One of my all-time favourite British television series has to be The Professionals. It had it all - action, humour, social comment, daft 1970s fashions and three cracking leading actors in Martin Shaw, Lewis Collins and Gordon Jackson. Over the course of 57 episodes, screened between 1977 and 1983, CI5 agents Doyle and Bodie tackled an endless crime wave (and no, I don't mean Shaw's perm) across London with Jackson as their slightly fearsome yet very wry and human boss, George Cowley.
The series fell out of favour in the 1980s due the amount of violence on display let alone some other aspects which did still portray life as it was in the Britain of that time. I love it in the same way I love The Sweeney - strong characters, great actors and a unique time capsule back in the slightly grim recent past. The series also featured the usual delightful cavalcade of guesting British character actors and several of these were also familiar Carry On faces. So what are the links between these two great British institutions?
Probably one of my very favourite Professionals cameos came in the 1979 episode "Backtrack" and in the shapely shape of Liz Fraser. Liz, the face of many classic British comedy films from the 1950s, 60s and 70, gladly hammed it up shamelessly as "fence" Margery Harper. Margery was a rather colourful character who took a bit of a shine to Ray Doyle! The scenes featuring Shaw, Fraser and Lewis Collins are full of wonderful comedy and are deliciously knowing. The strength of Liz's performance once again proves why we should have seen much more of her in British television drama over the years.
Julian Holloway, an actor who appeared in countless classic British series at the time, also played the guest role of policeman Harvey in The Professionals episode "First Night", first broadcast in 1978. This episode saw Julian work most closely with Gordon Jackson in several scenes at CI5 HQ and also on the South Bank by the River Thames. Fellow character actor Derek Francis, well known to Carry On fans for his brilliant roles in the likes of Carry On Matron and Abroad, appeared in not one but two episodes of The Professionals, in different roles. In the first series episode "Look After Annie" he played the rather unpleasant John Howard and four years later he was back, playing Len Hatch, a member of the criminal underworld in the story "You'll Be All Right".
Another actor to appear twice in the series was the late Llewellyn Rees, first as Sir Arden French in the first series episode "Everest Was Also Conquered" and then three years later he cropped again as Dr Philip Hedley in the 1980 story "Wild Justice". In between these two episodes, Rees played the Lord Chief Justice in the 1978 film Carry On Emmannuelle. Patrick Durkin, who played small parts in Carry On Sergeant, Nurse, Cabby, Spying, Cowboy and Dick, first joined The Professionals in the rather bizarre part of a Russian hitman, Terkof, in the 1977 episode "The Female Factor". To me it looks like his performance is very obviously dubbed. In 1980 Patrick was back for the cameo role of truck driver Wally in "Hijack".
The familiar Australian actor Ed Devereaux, who had small roles in the films Carry On Nurse, Regardless, Cruising, Jack and Bless This House, grabbed a major guest starring role in the 1979 episode "Runner" seeing him work opposite well-known actors Michael Kitchen and James Cosmo. Ed played the rather fierce gangster Albie. Reliable character actor Harry Towb popped up for a brief cameo as small time rogue Harry Spence in the 1980 Professionals episode "Blood Sports". Harry played the dubious Doctor in the film Richard O'Callaghan takes Jacki Piper to see in Carry On At Your Convenience.
The glamorous Penny Irving (I wonder what happened to her?) played the character Pam in the very first episode of The Professionals ever broadcast, "Private Madness, Public Danger" in 1977. Penny, who went on to appear in many episodes of Are You Being Served? was one of Joan Sims' Birds of Paradise in the 1974 film Carry On Dick. Fellow "Bird" Laraine Humphrys, who also appeared in Carry On Girls and the 1973 Carry On Christmas television special, played the uncredited role of Doyle's girlfriend in the 1977 story " When The Heat Cools Off".
Another Carry On actress, the lovely Suzanne Danielle, played one of her earliest acting roles in the first series episode "Killer with a Long Arm" in 1977. Playing the role of Pretty Girl, Danielle would find herself playing the leading lady in the last of the original Carry Ons following year in Carry On Emmannuelle.
Finally, no blog on The Professionals can go without mentioning one final link to the Carry Ons. In Gordon Jackson, the series found one of it's most bankable and talented stars. Gordon was also one of Kenneth Williams' closest and most loyal friends. Despite this Kenneth didn't pull any punches when watching Jackson in the series in early 1978. Let's just say that although Kenneth thought Gordon one of the best actors in the country, he did not think the role of George Cowley suited him at all!
Anyway, to finish, here's a reminder of the brilliant intro theme from The Professionals:
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