Series: The Professionals
"Fight fire with fire!"
— CowleyThe Professionals
was a British TV Action Series
made from 1977 to 1983. The show follows the adventures of Criminal Intelligence 5
(CI5) agents William Bodie (Lewis Collins), Ray Doyle (Martin Shaw), and their boss George Cowley (Gordon Jackson). CI5 dealt with serious crime beyond the capacity of the police, and were authorized to use any means (including illegal ones) to do so (as lampshaded by the page quote.) Being a typical show of the times
, much of the action centres around girls, guns, car chases, and drinking.
Interestingly the two leads were cast because they did not
get on while working together on a previous project and the creator thought that would give the onscreen relationship between Bodie and Doyle the edge he wanted. While they worked out their differences in fairly short order and became friends offscreen they were good enough actors to keep the onscreen dynamic he wanted. However they later fell out over Shaw blocking repeats of the series - not because as commonly thought he was trying to move away from the typecasting the role had given him but more prosaically he didn't think the repeat fees they were offering were good enough.
There was a Revival
(CI5: The New Professionals
in 1999), which wasn't warmly received, to put it politely. Not even having Edward Woodward
take over the Cowley role could save the show from being a pale shadow of the original.
It's rumoured that there's a remake being made
, prompting a collective Big "NO!"
from the fandom. The good news is that in 2014 the original series was reissued on DVD and Blu-ray
in a fully restored and remastered version.
Jackson died in 1990 and Collins passed away in November 2013 leaving Shaw as the only surviving main cast member.
It was a major inspiration of the Japanese manga Appleseed
and its sequels, such as Ghost in the Shell
The main characters:
The Professionals contains examples of:
- Armed Blag
- Berserk Button: Do not - repeat do not - attempt to harm Doyle in any way when Bodie is around. Just to clarify; one man shoots Doyle in the leg. Bodie empties an entire clip into him. In another episode Doyle is abducted by a gangster. When Bodie catches up to him - he looks genuinely terrified of Bodie's expression.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: Some of the baddies fall under this. Sometimes it's justified; the main characters are hostages etc but some are just inexcusable. For example Doyle is captured by two master assassins by accident. Instead of killing him and using his radio (Bodie was waiting in the car to warn Doyle when the woman they were watching for came) they leave him Bound and Gagged on the floor. He then proceeds to kick one of them out of the window and alert Bodie.
- Buddy Cop Show
- Carpet of Virility: Both Bodie and Doyle display man cleavage on various occasion, as was mandatory for Mr. Fanservice characters in The Seventies.
- The Casanova: Bodie and Doyle. Doyle even says of Bodie in "Fall Girl", 'If he was going to the electric chair, he'd have Miss Universe pulling the switch.' Which is a bit of a cheek coming from him.
- Casual Danger Dialogue: Bodie and Doyle raise this to the level of art!
- Chase Scene / Cardboard Boxes / Fruit Cart as was mandatory for all cop shows of the time.
- Cock Fight: The lads do like to jokingly scrap over women, but it's never serious. (There may be a reason for this.)
- Cold War: The protagonists regularly had brushes with the KGB and other Eastern European intelligence agencies.
- Cool Car: Bodie and Doyle’s Ford Capris (used in the later episodes) qualify, and are part of the reason for the Capri's real-life cult status. In early episodes they drove a Triumph TR7, which was either cool or naff depending on your tolerance for mid-70s wedgy styling.
- Cool Shades: Doyle.
- Cowboy Cop: Subverted as their tactics are fully authorised by Cowley, though they do disobey his orders on occasion.
- Cultured Badass: Bodie, Doyle and Cowley can all rattle off poetry as easily as they can win bar brawls.
- Dirty Cop
- Double Agent
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- Doyle's scruffy suit jacket/jeans combo and Bodie's leather jackets took about awhile to become their standard looks. They both wore all kinds of weird seventies fashions in early episodes.
- They also initally drive a Triumph TR7, before settling into the iconic Ford Capri.
- A few early episodes have a strange title sequence that seems to feature Cowley getting the lads to do some kind of fitness test. A few other episodes have Cowley doing a voiceover ("anarchy, terror...") over the more familar and far cooler title sequence with the car bursting through a window.
- Their call signs are inconsistent at first, before settling into the famous 3.7 for Bodie and 4.5 for Doyle.
- Evil Counterpart
- In "Mixed Doubles" Bodie and Doyle undergo special training with a brutal instructor in order to protect a foreign diplomat. At the same time we follow two men undergoing a similar program, who are planning his assasination. The two teams don't share a Not So Different moment (though they do help each other out during a pub brawl) but it's certainly implied.
- Cowley has these too, who make it clear they envy his power, but who would clearly abuse it. These include Chief Constable Green from "In the Public Interest", and a blackshirt leader (an old war buddy of Cowley) in "Look After Annie".
- Excuse Me While I Multi Task: In "The Female Factor" Bodie fights a drunk in a pub without spilling the pint in his hand.
- Fingertip Drug Analysis
- Flashback: "When The Heat Cools Off" has mulitiple flashbacks to 1971 when Doyle was still a uniform policeman.
- Get A Hold Of Yourself Woman: In "Close Quarters" Bodie slaps his Hysterical Woman Girl of the Week Julie. A particularly nasty bit of Values Dissonance that thankfully never reoccurs. (He never hits Doyle, who (a) would shrug it off if he did and (b) is frequently far ruder to Bodie than Julie is.)
- Doyle(a) has earned the right to be rude to him and (b) never gets hysterical enough to need a slap.
- Girl of the Week: Bodie and Doyle never have the same girl for more than one episode. Generally, if the girl is blonde she'll be dumb and annoying. If she's brunette, she will be mildly intelligent, but still in need of looking after. Most notable Girls of the Week are Ann in "Involvement" (Doyle's girlfriend) and Marikka in "Fall Girl" (Bodie's girlfriend).
- Glasses Pull: Cowley does this all the time with his specs.
- Heroic BSOD: Doyle briefly slips into one in 'The Rack' after a suspect dies in custody. Bodie snaps him out of it.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: A major appeal of the series is the bantering friendship between Bodie and Doyle, two men who would kill and die for each other, which of course is fertile ground for...
- Ho Yay: A long-time favourite for Slash writers, even without Bodie and Doyle's tendency to camp it up on occasion. The Comic Strip Presents parodied this in "The Bullshitters", with 'Bonehead' and 'Foyle' resolving their burning sexual tension before the final shootout by getting shirtless and snogging each other while rolling around in a pile of gravel.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Most notably The Lady.
- If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Invoked by Doyle when Bodie was about to kill the man who killed a woman he loved. This is sheer Early Installment Weirdness - thankfully Doyle never has such a tedious bout of sancitmony again.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: For "Professionals" their habit of tossing loaded guns to each other is somewhat disturbing. On one occasion Cowley does this with a rifle, and when Doyle winces points out that he knew the safety was on. As a former soldier Cowley should have known that safeties can be unreliable.
- Even part of a nuclear bomb gets thrown about.
- Improbable Age: Bodie seems a bit young to have been in the merchant navy, a mercenary, a paratrooper, an SAS soldier AND been in CI5 for several years. Doyle's background as a police constable is rather more believable.
- Ironic Echo: Doyle insists on investigating the death of a prostitute he once knew, using CI5's blanket authority to investigate any incident "It's in the small print on our cards". Cowley starts tearing strips off them ("Don't you quote small print at me. For every sentence of small print you produce, I can produce smaller!") until he happens to look at the phone number written on a notepad — the Prime Minister's private line. Suddenly Cowley rounds on the CID detectives and announces that CI5 are taking over the case. "Can't you read the small print on our cards?"
- I Take Offense to That Last One
Bodie: "Permission to be admiringly insolent, sir. You're a brave old bastard."
Cowley: "Permission denied. Anyway, it's inaccurate. I'm not brave."
- Jive Turkey
- Judge, Jury, and Executioner: CI5 use exactly the kind of tactics condemned by Royal Commissions into police misconduct, but it's OK because they only use them against bad people. Their limits are best lampshaded in the episode "In the Public Interest" where Bodie and Doyle investigate a town where the police are cracking down on crime and "immoral behaviour" by extralegal means, such as planting evidence and roughing up members of a gay support group. Bodie and Doyle eventually gain evidence of the latter, and when the main culprit decides to murder them to avoid prison, another officer steps in and arrests him, as murder is going too far.
- Laser Sight: The intimidation factor of a "laser-lock" sight (at the time a cutting-edge technology) is a major theme in the episode "Hunter/Hunted".
- Last Name Basis: Bodie is always Bodie — never William, Bill, etc. We only know it because his full name was stated once, in "The Rack".
- Manly Tears: When Bodie is knifed in "Klansmen", Ray weeps openly as he walks beside Bodie's hospital gurney.
- Mean Boss
Nothing is personal, Doyle. When you joined CI 5
, I made that perfectly clear. The department owns you — I own you! I can sell your body to science if I want — while it's still alive.
- The Laws and Customs of War: In "Mixed Doubles" both good guys and bad guys debate whether to use dum-dum bullets, despite the fact that the Hague Convention doesn't apply to civilian law enforcement.
- Mr. Fanservice: In it's initial run, young women generally fancied one of Bodie and Doyle.
- Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: One episode centred around a gun used in a crime being dumped in the prop bin of a theatre company.
- Odd Couple: Hot-headed idealist Doyle versus cold-blooded Bodie.
- Old-Fashioned Copper
- Old Flame: Cowley's old love Annie in "Look After Annie". (Yes, Cowley had a Girl of the Week, don't faint with amazement.)
- Perp Sweating: Lots of this, usually Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.
Cowley: "You hear me Mr Sutton? Names. A name. I don't suppose you fought in the war, Mr Sutton. No. I fought in several. The worst was against a... a barbaric race. But the British are nothing if not adaptable. We learned barbarism very quickly. We had a problem one day. Was the road ahead mined? We had prisoners but they wouldn't talk. So we bound them and made them lead the advance. They didn't think we would, not at first. But then the first man ahead was gone. Like that. An antipersonnel mine is a very nasty thing, Mr Sutton, very nasty. And then the second man. And the third. And then they talked. Then they knew we meant it. A shocking story. It shocked me at the time and it still shocks me. But it was necessary to save hundreds of lives, it was necessary. I'm willing to be shocked again if necessary. I'm going to hoist you with your own petard, Mr Sutton. I'm going to turn you into an addict. A crash course in addiction because we have access to the purest stuff. A craving, crawling do-anything-for-money junkie. Look at me Sutton. Look at me! Remember the road that was mined. Do you have any doubt at all that I intend doing what I say?"
- Porn Stache: Fortunately not worn by any of the main characters, but regularly seen on guest characters. And not always villains, either.
- Pretty in Mink: In "The Female Factor", the location of a dead prostitute's mink coat is a clue.
- Product Placement: The Cars — British Leyland for half the first season, Ford for the rest of the show. It worked for Ford, less so for BL.
- Pub Brawl
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: "The Madness of Mickey Hamilton" - a grieving widower blames medical staff for his wife's death, and goes on a killing spree.
- Red Shirt: The three main characters have Contractual Immortality but pity any other CI5 agent who turns up, because there's a fairly high chance he'll snuff it before the end of the episode. (This doesn't apply to the staggeringly rare occasions we see a woman agent.)
- Room 101
- Rogue Agent
- Rule of Cool: Martin Shaw (who'd done research into tactics used by the SAS) complained about scenes where they'd be silhouetted in doorways. The producer replied that few people would know it was a stupid idea anyway.
- The Seventies: Polyester suits! Wide ties! Brown coloured everything! Perms and afros! Sideburns! Disco!
- '70s Hair: Doyle's perm, which kind of looks like it's supposed to be a white guy version of an afro. (Luckily for Lewis Collins, Bodie just has a sensible short back and sides, presumably because Bodie is an ex-soldier.)
- Sheet of Glass: The iconic opening shot of the credits is a car smashing through a window.
- The Smurfette Principle: There are female agents in CI5, but we only see them if required for a particular episode.
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Do NOT call Mr Cowley 'Cowley' within his earshot. He will be...displeased.
- Spiritual Successor: The short-lived 1984 Australian series Special Squad. And in the late 1990's a revival series, CI5: The New Professionals, was produced for Sky One. It starred Edward Woodward as Cowley's successor and had a British/American pairing for the two agents, but was not a success.
- Status Quo Is God: Nothing ever changes from episode to episode. The relationships between the characters remain exactly the same, there is no story arc, and no-one is ever upset about the events from a previous episode. Therefore, everyone is remarkably unangsty, and there is no complicated backstory you have to know about. Which makes The Professionals pleasantly uncomplicated viewing.
- Unintentional Period Piece
- Unguided Lab Tour: The episode "Involvement" features Doyle's girlfriend wandering into the top secret CI5 headquarters and eavesdropping on an interrogation.
- Very Special Episode: ("Klansmen") Bodie's life is saved by a black doctor despite his racist abuse, while members of white supremacy organisations are portrayed as ignorant thugs being manipulated by right-wing politicans and crooked businessmen for their own ends. The episode is banned in Britain for its racist content.