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"Fight fire with fire!"—Cowley
The 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, Ray Doyle, and their boss George Cowley. CI5 deals with serious crime beyond the capacity of the police, and are authorized to use any means (including illegal ones) to do so. Being a typical show of the times, much of the action centres around girls, guns, car chases, and drinking. It was a major inspiration of the Japanese manga Appleseed and its sequels, such as Ghost in the Shell.
It's rumoured that there's a remake being made, prompting a collective Big No from the fandom. There was, however, a revival (CI5: The New Professionals in 1999), which wasn't warmly received. To put it politely.
The main characters:
- Bodie is an ex-mercenary who was also in the SAS. He has a smart remark for every occasion, and is perpetually cool under fire.
- Doyle is an ex-policeman who dresses like Sonny Crockett's scruffy British cousin. He's got a worse temper than Bodie, and is more idealistic.
- Cowley is an ex-army officer and veteran of several wars, including World War II. He's a dour Scotsman who barks roughly at his underlings, but of course always defends them to the hilt.
Contains examples of:
- Armed Blag
- Buddy Cop Show
- Casual Danger Dialogue: Bodie and Doyle raise this to the level of art!
- Chase Scene / Cardboard Boxes / Fruit Cart
- 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.
- Cowboy Cop: Subverted as their tactics are fully authorised by Cowley, though they do disobey his orders on occasion.
- Do We Have This One?: Lewis Collins, who played Bodie, actually qualified to join the SAS. He only remained an actor because his career made him too famous for covert operations.
- Mr. Fanservice: Young women in that period generally fancied one of Bodie and 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.
- Excuse Me While I Multitask: In "The Female Factor" Bodie fights a drunk in a pub without spilling the pint in his hand.
- Fingertip Drug Analysis
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- Missing Episode: "Klansmen" has to this day never been shown on British terrestrial television, and only once on cable television in 1997 (in a bizarre aversion of the No Export for You trope, it has been shown in other countries).
- Manly Tears: When Bodie is knifed in "Klansmen", Ray weeps openly as he walks beside Bodie's hospital gurney.
- 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.
- 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 Shame: Martin Shaw (who played Doyle) blocked re-runs for years, only relenting after the death of Gordon Jackson (Cowley) so his widow could benefit.
- 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?"
- 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
- Room 101
- 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 Smurfette Principle: There are female agents in CI5, but we only see them if required for a particular episode.
- 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.
- 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.
- ("In The Public Interest") Bodie and Doyle go undercover when a gay youth counselling centre is attacked by masked men. They don't behave any differently towards each other than they normally do.