The Professionals ran for 57 episodes over five series starring Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins as Bodie and Doyle, with transmissions between 1977 and 1983 on ITV (and let’s not forget Gordon Jackson as George Cowley – which was a brilliant piece of casting after his role as Hudson in Upstairs Downstairs). Only my opinion, but I reckon it was kind of a natural successor to The Sweeney, which came to an end after four series in 1978. But what happened after 1983? Well, there were some ITV repeats – there’s two You Tube clips below, referring to a clip from 1984 on LWT (of Series 1 episode ‘The Female Factor’) and another repeat (LWT again) from November 30th 1985. But repeats after that went quiet – it is alleged Martin Shaw did not want the series to be repeated for a number of years…
And whilst I found some old clips – how about these from October 16th 1982 – ads during an actual repeat of ‘The Professionals’ – some brilliant ads on here!
Anyway, for me, I was only born in 1981 so I discovered it when Granada Plus started repeating the show shortly after it’s launch in 1996 (Granada Plus was an ace channel on Sky, used to watch The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, Coronation Street and loads of other Granada/LWT stuff). There was also ‘new’ interest in the show, following this Nissan Almera advert – remember this?
Moving on, after Granada Plus closed,(and was replaced by ITV3 – which for me has never been anywhere near as good as Granada Plus), there was a period where there were no repeats on TV of the show. ITV4 then started repeating the show in 2008, but for me, the show has been diluted because of their repeats. Firstly, the shows are edited (approximately 5 or 6 minutes edited out of each episode). And even when there’s late night repeats after the 9pm watershed, ITV4 still use the same edited tapes. The Professionals was never designed to be shown at 7am in a morning – neither was The Sweeney, Minder or Kojak for that matter. I’ve contacted ITV4 before now to suggest they have a season where they repeat series such as The Professionals UNCUT in a late night slot (e.g 10 or 11pm), I honestly think there would be an audience – the thing is, people are tuning in to the repeats and thinking “Hmmm, these shows are a bit tame” but they only are because some of the better, hard hitting content has been removed! The other thing which has perhaps diluted the programme is the show is literally repeated over and over again… a bit like Only Fools and Horses on GOLD. Lots of shows suffer nowadays in this digital age – look at Friends on Comedy Central – multiple episodes a day, taking a matter of weeks to get through the whole back catalogue.
The problem with The Professionals doesn’t just relate to television broadcasts. For years it has been treated badly (no other word for it) on DVD releases. A couple of years ago, I remember shopping in Poundland of all places and seeing 20 volumes of The Professionals, with two episodes on each disc. £1 for two episodes sounds reasonable – but the prints that were used, are identical to the ones used on Granada Plus and ITV4 – grainy and well…. tired.
Thankfully – Network have come to the rescue. If you’ve not heard of Network, just visit http://www.networkonair.com and you’ll see just how many titles they’ve released and from a wide variety of studios and genres. They have worked with the BBC to remaster The Professionals, frame by frame and I’ve kindly been sent a copy of Series 2 to review.
It. Is. Amazing. It really is. Just seeing the opening titles with full colours restored literally blows you away. The episodes were transmitted in 1978 but the prints could easily be from a show broadcast on TV now, that is how good the restoration work is. The sound is mindblowing – you have either the choice of brand new Dolby 5.1 sound to go with the episodes or the ‘original’ as broadcast mono sound. Or, you can just have a track and listen to the music tracks throughout the episode (Note – Laurie Johnson’s theme tune has NEVER sounded better!).
Literally, since the preview disc arrived – I’ve been showing everyone who’s been round to our house the picture quality (I’ve said “Look, that’s what it’s like on ITV4 – see, crap… now, Bluray… LOOK AT THIS!”)
Take a look at the YouTube clip below, which shows remastering work from Series 1…
And courtesy of Network’s You Tube site, here below is a clip from Series 2 to get you excited.
There’s 13 episodes, spread over four discs (4 episodes each on the first three discs with Episode 13 on the fourth disc). On Disc 4, there’s some special features including a couple of out-takes (one of them I believe is taken from an episode of ‘It’ll Be Alright on the Night’), a behind the scenes feature which lasts about 4 minutes which was made to advertise the series in the US (not HD but it’s fantastic just to see extra footage) , and tons of HD photos from every episode in Series 2 (there’s a short gallery with images of The Professionals merchandise, this was ace!). There’s over 10 hours of material in this release – and once you start with ‘Rogue’ on Disc 1, you’ll want to keep going until you get to ‘Servant of Two Masters’ on Disc 4.
As for episode order, the episodes have been put in production order, rather than transmission order.
Filming for Series 2 started in June 1978 (many thanks to http://www.mark-1.co.uk that has an empire of information about The Professionals). 13 episodes filmed in total – but only 10 were broadcast on ITV between October and December 1978… ‘Backtrack‘ , ‘The Madness of Mickey Hamilton‘ and ‘Servant of Two Masters‘ were eventually shown as part of the third season (between October and December 1979 in the UK) as filming had been delayed on these three stories due to Lewis Collins being involved in a parachute accident.
The links below a) explain the production order in much more detail and b) provide the complete list of episodes with transmission dates. So, whichever order you want to watch the episodes – it’s all there for you!
The Professionals MK II will be released by Network on September 29th and is available from http://www.networkonair.com currently priced at £27.56. DVD release has been delayed until next year, but the Blu Ray release is outstanding and I look forward to Series 3, 4 and 5 being released. The Series 2 boxset also includes a brand new, exclusive book written by archive television historian Andrew Pixley, fully detailing the history and production of Series 2.
The shows will also be available to download from ITunes! Chris
P.S Keep an eye on the blog this week – we’ll be doing a review of Now TV! A week long review with daily updates!