Britain is in crisis. Criminals are literally getting away with murder. Crime is common in Britain’s cities, and the ordinary decent citizen is scared for his or her life. What can be done?
Well the obvious solution, surely, is to create an autonomous criminal investigation organisation with minimal oversight, recruit agents to it from the police and armed forces, train them in commando tactics, arm them, then let them do anything they like, provided it catches criminals.
That solution’s sound as a pound, isn’t it?
Anyway, that’s the background to The Professionals, a late 70s/early 80s drama created by The Avengers supremo Brain Clemens and starring Lewis Collins, Martin Shaw and Gordon Jackson as Bodie, Doyle and their boss Cowley. Each week, these agents of CI5 would stomp around, either undercover or badges-flashing, and do whatever it took to stop those crims. Maybe get some heroin and threaten to addict a dealer if he doesn’t give them information.
Or how about release a hostage-taker’s brother from prison then threaten to shoot him in front of the hostage-taker if he doesn’t surrender?
Whatever it took.
Liberal nightmare though this was, it was an insanely popular show, the 24 of its day and far grittier, and in many ways better. Sure Bodie and Doyle could get away with murder if they wanted and the show’s attitude to women was beyond misogynistic, but their buddy-buddy relationship was well drawn and humorous, the show was incredibly well cast, it had a wonderfully catchy theme tune and it was written by people who knew how to plot to a tee.
So popular did it become that the army would frequently lend it weaponry in a pre Top Gun bit of boys’ toys-placement designed to inspire the nation’s young men to join up. And there are men today who would gladly drive a Ford Capri, purely thanks to its constant usage in four of the five seasons of the show.
To show you just how ridiculously action-packed it was, here’s a clip of one protracted stunt scene followed by… the weird old titles of The Professionals. Note the crashing car – there’s no reason for that; and Martin Shaw never once did Kendo (or whatever he’s pretending to do with that stick) in the whole series as far as I know.