In the late 70’s the Sweeney revolutionised the police drama on ITV. But history tends to over look an equally revolutionary show on the same channel that came about as a response to the ever successful Sweeney.
The Professionals was a TV series that combined Bond-esque spy elements with red-hot no nonsense, politically incorrect policing. The plots are fast and furious as Bodie and Doyle tracking down criminals too big for the ordinary police (The Flying Squad) to handle.
The show stars Martin Shaw (aka Judge John Deed to the current generation) as Ray Doyle and Lewis Collins (Once considered for the role of James Bond). The shows two leads are supported by the fantastic Gordon Jackson (of The Great Escape) as George Cowley. He provides the paternal character to the two main protagonists, with his endless ear bashings for the two and unerring support for the pair.
The on screen chemistry between the three is a highlight of the series, as creator Brian Clemens utilises the then real life, early off screen animosity between Collins and Shaw. The late great Gordon Jackson thrives in his role as the senior authoritative figure.
The two main protagonists drive around in Ford Capri’s and RS2000’s chasing down evil baddies usually from the old eastern block. As the Professionals like many Bond films of the time would use the cold war backdrop for plots.
The Professionals trumped the Sweeney by having several hard hitting storylines and one episode (Klansmen) was considered so taboo that to this day it hasn’t been aired here in the UK to this day, but it has been released on DVD. The episode deals with the issue of racism and the Ku Klux Klan. This isn’t the only Controversy the show has faced. It pushed the boat in terms of violence and like many Cop shows of the era treated women as second class.
The show may have had the look of the 70’s, Martin Shaw’s perm and Lewis Collins flared trousers, but it has played its part in shaping crime dramas of the future. Not to mention the ammunition it has provided to comics such as Ronnie Corbett and Barker.