I freely admit I wasn't looking forward to The New Professionals. I enjoyed the original series so much (still do, twenty years later) that the thought of anyone trying to produce a follow-up was enough to induce a cold chill up the spine...
I needn't have worried. If the rest of the series lives up to the standard of this first episode, it will be a worthy successor indeed.
All the elements that made the original such a 'must-see' are here: two attractive male agents, snappy banter, fast cars, screaming tyres, lots of action and an exciting, fast-paced plot. It even has the same theme music! But this series has far more than that...
For a start, CI5 has now achieved the recognition it always deserved. No longer purely a British organisation: it's now internationally respected ('The best', as that knowledgeable FBI agent points out to his less well-educated partner). And it's come a long way from the "seedy and run-down" building (1) that was its first home: it now has the wonderfully high-tech HQ it always deserved (no peeling wallpaper here!) Instead of struggling against enemies with superior weapons, CI5 operatives now have cutting edge technology themselves (I want one of those mobile phones!) But best of all (from a female point of view, anyway) is that CI5 is now an equal opportunity employer: women are no longer decorative tea-makers, chauffeurs and secretaries!
Lexa Doig as Tina Backus ('Backup') is absolutely perfect. Quiet, understatedly sexy, versatile, enormously competent, as much at home defusing a bomb as operating a computer - only her expertise and sheer good sense prevents the men from blowing them all to pieces. I like that. In my experience, it's absolutely accurate and true to life. (Although I would have thought that an experienced operative would have known better than to climb into the car in the first place... Ah well. As a way of establishing character traits it worked OK, I suppose.)
I was distinctly relieved that the writers haven't tried to precisely recreate Bodie and Doyle (or Cowley, for that matter.) We still have the hot-headed agent (Keel) and the cool one (Curtis), but Keel is a slob, and Curtis not the most considerate of men (How many times does he have to be told Keel wants to sleep before he gets the message? I lost count!) And my initial guess would be that Keel joined CI5 as a way of avenging his wife's murder (presumably by fighting terrorism wherever and whenever it raises its ugly head), rather than for any idealistic reasons. Maybe we'll find out more in later episodes.
On the other hand, I wasn't entirely happy with Curtis and Keel. I had trouble remembering which was which - from a distance it's difficult to tell them apart. And Curtis' accent seems to veer from public school to Londoner and back again! (Do men really still refer to women as 'lookers'? I thought that had died out in the early 80's... ) As for that campy, 'curly bubble-cut' crack - cheap, guys, really cheap. Forget politics and behind the scenes problems: Keel is never going to be as gorgeous as Doyle - better accept it now and save us all a lot of irritation...
Edward Woodward turns in a fine performance as Malone - as staunchly supportive of his men as Cowley but much more appreciative. And diplomatic: where Cowley trampled over and through political problems, Malone uses tact and reasonableness. Much more realistic.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this first episode. It's believable (insofar as any such TV series can be), exciting, with a great cast, wonderful dialogue (almost as good as the original - and considerably more PC!!). There are enough internal references and clues to make the overall notion of CI5 - in both incarnations - comprehensible to anyone who hasn't seen the original series. And I loved the little touches - Malone quoting Cowley, and saluting his photograph at the end; Curtis and Keel's handgrasp in the car (was this an example of male bonding or was Curtis just preparing to haul his partner out of danger?); Keel's flat (overlooking a graveyard!? I feel a running gag coming on...); Tina's 'Yes sir' - without looking up from her computer - when Malone says he wants back-up... This is definitely the Professionals for the 90's. Great stuff.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not deserting the original series. As far as I'm concerned, in it's time it was near-perfect, and I'm still finding new facets every time I re-watch an episode. And the fact that everything that made The Professionals such an evergreen success has been written into The New Professionals proves that it was a winning combination in the first place. But the new series is looking good. On this showing, I'd recommend it as a very enjoyable hour's viewing. I know I'm looking forward to next week's episode (and in the meantime I have a whole week of the original series to enjoy...)
For further information, please check out CI5, the ultimate Professionals website.
My thanks to Dave, the CI5 WebMaster, for all his work in developing such a highly informative, fascinatingly detailed site. The credit is his for the appearance of this review: I have 'borrowed' his basic format for this page in order to keep everything Professionals-related consistent in style.
Phoenix (Episode 2)
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