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Series / The Persuaders!

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The Persuaders! is a 1971–72 ITV comedy/adventure series starring Tony Curtis and Roger Moore.

Lord Brett Sinclair, a British gentleman and aristocrat and Danny Wilde, a Nouveau Riche American Self-Made Man, are a pair of Brilliant, but Lazy playboys. Thanks to the machinations of ex-judge Fulton who wants to give their lives a new sense of purpose, they wind up as best friends and rivals who go on various adventures and take on criminal cases on an odd-job basis. Much of the humor of the series comes from the witty banter between the two characters as they constantly criticize each other's habits and lifestyle.

While the series did only moderately well on the home British/American market (which should not be too much of a surprise, considering that the main characters are based on their blatant national stereotypes) it has done significantly better abroad, and is widely remembered and cited in many European countries; most notable is its success in Germany, where the dialogues were rewritten more than they were translated, with much more Breaking the Fourth Wall and the likes, essentially making it into a different series entirely.

The Persuaders! provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 555: One Girl of the Week is given such a number to contact Brett with so she can give him evidence against her Bad Boss. Bonus points for it connecting to a phone in London, not somewhere in the US, as would be the rule for this trope.
  • Action Girl: "Chain of Events" features Suzanna Leigh as an ass-kicking British agent who more than holds her own against the villains. Seriously, she wouldn't seem out of place on The Avengers (1960s).
  • Actor Allusion:
    • In one episode, Danny Wilde answers a hotel telephone with the words, "Bernard Schwartz? Never heard of him." Bernard Schwartz is Tony Curtis' real name.
    • At the end of "A Death in the Family", Curtis plays Danny's aunt. Wouldn't be the first time he dragged up.
  • Bar Brawl: When our heroes first meet, they get into an argument over how many olives to put in a Creole Scream cocktail, which results in this.
  • Blue Blood: Lord Brett Sinclair is the 15th Earl of Marnock through his deceased father and the heir of the Duke of Caith, who is his aging uncle.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Sylvia Syms is mentioned in "The Morning After". She made two guest appearances in The Saint opposite Moore.
  • Chronic Evidence Retention Syndrome: "The Old, the New, and the Deadly" involves a crucial piece of evidence that the culprit couldn't work the will to destroy, despite his henchman's urging: A gift by Adolf Hitler himself for helping the defeat and surrender of France.
  • Compromising Memoirs: "Read and Destroy" dealt with a memoirs book from an ex-spy.
  • Cool Car: Danny Wilde drives a red left-hand-drive 1970 Ferrari Dino 246 GT (chassis number 00810). Brett Sinclair drives a UK-registered Bahama Yellow right-hand-drive 1970 Aston Martin DBS (chassis number DBS/5636/R) with V8 wheels and markings. Both cars were provided to the show's producers courtesy of the respective vehicle manufacturers.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The target of "That's Me Over There", taking the form of a filthy-rich Bad Boss who, according to Judge Fulton, uses his various criminal activities to keep his legal company running.
  • Costume Porn: The clothes of Lord Brett Sinclair were selected with greatest care by Roger Moore himself. The more dynamic style of Danny Wilde's fashion, featuring leather jackets, flares, and scarfs, had its finger on the pulse of the '70s and led to Curtis being voted "Best Dressed Man" of 1970.
  • Crosscast Role: At the end of "A Death in the Family", Tony Curtis appears as Danny's aunt.
  • Doppelgänger: In "Someone Like Me", Bret is abducted and taken to a strange hospital where an operation is planned to create a perfect double of him.
  • Double Date: Brett and Danny have one set up at one point (with identical twins named Jean and Joan), but circumstances prevent Danny from showing in time. Brett tries to entertain them while he stalls for time, but they eventually ditch him in the disco he invited them to. They try again after the case of the week is solved, only for the twins to ditch Brett and Danny - again.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: Played for Laughs in the very beginning of the 3rd episode, "Take Seven"; Brett has put on his regalia as an Earl since he is about to attend the opening of parliament, much to the amusement of Danny.
  • Gag Dub: Thanks to Rainer Brandt, the German dub borders on this and became a much bigger hit than the original.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Lord Brett Sinclair.
  • Girl of the Week
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Danny and Brett, obviously.
  • Hidden Depths: Chivers, the butler in the episode "Read and Destroy", is old, portly, slightly senile, not the fastest guy on the field, and generally a completely harmless bloke... until he suddenly pops up out of nowhere to hold an armed spy at gunpoint that was threatening Brett and Danny. He later ups the ante even further by revealing his criminal past including his impressive lockpicking skills, which come in very handy to resolve the case of the week.
  • High-Class Glass: In "That's Me Over There", Danny has to impersonate his friend Brett and portrays him as an Upper-Class Twit, naturally wearing a monocle that keeps popping off.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: With a healthy dose of Karmic Death - the Big Bad of "A Death in the Family" gets blown to kingdom come by the very bomb he himself had planted before to cover his tracks.
  • Honey Trap: Brett falls victim to one in "The Morning After".
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: In "Chain of Events", Danny comes across a dying man who entrusts him with an attache case containing secret documents - by handcuffing it to his wrist.
  • The Load: Combine this with The Klutz and Dirty Coward, and you get Archibald Sinclair-Beachum (Terry-Thomas), a distant cousin of Brett's who makes an appearance as a supporting character in "The Middle Man". Although he does have a scant few moments of usefulness in the episode, the best that can be said about him is that he doesn't show up again. Brett actually seems quite happy when Archy eventually gets sent on what amounts to a suicide mission (he survives of course, and to add insult to injury, he even makes off with the Girl of the Week in the end).
  • MacGuffin: Several, usually connected to the various Cold War espionage affairs Brett and Danny get involved in.
  • Mistaken Identity: Some episodes rely on Danny being mistaken for other people, usually by some bizarre coincidence. In "Element of Risk", he is mistaken for a criminal mastermind named Lomax, played by Shane Rimmer.
  • Mistaken for Spies: In "Anyone Can Play", Danny is mistaken at a Brighton casino for a Russian spy paymaster.
  • No Fourth Wall: The German dub is famous for doing this, with Danny in particular standing out. In one episode, after Brett had just made an especially lame pun, Danny tells him to stop talking like that lest the ZDF (the German TV channel that dubbed and aired the series) cancel the whole show. On another occasion, he tells him to talk faster to avoid de-syncing his dub, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • The Nondescript: In one episode, an assassin is set on the heroes' tail. He is just an aging, thin, unattractive man who is normally a repairman when he's not taking jobs like this. He attributes his success to the fact that he is always The Everyman who no one ever notices or suspects.
  • Overly Long Name: Per the course of many members of the British peerage, Sinclair's full name is Brett Rupert John George Robert Andrew Sinclair.
  • Pungeon Master: Just about every character in the German dub. In comparison with the rest of the cast, though, it's Danny Wilde.
  • Punny Name: When combined with Bilingual Bonus - the commander of a USAF base is one Colonel Joe Adler. "Adler" is German for "eagle", which brings up numerous associations with the Air Force.
  • Rags to Riches: Whereas Brett was born into a life of luxury, Danny grew up on the streets of the Bronx and worked his way to becoming a millionaire.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: One episode had the formula of a perfect, easy-to-manufacture substitute for gasoil as the MacGuffin. For obvious reasons, it could not be made public at the end of the episode if they didn't want to Tone Shift into a 20 Minutes into the Future show, so they contrived elements so that burning the formula seemed a virtuous, reasonable thing to do for the heroes. (It isn't convincing at all, though.)
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Judge Fulton lays into both protagonists upon meeting them:
    Judge Felton: Irrepressible, optimistic, courageous, and a sense of humour. Those are great qualities, Mr Wilde. Qualities that pulled you out of a New York slum to the top of the financial tree. You have made and lost several fortunes. Now, money making's so easy for you that you don't bother. You have a remarkable talent, Mr Wilde. But what have you done with it? You just drift around the world, gambling and womanising. What have you done with those qualities? What have you achieved over the past few years? Oh, you've wasted yourself, Mr Wilde. You were a nothing who became something. And now, you're a nothing again. In fact, you're no better than Lord Sinclair, here. Lord Brett Sinclair. Now, that was once a proud and noble name. A name that fought for justice and defended freedom. But what have you done with it? You are a first-class athlete. You're an art connoisseur. A gourmet, with a lusty taste in wine and women. And you speak how many languages, six?
    Brett: Seven.
    Judge Felton: Seven And you only use them to order cocktails. Yours is the glib tongue at a hundred mindless parties. Lord Brett Sinclair, born with a silver spoon in his mouth. All he does is lick the jam from it. Two adult men, both with immense potential, - and you fight over an olive!
    Danny: Two olives.
    Judge Felton: You're both facile and foolish and a waste of humanity.
  • Redubbing: In order to increase the popularity of the show in English-speaking countries, the dialog style of the German dub was applied to the English version in some broadcasts, though it is the original version that has been released on DVD.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Even in the opening titles, Sinclair is Blue and Wilde is Red.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Lord Brett Sinclair, obviously, although it takes some persuasion on the part of Judge Fulton to get him there.
  • Running Gag: Brett has a habit of regaling others with lengthy tales about his many, many, many ancestors, usually to his involuntary listeners' exasperation.
  • Self-Made Man: Danny Wilde is a self-made millionaire who grew up in the Bronx and is said to have "earned and spent away" several considerable fortunes. The contrast between him and Brett Sinclair is frequently played up for humorous effect.
  • Serious Business: When our heroes first meet in a hotel bar, they get into an argument over how many olives go in a Creole Scream cocktail. This escalates into a full-on brawl that wrecks the place.
  • Sexy Stewardess: Danny Wilde's own private flight attendants were also obviously hired for their looks and their, er, friendliness.
  • Soft Glass: Nobody ever gets hurt by glass shards, no matter how many windows people punch in or get thrown through. Partly justified for Danny, however, as he's almost always wearing leather gloves as part of his outfits.
  • Special Guest: Carol Cleveland, Joan Collins, Roger Delgado, Denholm Elliott, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Terry-Thomas, Patrick Troughton and Peter Vaughan made guest appearances.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Saint - a Lew Grade-produced adventure series starring Roger Moore as a dapper English gent. In fact, The Saint episode "The Ex-King of Diamonds" has Simon Templar paired up with a brash American adventurer.
  • Straight Man: It was agreed that Moore would handle the plots while Curtis handled the comedy.
  • Stronger Than They Look: Judge Fulton, though usually a Non-Action Guy, at one point manages to disarm and briefly fend off a trained killer tasked with silencing him.
  • Suspect Existence Failure: Subverted in "A Death in the Family", where Brett's relatives are being murdered: all the suspects die... then it's revealed that one of them was actually the murderer, and faked his death because he knew that would clear him.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: Every other episode has Danny, Brett, or both come home just to find themselves held at gunpoint by some goons that snuck in through the front door. It quite often happens while they're at home already, too, at least once even by someone utilizing the clichéd credit card trick. Considering the level of international affairs they regularly get involved in, the two of them should really invest in some better door locks.
  • Theme Twin Naming: In one episode, Brett has a double date lined up for himself, Danny, and a pair of identical twins named Jean and Joan. The events of the episode keep Danny from showing multiple times, so they eventually end up dumping Brett before the date goes anywhere.
  • The '70s: In all their glory.
  • The World Is Not Ready: Invoked as the reason for the eventual destruction of the synthetic gasoline formula mentioned under Reed Richards Is Useless. Also a case of Honor Before Reason on the part of the person who did it, considering she was willing and able to let both the East and the West profit from what could've and would've altered history as we know it (and might've brought the Cold War to an abrupt end twenty years earlier). Alas, the inventor was her father and wanted the formula destroyed as his Dying Wish, so...
  • Tone Shift: As seen by American and British audiences, the show is a relatively serious series, with a light-hearted side provided by the main characters, but not centered on comedy. Rainer Brandt's famous German dub, however, turned it into a wacky, pun-laden comedy.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: In "A Death in the Family", which is a tribute to Kind Hearts and Coronets, Roger Moore plays three members of his usual character's family, including a woman. This is Lampshaded at the end when Danny Wilde's aunt arrives, played by...Tony Curtis.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Half of Danny's and Brett's dialogue consists of hurling good-natured insults at each other.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: "The Morning After" opens with Brett waking up from a wild party in Stockholm with a hangover – and a wife!
  • Whole-Plot Reference: "A Death in the Family" was inspired by Kind Hearts and Coronets with a minor member of the aristocratic Sinclair family killing off the people standing between him and the title. In the episode, Roger Moore played not only Lord Brett Sinclair, but three other members of the family in the manner of Alec Guinness.
  • World of Pun: Led by the German dub.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Most episodes have women as part of the bad guys' lineup, many of which start whaling on Danny and Brett when the inevitable final brawl gets going, but neither of our protagonists ever lifts a finger against them. The worst they get is being shoved onto a couch/bed/chair and told to stay put while the men duke it out. However, there are occasions where Brett pressures women for information and, when he doesn't get them fast enough, resorts to unspecified yet clearly sincere threats. It's never shown if or how he went through with it, though.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Unlike most of the other people in the series Brett tends to call Danny by his full name of Daniel. The nickname is used when Brett sees Danny in crisis or injured:
    • In "Death in the Family", Brett called out "Danny!" when he found Danny unconscious after an intruder on the Sinclair estate attacked him.
    • In "Someone Waiting", Brett again used "Danny" when he found Danny sprawled in the garage while the pair is investigating who is trying to sabotage Brett’s return to racing.
    • In "Angie Angie", during one of their rare arguments, Brett was trying to convince Danny that his childhood friend, Angie, was involved in less than honest activities. It's very telling that Brett was addressing his friend by the seldom-used nickname the entire time.
    • Subverted twice in "Five Miles to Midnight" in which Brett used the nickname without Danny being injured when he did it. Unless one counts the episode's plot of the pair trying to escort a 'gangster' to a safe haven with other gangsters dogging their trail as a crisis.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In "Greensleeves", Danny Wilde manages to recruit an actor impersonating a dead millionaire by warning him of what might happen when his employers don't need to hide the millionaire's death anymore.