Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Professionals

Well, after blogging on the question of Starsky and Hutch, I have been giving attention to what some regarded as their British equivalent, The Professionals.

It is in fact debatable whether The Professionals can be directly compared to Starsky and Hutch. The former also contained elements of both The Sweeney and James Bond!  The characters can be seen to have counterparts in the famous American series. For Starsky read Doyle; sometimes cynical, but idealistic and occasionally volatile. For Hutch read Bodie;the strong, silent type but intensely loyal to his partner.

The plot-lines often seemed like cartoonish, less plausible portrayals of contemporary themes, particularly Cold War espionage, urban guerillas and gangland activity. In fairness some of the topics covered swung a lamp over the future, suggesting the possibility of terrorism by lone fanatics, biological and chemical attacks and the increasing ferocity of drugs gangs.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that some of the storylines were embellished for shock value, because the reality was a touch too mundane. The social issues (drugs, vice and corruption), however, were handled with some sensitivity and balance.

One amusing aspect of the programme was the way that it placed the British motor industry of the 1970s in a favourable light. No end of Ford Capris and sporty Escorts and Triumphs could be seen whizzing around in the hands of either CI5 themselves or the villains of the piece!

No mobile phones back then, of course!  The venerable public call box was much in evidence, and most of the other communication was done via humble walkie-talkies, although we did get the occasional glimpse of futuristic James-Bondesque communications technology.

Looking back at The Professionals, one criticism would be the unconvincing dialogue exchanged between Bodie and Doyle. It seemed contrived and lacking in idealism, hardly the sort of words to come from the mouths of an ex-policeman and a former solider, no matter how elite they had now become.

Based on my recent viewing of some episodes, Lewis Collins emerges with more kudos as an actor than I had previously accorded him. This belies his image as an "action hero".

One thing which the producers achieved was to convey the peculiarly sinister and claustrophobic atmosphere of the London of that time.  Leafy suburban streets, urban tower blocks and industrial wastelands provided a gritty backdrop to the action.

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