The Professionals (TV series)

The Professionals (TV series)

"The Professionals" was a British crime-action television drama series that aired on the ITV network from 1977 to 1983, filmed between 1977 and 1982. In all, 57 episodes were produced. It starred Martin Shaw, Lewis Collins and Gordon Jackson, as agents of the fictional "CI5". The series was conceived as a response to "The Sweeney", and was similar in style to "Starsky and Hutch."

"The Professionals" was created by Brian Clemens, who had been one of the driving forces behind "The Avengers". Clemens and Albert Fennell executive produced, 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) was a law enforcement department, instructed by the Home Secretary to use any means, which dealt with crimes of a serious nature that went beyond the capacity of the police, but were not tasks for the secret service or military. The name CI5 appears to be influenced by Criminal Investigation Department and MI5. This brief allowed the programme-makers to involve a wide variety of villains including terrorists, hitmen, racist groups and espionage suspects, with plots sometimes relating to the Cold War. Led by the formidable George Cowley (Jackson), CI5 was 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 were Ray Doyle (Shaw) and William Bodie (Collins). Doyle was an ex-detective constable who had worked the seedier parts of London, while Bodie was an ex-paratrooper, mercenary and SAS sergeant. Of the two, Doyle was the softer, compassionate and more thoughtful character, while Bodie was more ruthless and more willing to take on criminals on their own terms. That said, Doyle was more hotheaded and tended to rush in, while Bodie waited for the shooting to start.

While polar opposites, Bodie and Doyle had a deep and enduring friendship, and were almost inseparable. Although their loyalty to Cowley was beyond question, they had no qualms about disobeying orders if it meant getting the right result, either for the case or themselves.

At the same time, Collins and Shaw became friends offscreen but managed to keep up the on screen chemistry and abrasiveness of Bodie and Doyle's relationship.

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 worked on an episode of "The New Avengers" together, and reportedly had not got on with each other. Ironically, this was the reason Collins was brought in to the production. [ The Authorised Guide to The Professionals] , Article last updated 2001-12-31, retrieved 2007-04-29.]

To begin with, 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 season episodes and took a direct hands-on approach to the filming. In later seasons, with the format established and the writers and directors familiar with the show, he took a more leisurely approach to the behind the scenes goings-on.

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 seasons featured increasingly overused ideas and script devices and both Collins and Shaw stated they felt the show was becoming stale.

The characters


William Andrew Philip Bodie born c. 1950 (Lewis Collins) was a former SAS sergeant and Paratrooper. 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 tended to hide his intelligence behind his hardman 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.


Raymond Doyle born c. 1949 (Martin Shaw) was a former Detective constable, working the seedier parts of East London. 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 to have 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.


George Cowley (Gordon Jackson), founder and head of CI5, and Bodie and Doyle's boss. Previously a Major in the British Army and later 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 his own 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". His operators sometimes call him "The Cow", though not to his face.

The cars

The most famous car used by CI5 was the Ford Capri 3.0 S. Two were used, Bodie drove a silver version (1978-1981 episodes), Doyle a gold (1980-1981 episodes). Cowley used a latest model Ford Granada (1978-1981) while other Ford models such as a Ford Escort RS2000 (1978-1979 episodes, driven by Doyle) and the Ford Cortina, particularly the Mk5 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 Leyland Princess, a Triumph 2000, a Triumph Dolomite and a Triumph TR7 had been the cars of choice for Bodie and Doyle and CI5 in general. However, reliability problems with the cars and BL taking them back to give to the motoring press was causing disruption to filming. Midway through the first series, the supply was then switched to Ford after they offered to provide vehicles for the production crew as well as for on screen use.

Many of the episodes featured some kind of car chase, a role for which the Capri was particularly well suited, which has helped this car gain some of the image we know of today.


The series was often criticized for its high levels of violence. One episode opened with a traffic police officer being shot dead at point blank range with a shotgun, another with a secret service agent being thrown out of a high window. The level of violence and Bodie and Doyle's 'enthusiastic' driving gave ammunition to the TV critics claims that the show was 'comic strip and moronic.' The irony with Doyle and Bodie's driving was that while they were able to drive like madmen on screen, it was an LWT stipulation that Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins were "driven" to set.

In addition to this, one of the first-season episodes ("Klansmen") was banned in the UK during its original run, due to its controversial race-related subject matter. The episode has never been screened on terrestrial television in the UK, [ [ Klansmen ] ] although it did screen uncut on the cable television channel Superchannel in 1987, and has been screened on free-to-air television in other countries including South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

The show was also criticised for its high level of political incorrectness. Mary Whitehouse was among those criticising the show for its occasionally sexist overtones, and in the late-1980s and early-1990s the series was criticised by feminist groups.

Occasional off-colour references between Bodie and Doyle were not then seen as being disparaging towards protected minority groups; with the exception of the 'Klansmen' episode, none of the dialogue was tainted with racism. In this respect "The Professionals", like "The Sweeney", reflected the sensibilities of its audience without overstepping the boundaries of taste.

Shaw was particularly critical of the series during its run, feeling he was playing a one dimensional character in a one dimensional show. After the series ended, through royalty payments, he managed to block repeat screenings, much to the frustration of the show's fans and his co-stars Collins and Jackson.

Episodes were shown on terrestrial TV as part of special occasions, like during a general overview of ITV's early years. Indeed, it was not until 2008 that the series gained a re-run on ITV4. "The Professionals" has also been regularly shown on cable TV as well.


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, "", was produced for Sky One 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.


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". 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 Nicholas Smith from "Are You Being Served?".

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 Reagan from The Sweeney), 'Spanker' (Spender) and 'Jason Bentley' (Department 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 humorous advertisement based on the series, featuring Bodie and Doyle type characters testing out the Nissan Almera.


*In "Medium Rare" — the third episode of the second series of "The New Avengers" — a character called George Cowley, from Accounts, falls and is badly injured (it turns out fatally) in a set-up designed to frame John Steed. Cowley wears a trenchcoat, a hat, and thick-rimmed glasses, and is similar in appearance to a younger version of the Gordon Jackson character in "The Professionals".
*In the "New Avengers" episode "Obsession," Shaw and Collins star as two of the villains being sought by Steed, Purdey and Gambit.
*The comic book series "The Invisibles" features a paranormal investigation squad called Division X, staffed by parodies of various 1970s cop and spy characters. It is run by Patrick Crowley, who bears an uncanny resemblance to George Cowley. An unnamed character resembling Doyle also makes an appearance, although he is quickly killed.
* The show was to have been originally called "The A-Squad" before it was decided to call it "The Professionals". (It might be noted that this proposed title is very similar to that of the hit 1980s American television series "The A-Team", which also shares "The Professionals"' heavy inclusion of weaponry, car chases, fights, etc.)
* The 1980 episode "Blood Sports" featured one-off appearances by Ruby Wax and Pierce Brosnan. When seen in the show, Wax was immediately recognisable playing an American student, and Brosnan was seen in a TV surveillance van. Apparently the payment for that episode went towards Brosnan's first air ticket to the United States.
* While episodes were broadcast until 1983, episodes were actually filmed between 1977 and 1981.
* Due to the number of people, living and dead, contributing to the original recording of The Professionals soundtrack, it would be near impossible to gain permission to use it.
* The last series one episode "Klansmen" was banned in Great Britain because of its story line involving the KKK, and has never been shown on the main channels, it has since appeared on satellite/Freeview television, and continued to do so in daytime re-runs.
* During the 1980s Lewis Collins was considered as a replacement James Bond for Roger Moore after Moore announced his intention to retire from the role. The role however, subsequently went to Timothy Dalton.

DVD and VHS releases

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. []


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 did not air all episodes due to censorship issues over politics and violence, 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 broadcasted in Czechoslovakia in the 1980s. It became a cult there very quickly. Originally, only a selection of 21 episodes were 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 emmigrated soon therefore the rest was dubbed by Alois Švehlík. [] [] .

The whole series was broadcasted after 1994 on TV Nova. Petr Oliva continued to dub Bodie but Doyle was dubbed by Karel Heřmánek and Cowley by Otakar Brousek (J. Adamíra had already died).


"The Professionals' "is available in Australia (Region 4 DVD) in four boxed sets ('dossiers') containing the complete series."


In 2004 plans were being drawn up for a film version of The Professionals with Lewis Collins approached to play the part of Cowley, however after negotiations broke down the film was abandoned.

Episode guide

References and footnotes

External links

* [ The Professionals discussion forum]
* [ Dave Matthews' Authorised Guide to The Professionals]
* [ Photos and information] - Nostalgia Central
* [ Unofficial Professionals fansite]
* [ Information on the cars used (on]

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