Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Pr1.5

TEN THINGS I NOTICED ABOUT...


SYNOPSIS:
An American senator is assassinated in front of a large number of people, 
so his killers try to take out the witnesses one by one.

001 For a man in charge of a secret government enforcement agency with a licence to kill, George Cowley can be surprisingly liberal. There’s that bad leg that he got in the Spanish Civil War, for instance, and, in this episode, he also gives a right wing American Senator called John Jerry Patterson a right verbal duffing up: “ You’re a bigot”, he says, “loud mouthed, rich, stupid.  A clown”. He tries to rationalise his outburst by saying that it is merely a case of practicality (there's a hit out against Patterson, and Cowley doesn’t want him ‘bleeding on my doorstep’), but it goes deeper than that. This guy is a real fascist, and Cowley hates his guts for it.


Patterson is played by Bruce Boa, a Canadian actor who specialised in crass, obnoxious Yanks dripping with contempt for little Britain, perhaps most notably in the ‘Fawlty Towers’ episode ‘Waldorf Salad’. I usually feel like punching him in the face when I see him, and have broken several televisions as a result. Happily, he gets blown away very early on in the proceedings, thereby negating the need for yet another new telly.








002 The assassination of Patterson is a dramatic tour de force. It all takes place on the motorway, and the action unfolds slowly, introducing a number of characters who just happen to be in their cars on that stretch of road at that particular time but will play a pivotal part in proceedings.

The various members of the public don’t appreciate a man being murdered in public, so, without thinking, group together to ‘have a go’ at the perpetrators. This scenario rapidly gets out of control, with one vigilante lifting a Ford Anglia with a conveniently placed Digger and literally throwing it at the hit-men, who are, not surprisingly, now running for their lives. Not content with this grand gesture, the vigilante jumps out of the cab and starts throwing traffic cones and lights after them – it’s pretty ineffective, but it’s a hell of a gesture. It’s a great sequence, and you get to see down Luan Peters' top (in actual fact, she’s completely wasted here in a very minor role - she could have at least made a decent, feisty love interest).


Interestingly, the sequence also has two men who jump out of their cars with cameras and cine-cameras to record the incident on film, neatly predicting a world where people’s first reaction to anything out of the ordinary is to record it on their phone and stick it on YouTube.   



003 Interesting Bodie insight 1: Doyle: “Don’t you read the papers?”; Bodie: “Only my stars” 

Interesting Bodie insight 2: He has a vest on. Not a bullet proof vest, just a vest. 





004 We now get to the best part of the episode, Tommy McKay. Normally, the CI5 operatives who aren’t Bodie and Doyle get fairly short shrift, tending to be bulky, unattractive, red faced  middle aged men who look like they’ve recently been demobbed. Most of their job seems to entail watching stuff, rolling up after the event or, as above, unsubtly stalking suburban streets while armed to the teeth. Tommy McKay is different, though. Tommy is a real character, the proverbial loose cannon, a psychotic blend of Robin Askwith and Charles Bronson. His ‘whole family were wiped out by terrorists’ and it sent him, perhaps understandably, a bit loopy.



I don’t know what dark places he goes to at night, but McKay (played by the usually brooding John Castle) seemingly enjoys every moment of his day, especially the killing. Towards the end of this episode he thwarts an attack on a witness by using a grenade launcher to blow up a boat and take out two men. Afterwards, he raises his arms in triumph, and chortles at his own lethal efficiency.


Sadly, he doesn’t last out the episode but, briefly, he provides a tantalising glimpse of a parallel universe where the Bodie and Doyle bromance becomes a threesome. He should have had a show of his own. ‘The Unprofessionals’,  perhaps.




005 A note about locations. This first series picked up some criticism for mainly being filmed around a fairly small area of Berkshire but, every now and again, they go somewhere gritty and urban and it really gives the production a jolt. An old brewery is used to great effect here, providing a grim, run down backdrop to a gun fight. There’s something enormously photogenic about an abandoned factory or derelict warehouse, those great signifiers of decay and decline. Luckily, this is Britain, so there are plenty about.

Later on, the killers hole up in a deserted mansion house, a formerly grand place that now has mould creeping across the expensive wallpaper: it looks great, like a damp cave filled with antiques.



006 Cowley has a lot on his plate all the time but, in this episode, where members of the public are being gunned down in transport café car parks or while on their honeymoon, the weight of responsibility becomes almost unbearable. Luckily, Bodie is on hand to offer him a ‘single malt scotch’ and a succinct but sincere pep talk. Cowley spends most of his time stomping around and shouting but, at heart, he’s really rather sensitive.    


007 There's a scene where Doyle is after information about a Heroin user called Tin Can so he crashes an Afro-Caribbean club filled with, gulp, black men. The men are all playing snooker, during the day, a sure sign not of sport, leisure or even unemployment, but criminality: these men are loitering between jobs, and not the sort that run from 9 to 5. After some eyeball tennis reminiscent of a spaghetti western (some of it almost certainly prompted by Doyle's perm), Doyle pushes the Boss against a wall and it all kicks off. Luckily for Doyle the black men rather cheaply give up their overwhelming advantage by only attacking him one at a time. Doyle has just smashed a snooker cue across one of the men's backs when the Boss shouts "Cool it! He's a friend!". Yeah, right.

We'll come back to Race in later episodes. What's interesting, I suppose, is that these are the first black faces we've seen so far. They're all criminals - probably - so Doyle has no qualms about beating them up over a matter that is more or less completely unrelated to them.  

Incidentally, for those of you who may remember later episodes where Martin Shaw reinvents Doyle as an apple eating Guardian reader, it's worth pointing out that this Doyle is far more aggressive than Bodie, much less concerned with human rights and really, really, really angry almost all of the time.



008 In a seemingly throwaway fashion, this episode highlights what, today, would be seen as a major issue for CI5: the dependence on alcohol that many of its operatives seem to have. God knows what Bodie has seen and done in his past but, when he demands beer just before a job and jokingly says  ‘I’m a finely tuned machine, I need lubrication’, it hints at a world of pain; especially when Doyle pointedly says that he didn’t forget the beer, he remembered not to bring any.   

009 Pathetically puerile Cowley quote of the day:

“I’ve got men on you for your protection; 
I’d like to pull them off”.



010 This episode ends with one hell of a shoot up and the tragic, crazy, blaze of glory death of Tommy McKay. My abiding memory of the climax, however, is this sit on mower. It’s a far better model than the one Johnny Shannon trundled around on in ‘Old Dogs With New Tricks’, but there’s still something completely ridiculous about seeing a grown man riding around on one. Bodie fucking hates it.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Pr1.4

TEN THINGS I NOTICED ABOUT...



SYNOPSIS:
A hit-man with a special gun comes to the UK
 to assassinate Greek royalty as they attend Wimbledon. 






001 This is perhaps the weakest episode so far. It's still pretty good, but it is holed below the waterline almost immediately simply because the premise makes no sense whatsoever: a hugely expensive assassin (thirty grand - in 1977!) is hired to kill a member of Greek royalty using a rifle that has a range of two miles. The fundamental issue is 'WHY?' Why not just get a hitman for five grand that will kill him from five hundred yards away? Or pay fifteen and he can do it from a mile. And why, if you do have a gun with a two mile range, would you then choose a place to fire it from that has a family in it that you have to hold hostage for days on end? Is there not an empty flat somewhere that will do just as well? 


002 The hired killer is called Georgi. He's working for terrorists, but his loyalty is to his bank account, not to a cause. He's played by Michael Latimer, one time star of 'Moon'/'Man Of Violence'. Latimer does his best (he has a wonky accent and a moustache) but the character is hugely clichéd, constantly banging on about his code and 'amateurs' and, like some swarthy Samurai, refusing to have sex until after the job is done. 


It might illustrate just how daft this is by revealing that the lady he rebuffs is Diane Keen. Yes, the beautiful, sexy Diane Keen. The boy's a fool. As a general rule, if CI5 are after you, you're pretty much dead anyway, so my advice is have a drink, have a fag, have a fry up and, if Diane's keen, have her as well - it's later than you think.


003 The terrorist cell is worth a roll call: one angry, bald bloke with a shotgun, one young lad who, until recently, lived with his Mum and, when he gets caught, spills his guts immediately, and beautiful, sexy Diane Keen, who isn't Greek but 'believes in the cause', and dresses like a fortune teller when she goes out to establish her solidarity with all things Hellenic. I'm not really sure what they're for or against, but they have a poster of Acropolis on one wall and a picture of Che Guevara on the other so it's either about Greece or Cuba. Diane's character (Hilda) is clearly only in it to meet dangerous men, which she gives away by sensuously stroking the long barrel of Georgi's gun and purring 'beautiful, powerful'. Viva la revolution, or whatever that is in Greek. Or Cuban.    


004 "What do you know about Greeks?" Doyle asks Bodie; "The men all dance together and the cops all shave their heads", he replies. Doyle later interrogates a Greek restaurant owner by smashing all his plates.



005 Georgi is a ruthless bastard, testing his special gun on a scarecrow and then a golfer. Neither had done anything to deserve being shot. Well, the scarecrow hadn't. That's the trouble with these murderers, their answer to everything is to kill somebody.


006 Bodie and Doyle call Cowley 'The Cow' when they think he can't hear them. He probably can, though.  

007 With regard to the long distance assassination atempt: if you genuinely can shoot somebody famous at Wimbledon from two miles away, how the fuck did Cliff Richard ever get to do a second song?

008 I'm  a bit pathetic, so I couldn't help but snigger like a schoolboy when Cowley says:

"I want a double entry on my signal!"

Especially as he looks very serious about it, like he really, really wants it. 


On a similarly trivial note, Doyle wears an incredible outfit that uses three separate shades of green: an emerald shirt, a pistachio jacket, and a pair of flares resembling some mould I once saw on some out of date corned beef.   


009 Suzanne 'The Body' Danielle makes a couple of brief appearances. Frantic life or death mission of international importance notwithstanding, Bodie makes a date with her the first time they meet; second time around, he brusquely commandeers her flat and then uses it as a base for his final assault on Georgi. The moment he jumps out of her window to try and kill a bloke, she's his. I used much the same method to woo my wife. Fifteen years on, she couldn't be less impressed with that sort of macho bullshit.  



The climax also reveals that Georgi has appalling taste in footwear - and that he is actually quite little. That could come in handy for a hit man, but Georgi probably didn't see it that way. 



010 Finally, there's an interesting scene where Bodie derides the Greek community as 'living in a ghetto'. Doyle says "Don't knock it - ghetto means being able to depend on your own kind". "Ooh" says Bodie, "so you and me are a mobile ghetto, eh?". And that's Bodie and Doyle in a nutshell, really - a mobile ghetto - in a white Triumph Dolomite.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Pr1.3

TEN THINGS I NOTICED ABOUT...


SYNOPSIS:
A group of ruthless mercenaries apply their 
deadly talents to organised crime.


001 CI5 are constantly pitting themselves against the deadliest opposition: seasoned mercenaries, gang bosses, assassins, rogue agents, crazed terrorists. For all the hype, however, these enemies of the state rarely seem to cause too many problems in the long run. It may very well take Bodie and Doyle about forty minutes an episode to track their opponents down but, when they do, it's game fucking over. Their dominance is a testament to Cowley, of course, who seems to have an eye for raw talent - Doyle was plucked from obscurity as a Detective Constable, Bodie from the misery of an Angolan jail - but, under his gruff tutelage, they have become pretty much the deadliest men in the world - and they still manage to have a laugh at work. It makes you proud to be British, unlike this gormless looking coward.



002 Aside from his talents for camping up, chatting up and duffing up, Bodie is also ace at the noble art of Darts, as he demonstrates by getting a double twenty simply by flinging a dart over his shoulder as he hurriedly leaves the ward room. Magic arrows, especially for someone dressed in beige slacks, a salmon shirt and a double breasted chocolate brown blazer. I love Bodie. 




003 This is Jeremy Bullock. He has an interesting CV, having been part of Cliff's anodyne crew in 'Summer Holiday', playing a horrific pig / ginger chap hybrid in 'O, Lucy Man!' and, perhaps most famously, as ruthless bounty hunter Boba Fett in 'The Empire Strikes Back' and the one about the Jedi coming back. He plays hired muscle here, too, but not particularly well, as his face is uncovered. 



004 It’s also nice to see the wonderfully grumpy Geoffrey Palmer working the other side of the street, here using his usually lovable hangdog face and crumpled velvet voice to essay a real bastard. Thirty seven years on, his well-heeled ‘respectable businessman’ is still a very relevant characterisation: he'd probably be in the Cabinet now. 



005 'The Professionals' dedication to duty means that they do not really exist in real time, by which I mean that their lives almost totally revolve around duty and action and punching people in the guts. Cowley never goes home, ever. Sure, for the lads there are women, but this is mere consumption, the same sort of a relationship that an athlete has with a bottle of water, or a car with screen wash. 


With the present in stasis and the future unthinkable there is a great emphasis on 'the past': past battles, past friends, past enemies, past friends who have become enemies, past enemies who have become friends, past lives, past loves. In this episode, ‘the past’ is Bodie’s previous employment as a mercenary in Africa, running with the very men he is now trying to capture or kill. Bodie opens up to Doyle about the complicated relationship he has with Krivas, the leader of the group (Krivas is played by David Suchet: he’s stubby, chubby but surprisingly handy – he’s also a psychopath). The original enmity between them was caused by a woman, of course. 

'This girl was special, see. Beautiful. I loved her, really loved her. Krivas had a crazy notion she was his bird, so he killed her. 44 Magnum at close range. She was beautiful". 


Just in case you were wondering, Ladbrokes are no longer taking bets on Bodie kicking Krivas' arse off. 

The music in this episode is absolutely superb throughout, by the way, tense and funky as hell. In an interesting variation, Bodie's sad story is accompanied by a funereal version of the main theme played mournfully on a tuba, which seems ridiculous but sounds amazing.    

006 This is a pretty violent episode, with an awful lot of people getting a vicious smack on the head. I particularly liked Suchet twatting Del Henney's noggin into a pillar (which wobbles), a kind of two-for-one rebound deal that leads to a couple of funny faces then unconsciousness. 





Overall, however, you can't top Bodie when it comes to the knockout punch... 



GOOD NIGHT! 

007 It’s worth taking a moment to think of the non-human cost of keeping Britain Great. This mangled barrier at the Nuclear Fission Recycling Plant, for instance. In a bitterly ironic twist, that barrier had only one day left to retirement.



008 Cowley's leg. Cowley's leg is featured in almost every episode and, even though it's sometimes out of shot, you always sense its presence. He got a bullet in it during the Spanish Civil War, you see, and now it plays him up constantly. Doctors could remove the bullet, of course, but they couldn't guarantee he'd keep the leg, so he'd rather hobble around swallowing whisky and Anadin and slowing everybody down. In this episode his leg nearly gets him killed. No wonder he is so miffed when Doyle has the nerve to ask “Are you okay, Cowley?" – “Yes, yes, I'm okay" he replies, "and it's Mister Cowley”. 



He's mainly cross with himself, though - and that bastard leg. 

009 The mercenaries are immediately distinguishable (and supremely conspicuous) because they wear full combat fatigues wherever they go, even when just walking around town and visiting their families. On the other hand, Bodie goes into battle camouflaged in black flared trousers and a bright red shirt. You can see him for miles. I'm not sure if that's best practice, but it certainly sends out a very strong message. 



010 Most episodes of ‘The Professionals’ climax in some sort of a scrap, of course, but the ultimate battle here is particularly drawn out and nasty, as Bodie takes on Krivas and the two old enemies and love rivals knock seven bells out of each other. Strangely, Doyle turns away from this epic bout, but it could just be that he knows Bodie will be the victor. We don’t see all the fight, but we see its aftermath as a bloodied and exhausted Bodie, his clothes ripped to bits, trudges towards Cowley and Doyle and says “You should see the other feller”.







You know what, I hope he’s beaten that bastard to death, or, at least, ripped his balaclava off.