The Professionals (Remastered) Volume 2 Review
14.5 million viewers is the kind of rating that is barely recorded any more and, if it is, it is only a well-publicised episode of a soap or the death of a popular royal that draws in the public around their television sets in their millions. It is, though, the kind of regular figures recorded by London Weekend Television for Season One of The Professionals when it was first shown in 1978. Almost immediately, LWT announced that production of a second season would commence in the summer of that year and, again, Brian Clemens executive produced the show through his Mark One production company.
Unsurprisingly, LWT wanted more of the same and Mark One were happy to oblige. For an overview of that first season, please refer to my review of its recent release on DVD, which is just as pertinent here given there are so few differences between the seasons. Indeed, there are more similarities between the seasons than differences, even to several episodes here being little more than rewrites of those in the earlier run of episodes. Blind Run, Hunter/Hunted and The Madness of Mickey Hamilton, for example, are not a world away from Close Quarters, Killer With A Long Arm and Private Madness, Public Danger, respectively. There is little to fault Mark One in this respect, simply that they took advantage of the slightly bigger budget that was on offer to them to rework a number of earlier stories, thus making it easier for the audience to feel more at ease with this new season when, otherwise, the greater levels of violence may have put some of them off.
In that sense, The Professionals remains a remarkably violent show with Bodie and Doyle continuing to use words only as a last resort, often when the threat of physical violence is met with little reward. That said, though, this season is better written and aims higher than a typical episode from the previous year. There is, for example, nothing as eye-opening in this season as Bodie rooting through Pamela Stephenson's bra in search of a hand grenade as their was in the opening episode of Season One, Old Dog With New Tricks. This is best shown here by something like the excellently-named Not A Very Civil Civil Servant, whereby the tale of corruption between a building firm and a local council, together with the occasional touch of violence, has a ordinariness that was entirely absent from the show's first season.
The standout episode in this season, and arguably the most memorable in the show's entire run, was In The Public Interest, in which Bodie and Doyle investigate a police force who may be going too far in the pursuit of reducing levels of crime. The irony of CI5 carrying out that investigation is entirely lost in the writing of it but, otherwise, and whilst it may appear to be a ludicrous exaggeration to describe the episode as sophisticated, it's certainly written and directed with greater flair than was typical of The Professionals. What lingers in the mind long after the episode is over is the sight of the blank-faced coppers simply following orders as they tail CI5 about the town, meting out violence as thy see fit.
After this season, though, The Professionals began to get very patchy with Brian Clemens' original vision for the show suffering in light of Lewis Collins and Martin Shaw demanding, and getting, more input into their characters as well as Shaw's increasing bitterness at having to remain in contract to Mark One. It's one of British television's great ironies that the more Shaw complained about The Professionals, - and he did so shrilly during the nineties when the public began to look back fondly on the show - the more he was found wanting when other offers arrived until, eventually, he was cast as Judge Deed, a distant rewrite of Doyle within the legal establishment. He should, like the fans, have simply enjoyed the show while it lasted, which wasn't long, but this season is its very best, never as occasionally dim-witted as those on either side of it and coming at a time when the characters made some kind of sense. Granted, sense being jokes about spotted dick, driving a couple of Capris to stop just short of a head-on collision and Gordon Jackson losing a limp that, in the first season, was thought to be inoperable. Apparently, it just got better, as did the show until this point, which you should enjoy as being its peak.
Hunter/Hunted (50m49s): Doyle is assigned to carry out the testing of a new long-range rifle with a laser sight but when it's stolen from his flat, the thief threatens Doyle by using of the gun against him, at so great a range that he proves almost impossible for CI5 to catch.
First Night (50m36s): When an Israeli Minister is kidnapped whilst on a visit to London, CI5 have only hours to find him before the group of terrorists holding him have him killed but their only clues are a blurred photograph and a noisy tape recording. By bus, car and, finally, cherry-picker, CI5 search for the Minister but will they be too late to prevent a crisis in the Middle East?
The Rack (50m38s): CI5's heavy-handedness comes into question when a suspect dies in a cell whilst in their custody, killed, apparently, by a blow from Doyle. As a public inquiry opens and a high-profile lawyer calls for CI5 to be disbanded, it's left to Bodie to rouse his friend out of his depression and to investigate what really happened.
Man Without a Past (49m14s): A bomb goes off in a restaurant in which Bodie and his girlfriend are dining - he survives but she is critically injured and many other diners are dead. With Cowley standing Bodie down from the investigation, it's up to Doyle to find out who planted the bomb and why they targeted Bodie, if indeed they did. Bodie, however, can't stand by and wait whilst his girlfriend lies in a hospital bed and so, disregarding Cowley's orders, he begins an investigation of his own.
In the Public Interest (50m27s): When the owner of a bookshop serving a town's gay community is beaten by the police, CI5 are called in to investigate, finding that the local Chief Constable has imposed a virtual police state in the town to curb crime. Bodie and Doyle pose as two men interested in re-opening the bookshop and ask if the Chief Constable's pursuit of the law has gone too far - are his victims criminals or simply those people he is prejudiced against.
Not a Very Civil Civil Servant (50m17s): When a group of homeowners, whose houses, despite being brand new, are found to be crumbling, they launch a civil action against the builders but, one by one, are threatened and retract their evidence. Before the case collapses, CI5 investigate and find evidence of corruption within the local council but is it enough to bring down the builders and councillors or will the 'old boys' network protect them?
A Stirring of Dust (50m38s): A British traitor is returning home and although he's spent years overseas, he has not been forgotten, least of all by his former colleagues. Knowing they'll be out for revenge, CI5 are assigned to protect man before he's found dead.
Blind Run (50m37s): When the Foreign Office arranges for a diplomat to visit Britain on a secret assignment, CI5 are ordered to protect him. But when their lives are put in danger, CI5 they find that, for all that it's meant to be a secret, a lot of people know of the diplomat's visit, including a group of deadly assassins.
Fall Girl (50m38s): When an ex-girlfriend comes back into Bodie's life on her arrival in London, he's pleased to see her again but meeting her involves him in an assassination attempt. As CI5 investigates, Bodie finds himself on the run from his own colleagues.
Backtrack (50m31s): What begins as a attempt at burglary for a thief turns almost turns to murder when he stumbles upon a major international drugs smuggling operation. The find attracts CI5 who discover that the smugglers have more than just the burglar's life in mind.
Servant Of Two Masters (50m21s): When it appears as though George Cowley is selling nerve gas to East Germany, Bodie and Doyle begin a covert operation to investigate his actions and to discover if Cowley has turned traitor.
The Madness Of Mickey Hamilton (50m46s): Hamilton is a man torn apart by the loss of his wife and child due to a medical error. Targeting those who he holds responsible, he takes revenge by killing the doctors and nurses one by one, until, that is, CI5 begin to take an interest in him.
Stopover (50m32s): Information clearly comes at a price when an old colleague of Cowley offers him the name of a double agent in exchange for his protection by CI5. Is the information worth putting Bodie and Doyle in such danger?
Runner (50m40s): When a breakaway gang of terrorists look to depose their former leader, they trap CI5 into doing it for them. But is there a more personal reason for involving Doyle?
As with the recent release of the fourteen episodes in Season One, these have also been digitally remastered and the results are just as pleasing, with a slightly sharper picture, a more natural palette and more pronounced blacks and shadows. It isn't, though, noticeably better without a side-by-side comparison so, again, temper your enthusiasm with realism and understand that wear and tear on the prints remain on those episodes included in this release.
The Old Season 2 Release
This New Season 2 Release
The Old Season 2 Release
This New Season 2 Release
The mono track remains, though, and has been ever so slightly cleaned up with a little less noise. As with the picture, it helps to have a side-by-side comparison to hear a clear difference but any improvement is welcome. There are, though, no subtitles on any of the episodes, which is frankly unacceptable.
Despite this review set looking like the retail version, none of the extras have been included. The set describes these as the same as those on the original set - a Booklet, Interviews with Brian Clemens and Laurie Johnson, Mission Briefs, Dedicated Followers Of Fashion, The Cars of The Professionals and Guest Star Rundown - but there is no way to verify if these will be included on the final version.
The Professionals is an iconic show, albeit one that's overlooked in favour of The Sweeney, a similar television show from a similar era, but this second season finds it in better form than ever. Were you to pick only one, this would be it and although these sets are probably a little too expensive to be picked up as a casual purchase, they'll drift down in price eventually. Until then, this set is more of benefit to collectors and with these episodes looking better than they have done since their original broadcast, it comes recommended to those who, unlike Martin Shaw, have yet to leave Bodie and Doyle behind.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:04:02