The Professionals was a British crime-action television drama series produced by Avengers Mk1 Productions and London Weekend Television that aired on the ITV network from 1977 to 1983. In all, 57 episodes were produced, filmed between 1977 and 1982. 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 were executive producers, 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 (also available) .
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 played villains on an episode of New Avengers ('Obsesssion') together, and reportedly had not got on with each other. Ironically, this was the reason Collins was brought in to the production.
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.
William Andrew Philip Bodie born c. 1950 ( Lewis Collins ) was a former paratrooper & Special Air Service soldier. 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 tending 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 having 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.
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