve a wide variety of villains including terrorists, hit-men, racist groups and espionage suspects, with plots sometimes relating to the cold war. Led by the formidable George Cowley (Jackson), CI5 is known for using unconventional and sometimes illegal methods to beat criminals, or as Cowley put it "Fight fire with fire!" The use of a fictitious force in this context was somewhat less controversial than the portrayal of the real flying squad on The Sweeney.
Cowley's two best agents are Ray Doyle (Shaw) and William Bodie (Collins). Doyle is an ex-detective constable who has worked the seedier parts of London, while Bodie is an ex-paratrooper, mercenary and SAS sergeant. Of the two, Doyle is the softer, compassionate and more thoughtful character, while Bodie is ruthless and more willing to take on criminals on their own terms. That said, Doyle is more hot-headed and tended to rush in, while Bodie waits for the shooting to start.
While polar opposites, Bodie and Doyle have a deep and enduring friendship, and are almost inseparable. Although their loyalty to Cowley is beyond question, they have no qualms about disobeying orders if it means getting the right result, either for the case or themselves.
Initially, Anthony Andrews was contracted to play Bodie, but he and Shaw did not have the chemistry that Clemens was looking for. As Shaw was deemed to have more 'screen presence' Andrews was dropped, and Clemens hired Collins in his place. Shaw and Collins had played villains in an episode of The New Avengers ('Obsession') together, and reportedly had not got on with each other. Ironically, since this was the reason Collins was brought into the production, he and Shaw became friends off-screen, although they managed to keep up the on screen chemistry and abrasiveness of Bodie and Doyle's relationship. The Collins character had signed off in the 1977 New Avengers episode with "Maybe we should work together again. We're a good team." The first Professionals episode was produced later the same year.
Clemens intended to write two or three establishing episodes and then hand over to other writers, but their scripts were uneven and lacked the energy and pace needed. Clemens re-wrote nearly 10 scripts for the first series episodes and took a direct hands-on approach to the filming. In later series, with the format established and the writers and directors familiar with the show, he took a more leisurely approach behind the scenes.
The early years of the show featured varied plots, good scripts and ongoing character development of Bodie and Doyle and to a lesser extent Cowley, but later series featured increasingly overused ideas and script devices and both Collins and Shaw stated they felt the show was becoming stale. While episodes were broadcast until 1983, episodes were actually filmed between 1977 and 1981.
George Cowley (Gordon Jackson) (born c. 1917) – Nicknamed "Morris" after the car of the same name. His operatives sometimes call him "The Cow", though not to his face. Founder and head of CI5, making him Bodie and Doyle's boss. As a young man he volunteered in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side, where he got a bullet in his leg that left him with a painful limp. Served as an officer in the British Army, where he attained the rank of major. He then worked in the secret services (including MI5) before being seconded to CI5 to form and manage the team. A confident and very experienced man, able to defend himself against physical and high-level political attacks. With many contacts and friends in high places, he is not afraid to clash with leaders of other services like Special Branch and MI5 or to speak his mind, being insolent even towards superiors, one of whom looked upon Cowley as "Not a Very Civil Civil Servant". Cowley's favourite tipple is single malt Scotch whisky.
Raymond Doyle (Martin Shaw) (born c. 1949), a former police detective constable, who originated in Derby but later lived in an unspecified "city" with parallels to Birmingham. He was working the seedier parts of east London when recruited into CI5. He took art classes and appears to be musically inclined as well. An expert shot with a pistol, he also ran a karate class for the children on his beat. He was recruited by Cowley and made Bodie's partner shortly afterwards. Doyle is extremely intelligent and thoughtful but is also quick to anger, and his tendency to rush in often leaves Bodie having to race to the rescue. He is also more inclined to seek long-lasting relationships with women, and in one episode nearly married. Like Bodie he enjoyed football, but was a good cook and enjoyed a more healthy lifestyle. Doyle's bubble perm hairstyle and 70s dress sense were actually chosen by Martin Shaw and his wife. In the episode "Hunter Hunted" he is shown to live on Cliff Road in Camden.
William Andrew Philip Bodie (Lewis Collins) (born c. 1950) was a former paratrooper & Special Air Service soldier. After leaving school at 14, he joined the Merchant Navy and eventually ended up in Africa fighting bush wars. Noticed by Cowley during his SAS career, he was asked to join CI5 in 1975. A keen partier and ladies' man, Bodie had a witty comment ready for almost every occasion. He was more immediately approachable than Doyle, and was generally relaxed and confident, although tending to hide his intelligence behind his hard-man image. Specialising in weaponry, martial arts and advanced driving, Bodie was the muscle of the three leads. He enjoyed football, cricket, drinking, and English literature.
The best known car used by CI5 was the Ford Capri 3.0 S (primarily the Mark III model and one Mk II). Two were used: Bodie drove a silver version (1978–81 episodes), Doyle a gold (1980–81 episodes), in the first season a silver Mk II with a black vinyl roof and a Series X bodykit was also briefly used, the first two cars mentioned still exist and were saved from being scrapped and restored in the 1990s but the existence of the silver Mk II driven by Bodie is still uncertain and debated. Cowley used a latest model Ford Granada (1978–81 Ghia model) while other Ford models such as a Ford Escort RS2000 (1978–79 episodes, driven by Doyle) and the Ford Cortina, particularly the Mark V (TF) model, were occasionally seen. However, in the first (1977) series, the cars used were mainly those of British Leyland, including a Rover SD1, a Rover P6, a Princess, a Triumph 2000, a Triumph Dolomite Sprint and a Triumph TR7. The SD1, a turmeric yellow 3500, bore the registration MOO 229R; in The New Avengers John Steed drove an identical-looking car with the number MOC 229P. The producers of The Professionals DVDs have speculated that these may in fact have been one and the same car.
However, reliability problems with the cars and BL requiring them back to give to the motoring press was causing disruption to filming. Midway through the first series, the supplier was then switched to Ford after they offered to provide vehicles for the production crew as well as for on screen use. The first Ford to be prominent was a black 1600 Capri used by another CI5 agent, Tommy MacKay.
Many of the episodes featured some kind of car chase, a role for which the Capri, at least in terms of its market positioning, was particularly well suited.
"It's not a toy, Bodie" - George Cowley, Hunter/Hunted
Bodie and Doyle originally carried 9 mm Inglis Hi-Power Mk.I pistols as their standard service sidearms for the first two series. They were issued .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolvers when on bodyguard duties (as seen in the episode "Mixed Doubles"). In later series Bodie carried a .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 19 snub-nose revolver and Doyle often carried a 9 mm Walther P38 as their personal sidearms. George Cowley carried a .38-calibre Smith & Wesson Model 36 snub nose revolver as his sidearm.
The "A180 Laser Lock" sniper rifle (from Series 2, Episode 1; "Hunter/Hunted") was an AR-10 with a sight bracket on the carrying handle and a large laser projector under the barrel. A converted Thompson M1928 50-round drum mounted on the top of the barrel, supposedly the ammo supply, hid the battery pack. It was memorable as one of the first uses of a laser sight in visual media after the use of a similar weapon in the episode Nightmare in series 4 of The Sweeney.
The opening credits for the first series (1978), starts with a Rolls-Royce speeding onto and through an industrial estate before skidding to a stop. As the Rolls Royce enters and goes through the industrial estate, the title "The Professionals" appears on screen. Cowley, Bodie and Doyle get out of the vehicle and Bodie and Doyle then go through an assault course whilst being timed on a stopwatch by Cowley. It ends with them going through set windows and a close up of the stopwatch being stopped and Cowley standing by the car motioning them to get in. Just as the theme tune ends they get in the car and it drives off. The first two broadcast episodes of the series - Private Madness, Public Danger and The Female Factor - feature a voice over by Cowley over the top of the title sequence but this was removed from the third episode - Old Dog With New Tricks - onwards. When the first series has been repeated all bar one episode, When The Heat Cools Off, and the usually unscreened Klansman are shown using the more familiar title sequence employed for the second series onwards. This means that the Cowley voice over is never married to the correct visuals on the repeat broadcasts of the episodes featuring it.
For the remaining series the opening titles started with a car driving through a tinted window before cutting to various shots of the main characters running and Cowley getting into a car before putting down a car phone in the back seat. We then see the green title card with CI5 written in big, black, stencil-style letters, "The Professionals" written in white over it and three yellow squares on the right hand side, each containing a silhouette of one of the three principal actors. It then zooms in on the top square and we see various shots of Gordon Jackson followed by a pan to a close-up shot of a typewriter and various shots of Martin Shaw running through an oil refinery and wielding a kendo stick. Then it cuts to shots of Lewis Collins walking down a high street, weightlifting, and using a punching bag before cutting to a car driving through a dimly lit tunnel, George Cowley/Gordon Jackson walking out of a government building (10 Trinity Square, City of London) and the three of them walking down the street away from the building and towards the camera.
The whole sequence is fast-paced, hinting at the action to come within the programme itself.
Although depictions of actual bloodshed were scarce, the series was often criticised for its level of violence, with shootings, martial arts and asphyxiation a common means of assassination.
To help maximise the on-screen action, Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins were taught stunt driving skills and encouraged to propel their respective cars through streets as rapidly as possible, although London Weekend Television insisted that the stars had to be chauffeured when travelling to filming sets. In his last interview about the series, Brian Clemens laughed off the actors' claims about 'doing their own stunts' in the cars. He said that they had been taught little more than how to execute a handbrake turn. The British stuntman and stunt co-ordinator Peter Brayham (1936-2006), did most of the precision driving, and with his dark curly hair, often stood in for Martin Shaw during the scenes where 'Doyle' was driving. Shaw in particular, was known within the production team to be fairly inept with the cars. He was far too heavy on the brakes and throttle, regularly kerbed the cars, and often over-steered himself into trouble. This can be seen in many episodes. In the episode, 'Weekend in the Country', Gordon Jackson can be seen pulling away from a stationary position at the roadside, in a Chrysler Alpine. He can be seen pulling out without fully checking the traffic flow, directly in front of an approaching Volkswagen Beetle. This inevitably led to either an accident, or a dramatic near miss, but the editor obviously cut to the next scene at this point.
Some quarters of the British press seized on these aspects to insist that the programme was moronic and "comic-strip". However, reaction from other critics, including The Times and The Daily Telegraph newspapers, was more favourable.
The first series episode Klansmen was withdrawn in the UK, ostensibly due to its race-related subject matter. The episode has never been screened on terrestrial television in the UK, although it did screen uncut on the cable television channel Super-channel in 1987, and has been screened on free-to-air television in other countries including South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Philippines. London Weekend Television refused to explain its view that while the episode remained unsuitable for British television viewers, it continued to be licensed to broadcasters in other countries.
The show was also criticised for its political incorrectness. Mary Whitehouse, President of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, was among those who highlighted the occasional use of sexist and racist terms. At the time, however, such dialogue was not seen as being disparaging towards minority groups. However, in the late-1980s and early-1990s the series was criticised by feminist groups. Yet, with the exception of the 'Klansmen' episode – wherein racist terms were a necessary part of the story – in comparison to, for example, the 1970s police television programme The Sweeney, use of racist terms in The Professionals was scarce.
Martin Shaw was publicly critical of the series during its production, feeling he was playing a one-dimensional character in a one-dimensional show. Several years after the series ended London Weekend Television was contractually obliged to re-negotiate repeat fees with the lead actors. Unwilling to accede to Martin Shaw's demands, plans for further repeat screenings on the UK's ITV network had to be withdrawn, leading to Lewis Collins expressing his anger towards Shaw in an interview for the British press. However, Shaw eventually agreed to UK satellite screenings, although according to a Radio Times interview only after being discreetly made aware that Gordon Jackson's widow, actress Rona Anderson (who guested in Cry Wolf), was suffering financial difficulties after her husband's death and needed the repeat fees.
Episodes were shown on terrestrial TV as part of special occasions, such as a general overview of ITV's history; LWT, which produced the series, repeated a selection of episodes from the series in the early 1990s, although was the only region to do so. It was not until 2008 that the series gained a re-run on ITV4. The Professionals has also been regularly shown on cable TV.
The entire series was regularly screened on the now-defunct Granada Plus channel from 1997, where it was consistently the channel's highest-rated show, initially achieving close to one million viewers. The episodes shown were heavily edited to make them suitable for daytime viewing and it is these same prints that are being used for transmission on ITV4. Neither station screened the Klansmen episode, stating that London Weekend Television continued to forbid its transmission.
In 1987, ITV was re-running some episodes. After the Hungerford shooting incident the particular episode that was to be aired, Lawson's Last Stand, had a theme that was deemed insensitive and was replaced by the less violent The Untouchables.
After the series ended, ITV produced Dempsey and Makepeace as its replacement, while Raymond Menmuir produced Special Squad for Australia's Network Ten in the mid-1980s, following The Professionals' format. A revival series, CI5: The New Professionals was produced for Sky in the late 1990s and starred Edward Woodward, but it was not a success. The BBC introduced Spender in the early 1990s, which featured several Professionals influenced themes.
CI5: The New Professionals was a British crime drama that aired on the Sky 1 satellite channel from 19 September to 19 December 1999. An updating of the original show, the series is set in a fictional government agency CI5 (Civilian Intelligence department 5 as opposed to MI5, Military Intelligence).
The original group of three men (Doyle, Bodie and their boss Cowley) were replaced by a new group of three men and a woman:
The team were responsible to a minister, played by Charlotte Cornwell.
In a similar manner to the original series the show included action sequences, often in a James Bond style. However, the show was not a ratings success and only lasted one series. It did not transfer to terrestrial television in the UK.
In popular culture
In the popular TV comedy series The Two Ronnies, Ronnie Corbett played a bungling version of Martin Shaw's Doyle in a sketch called Tinker Tailor Smiley Doyle (Series 11; broadcast February 1985 - March 1985). This was a joint send-up of The Professionals and the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy TV drama, with Ronnie Barker playing George Smiley along the lines of Alec Guinness' portrayal in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Corbett's Doyle provides the brawn to the brains of Barker's Smiley and actually comes out the worse. The sketch guest-starred Frank Williams from Dad's Army.
In 1984 some of the team behind The Comic Strip TV series produced a spoof entitled The Bullshitters, featuring two characters called Bonehead and Foyle in an episode called 'Roll Out the Gun Barrel".
Bonehead and Foyle returned to TV screens in 1993 in The Comic Strip one-off Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown alongside 'Shouting George from The Weeny' (Jack Regan from The Sweeney), 'Spanker' (Spender) and 'Jason Bentley' (Department S's Jason King).
Peter Jackson's 1987 film, Bad Taste, featured Astro Investigation and Defence Service employees "the boys", a Doyle and Bodie parody complete with Ford Capri.
In 1996 Nissan cars ran a popular comedy spoof TV advertisement based on the series, featuring Phil Cornwell playing Doyle and Ray Trickett playing Bodie, testing out its new release, the Nissan Almera.
In Series 1, Episode 2 Harry Hill's TV Burp, Harry in a sketch of The Bill is dressed as a Police Officer and Superintendent Okaro and DC Carver find something suspicious about him and search him and find a CI5 ID card.
The programme and its characters were repeatedly referenced in the third series of Ashes to Ashes, which took place in 1983. DCI Gene Hunt tells DI Alex Drake, "We're a team: Bodie and Doyle. I'm the one in the SAS; you can be the one with the girl's hair." DC Chris Skelton, with sunglasses and a sawn-off shotgun in front of PC Sharon Granger, similarly likens himself to Lewis Collins; Granger ultimately tells Skelton she loves him, not Lewis Collins.
Since it was first broadcast in Germany in 1981, the show (Die Profis) has become a cult there. During its broadcast run, the public television service ZDF, due to concerns over politics and violence, did not air all episodes of the programme, so The Professionals became one of the first TV shows ever to be released on VHS in Germany in the 1980s. However, only the unaired episodes were released on tape. In all, 14 episodes were withdrawn from broadcast.
The Professionals was one of a few series from the West broadcast in communist Czechoslovakia in the 1980s. It became a cult there very quickly. Originally, only a selection of 21 of the 57 episodes was bought, including Klansmen. The first dubbed episode "When the Heat Cools Off" was spoken by Petr Oliva (Bodie), Martin Štěpánek (Doyle) and Jiří Adamíra (Cowley). Štěpánek soon emigrated so the remainder were dubbed by Alois Švehlík.
The whole series was broadcast after 1994 on TV Nova. Petr Oliva continued to dub Bodie but Doyle was dubbed by Karel Heřmánek and Cowley by Otakar Brousek, since Adamíra had died.
From 1978-1982 Sphere Books released fifteen novels to accompany the series. These adapted 38 of the show's 57 episodes.
From 1979-1985 Grandreams Ltd published seven Annuals to accompany the series.
Contrary to popular belief, the original release on VHS was not blocked by Martin Shaw. According to Dave Matthews' website, Shaw had already signed the video release agreement, it was the repeat fee amount offered by LWT that he objected to.
In the late 1990s, the complete run of 57 episodes were given a UK VHS videocassette release by Contender Entertainment Group. An earlier release had seen 31 episodes issued before the distributor went out of business.
In 2002, Contender reissued the complete run on DVD (for the UK only). Although labelled as having been "digitally remastered", these releases have attracted some criticism, mainly due to the relatively poor picture quality (colour, contrast and levels of dirt and scratches). In part, this was due to problems with the age and condition of the prints used, and the loss of (or lack of access to) the original source footage which would normally be used as the basis of a remaster.
In late 2005, Contender replaced the original DVD releases with a new set which saw some minor improvements in the picture quality.
On 2 September 2013, Network Distributing announced that it had acquired the scripts, production files, master video recordings and stills from the show. The digitally remastered version of The Professionals was released on DVD and Blu-ray. The restoration process is described in a blog post. Series 1 episodes have had the original opening and closing sequences restored.
The Professionals is available in Australia (Region 4 DVD) in four boxed sets ('dossiers') containing the complete series. These are distributed by Umbrella Entertainment and are available via online DVD shops such as EzyDVD JB Hifi Online and MoviesPlus. The four dossiers feature the same episodes per box set as the UK Contender release with a couple of changes in running order in dossiers 2 and 4.
Official Episode Guide
In 2009, author Bob Rocca published a book entitled The Professionals, a chronological account of every episode including cast lists and production credits. The book is also a comprehensive guide to merchandised products, from toys to magazines and includes over 200 black and white photographs as well as extensive interviews with actors, producers, writers, directors and other production team members, discussing their work on the series. This publication was also foreworded and given official endorsement by series creator Brian Clemens.
In 2004 plans were being drawn up for a film version of The Professionals with Lewis Collins approached to play the part of Cowley, but after negotiations broke down the film was abandoned.
In 2011, film company Lionsgate announced it had acquired the rights to The Professionals series and intended to begin shooting a movie in 2011. The characters of Bodie, Doyle and Cowley would be played by new actors. The film would have been a prequel to the 1970s series concerning how Bodie and Doyle entered CI5.