A big "Thanks!" to everybody who took the time and trouble to submit their comments on the series. It's interesting to see a diversity of opinion on specific topics such as Backus and "Americanisation".
Many thanks to the following folk for their help with information for this page: Jesper Antvorskov, Lisa Auty, Warren Bassett, Sue Beach, Brian Clemens, Ulrik Eklund, David Fildes, Richard Ford, Pam Igo, Mike Jones, Frank Harris, Marco Lang, Richell Lever, Andy Linton, Ellis McSweeney, Robin Nayak, Nina Nilsson, DanaJeanne Norris, Richard Payne, Richard Purves, Dave Rogers, Simon Walker, Lisa Williams, Nicola Wood, Jack Yan, Douglas Youngson... plus all those who kindly wrote in to share their thoughts.
Special thanks to Julia Jones at Dennis Davidson Associates for all publicity material and advice, corrections, etc, up until October 1998. Also to series producer David Wickes and production executive Heide Wilsher.
You can read an exclusive interview with the producer of CI5 The New Professionals here!
With such a hard act to follow, it was only natural that The New Professionals would be compared against its ancestor and fans of the original have keenly put forward their views. However there were many viewers around the world who had never been enthralled by the 1970s adventures, so were coming to CI5 fresh with the new team. By and large the new show did not fair terribly well with the "veteran" fans, though it did garner much appreciation amongst "newbies". Interestingly I got the most positive feedback from Australian viewers, many of whom said they enjoyed both the old AND new series.
Let's start with the new actors....
Kal Weber ("Chris Keel")
Kal/Keel actually turned out to be the favourite of the partnership, bringing an easy, fairly natural performance to his role. Although there are differing accounts, it seems he deliberately avoided watching the old shows, so it was pleasantly surprising just how well he did!
"Munchkinott" sums up the view from the female contingent of the audence:
"Kal Weber is a GEM! OK so he gets the better lines (Yeah, I noticed this, too! Dave), has a character which is NOT embryonic and has relaxed confidence in the character which makes you believe in him YES this guy is ex-Navy SEALS, YES this guy's wife was brutally gunned down, YES YES YES! Undoubtedly Chris Keel is the best character in the show. Now if they could just slip a little of the detail they've shown in scripting Keel over to scripting Curtis we're onto a winner!"
"... as for Kal Webber, yep, top quality there too and he did very well. You could see what effort he was putting into the show although at times I thought he was doing his Eddie Irvine impressions with him in helicopter and the racing cars!"
Colin Wells ("Sam Curtis")
Unfortunately views on Colin Wells' performance were not so consistent. Many felt that he looked uncomfortable in the role and therefore did not come across as 'natural': remarks that he simply looked like an actor playing a role (which, of course, he is but you know what I mean!) were a common complaint. However, as with a lot of other aspects of the series, reaction from Australian viewers was generally far more favourable.
A comprehensive dissection of Curtis was sent in by "Munchkinott":
"Colin Wells is no Lewis Collins so he should just stop trying! Although I have to say he's not doing too bad a job. With a little more definition in the scripting and the character having a better definition as opposed to a higgledy-piggledy hotch-potch, he's got a chance. Sam Curtis appears to be written as a James-Bond-esque-meets-sub-standard-Bodie secret agent type, fine wines, even finer women (Ok hands up who's seen him with a woman?? Confess!), so far there's been very little of the "lone agent" in Curtis' character.
"He's settled with having a partner to work with TOO easily. There's no inner darkness to his character, so far, that you would expect from a man with Curtis' background. Not to mention the some of the lines he gets dealt (as do the other actors) seem totally out of sync not only with the plot but with the character. A little spot of black humour in the one-liners, a little more abrasiveness in the relationship with Keel. My feelings on the character is he's holding the show in position, being the support character to Keel. Even though there is supposed to be a working partnership he's the "feed-man". 1) By rights and previous vocational history, there shouldn't BE one. 2) There is also a lack of 'cold-bloodedness'.
"If the dialogue is straightened out and Brian Clemens sticks to his own character definitions psychologically, emotionally and verbally then not only will Sam Curtis become a better character but Colin Wells will also not look like he's swallowed a dead rat after delivering a line that just plain doesn't FIT the situation! No other actor could play the same role, no other actor would put up with the garbage Wells gets delivered as an excuse for "dialogue". If they did make a second series I'd be amazed if he reprised the role, even though I'd like to see it go the distance with him playing Curtis."
From Julia Anderson, Australia:
"I feel that I have to write in defence of Colin Wells (Sam Curtis). He has been much maligned by fans of CI5 The New Professionals. I think he did a great job of acting. He didn't need great lines to deliver a superb performance. "Samurai Wind" is my favourite episode and he really conveyed a depth of feeling with no words needed. Especially in a scene near the end when the boys find Backus. When they see her he slumps back with a look of sheer relief and exhaustion etched on his face, no words were needed there to convey how he was feeling. He is a great actor and brings Sam Curtis to life.
"Colin Wells did a brilliant job especially in 'Souvenir' and I loved the way Malone treated him. I think that he was expecting Malone to blow his head off instead he just asked him to repeat the first rule and then abide by it. Wonderful, very caring from Malone. I think that he understood where Sam was coming from in that ep."
Susan Morden, also in Oz:
"It is worth watching primarily because of the Sam Curtis character (he's the only reason I watch the show). I think a lot of the comments about Colin Wells on your site are unfair and prejudiced. He is a VERY talented actor and has delivered a great performance in spite of being so severely handicapped by poor scripts. I think Colin Wells has done a fantastic job. He uses his eyes and body language so effectively. I am in law enforcement myself and I have seen my colleagues get that cold intense look in their eyes when they are out in the field. Colin gets that look in the action scenes and that makes the Curtis character so lifelike to me. I particularly enjoyed the episodes Samurai Wind and Orbit - that's really where Sam Curtis is at his best.
"Kal Weber has had the best of it in the series the script tends to favor him and it says a lot for Colin Wells that he's overcome the lopsided characterization and made Sam Curtis so real and human and believeable. I hope there is a second season and I hope to see more of Colin Wells. He did great in spite of really rotten scripts. I am glad more fans wrote in praise of him because the comments on your site were just a tad lop-sided and some of the fans of the original show were vicious. "
"... as for Colin Wells, well, he did have a few 'iffy' moments but on the whole he wasn't too bad. It wasn't his fault if the scripts were a bit corny in places and made you want to cringe! I thought he did a great job and you could see the fun he was having with Kal and Lexa and sometimes he couldn't keep a straight face which is a good sign!"
As to the actual pairing of Wells and Weber, perhaps we're subconciously comparing it too closely to the old series, but most agreed there was little 'rapport' between their characters, though arguably improved slightly as the series progressed. One might assume this was because there was almost no accord between the actors but apparently they got along extremely well on- and off-set. Then again, scripts consisting of contrived expositional banter didn't help, so it is clearly not the fault of the actors, who simply were given scripts that offered little to really chew on!
From Swedish viewer Ulrik Eklund:
"I think Keel and Curtis were very anonymous in the beginning but that has actually improved somewhat. If it is because the script gives them more character, or if it took some time to get into the show, I don't know."
Ann Sahlstrom from Sweden:
"Although a good-looking twosome in their Boss and Jigsaw outfits, Curtis and Keel are more cultivated, less street-wise and lacking the "rough'n'tough" nature of predecessors. More worryingly it's now becoming obvious that their on-screen relationship is lacking the sparky rapport we loved from the original show."
A chap called Andy from Germany:
"Curtis and Keel were absolutely bland and nondescript. Man, they could have been brothers, they were so lookalike. Not to mention generic."
Marco Lang, also from Germany:
"The two lads seemed to me a bit flat [or] faded. I think they do play their respective characters a bit superficially, not with the required love of the details."
"Far from there being a lack of chemistry between them it's the way it's having to be done with looks, stances, eye-contact and situations because there's no real banter or tit-for-tat quipping being written into the scripts. If anything, lack of conversation between Curtis and Keel is killing each episode and leaving both actors dead in the water going from scene to scene. A good point for a "conversation" of the "old school" style would have been when Keel had trodden on a landmine in the second episode or during the bush scenes in Tusk Force (I only remember that title because I remarked it was a damn awful pun to my family). What do we get? A few quick comments in the second episode and an injury list in Tusk Force! DRAT!
"I do actually like the interplay between Curtis and Keel even if the scripting of it seems too contrived which has a chain-reactive effect on the actor's delivery it's like they could do so much more with the characters if they weren't bogged down by the script. Really those two could do so WELL, the magic is there. Unfortunately it's let down quite a lot by the... production "values".
"I LIKE those guys, both the characters and the actors (but mainly the latter: they're doing brilliantly with a rotten hand apiece. Unlike Lexa Doig, they have each other to bounce sub-script-commentary off.) Dealing against the odds with nuclear holocausts, chemical weapons dumps and scriptwriters who don't have a "feel" for the characters."
"How could anyone say there was almost no rapport between the two guys and Sam Curtis was wooden. What planet are they from? I loved each and every episode and as far as 'Back to Business' well the storyline wasn't that relevant it was great just to find out more about the characters and the bantering was brilliant.
"I thought that as the series progressed the bantering and body language as well as the looks between the two guys just developed more and more. They seemed to be enjoying working together and the partnership worked really well. I wish fans and I think that they are more male than female (judging by the response I have had from female fans from around the world) would stop bagging Colin Wells performance. Both the guys did a really great job and they can't be blamed for poor scripts and lack of continuity. They came across as really likeable guys with plenty of depth in their characters."
A fan called Raelene:
"I believe this new series has class. The two actors look fresh not battle-scarred and have shown that they can achieve results without huge fist fights and massive gun battles. I find that it pays to listen to what these two actors are saying and watch what their body language and facial expressions are saying and one gets a better feel for this episode. Curtis (Colin Wells) in particular makes good use of his facial expressions and body language in several of the episodes that I have seen so far. I think that Curtis has been treated rather poorly in the show as the script writers have not been able to give him many decent lines to work with, they have him supporting Keel.
"I think that it is shame that they have not given the characters more profile, I mean they did have the torment scene with Keel asleep and Curtis in the apartment, but why did they not carry this line in further episodes? The only thing that I can see is that Curtis gained a little understanding about Keel, and Keel realised that he has a friend if he needs him. The other storylines show that Curtis likes the fine life when he has the chance but if his life is an open book, then why not tell us a little more?
"I often wonder how many takes they made of Curtis carrying Keel in 'Tusk Force'? If I was Keel I would have been whispering jokes in his ear to try to crack the look of hardship and struggle on Curtis' face. I did enjoy this episode, however especially with my love for animals."
Picking up on the rapport thread, I think it was largely ineffective because the leads were not directed to drum up the sheer friction of that between Bodie and Doyle. Now obviously they could not have played Keel & Curtis in the same way that B & D were portrayed but, as Brian Clemens himself once said:
"The basis of any duo relationship is that there has to be an element of conflict. You could end up with a very dull 'marriage' if the characters liked each other all the time. There is no drama unless there is some conflict"
... and to a large extent the producers missed out on that with the new series. Admittedly there were a few scenes where Keel & Curtis snapped at each other but these were usually rather obviously "scripted" and unconvincing. In fact this may be the fault of the actors to an extent, too. A hint of this came in an interview Kal Weber did for BBC Radio 5. Explaining that he and Colin had got on well during filming, he then went on to ask why there had to be friction between Bodie and Doyle and why did they "hate each other"? Of course this wasn't the case they simply had very different attitudes which would lead to disagreement and heated exchages of view.
Lexa Doig ("Tina Backus")
I feel immensely sorry for Lexa Doig. In the first episode, 'Back to Business', she showed great potential in the bomb-defusing scene but a Sunday Times article was quite correct in dismissing her role as little more than plugging away at the office computers. Her character's one discernible trait was an unattractive one: that of insisting everything be played 'by the book'. On the occasions when she managed to escape from HQ, there was often little real point, other than to stand around pointing guns at people while Curtis & Keel went off to do the 'real' stuff. David Wickes said that introducing a major female role was not about being politically correct. How right he was: with Lexa doing almost nothing of real value other than looking sexy (I'm not complaining about that!), I'm afraid she did rather became the token female... how Politically Incorrect can you get!?! Without exception everybody I've spoken to agrees the scripts simply wasted her role. The problem was compounded when another CI5 op, Spencer, got more of a foothold the show then making the same "over-populating" mistake that BUGS did. If the show goes to a second season, Backus' role either needs a radical rethink or should be removed altogether. I would plump for the former option!
"Backus is an annoying and unnecessary figure, with a poorly-defined character and always seeming to be in the way of the action. But I actually began to enjoy the series... especially the final three episodes. Backus got more of a role but is still weak and unnecessary. I like Mr Spencer's role very much. He is good and has grown with the role. If Backus had a similar role, it would seem better. My thought would be to switch their roles in the next season."
Robin Nayak from Singapore:
"The characters are getting stronger as it goes yep, Backus could use more air time (then again, that's a guy's perspective once more and Ms Doig certainly is easy on the eye). And she is right to state that she often drops in, jets in, helicopters in to help save the day (Mr Wickes, if you're reading, without her boss, once in a while would be a good idea)."
"Backup could be a very good character but she is terribly underused. Someone complained that she is never in any action, but that is not true: she has been used as backup in the field in at least two shows."
Ellis McSweeney from Southern Ireland:
"I agree with everyone who said the Backus should have been given a better role. She was really only a token female it would have been un-PC not to have her but they didn't really need her."
Andy from Germany:
"Backus was okay, but of course 90s action-series cliche Number 1, the smart and good looking computer crack."
"From her other work [Lexa Doig is] a highly capable actress. Unfortunately with CI5 she appears to be a fish out of water. She commands no visual authority or presence even though she is playing the legendary "Backup". Her character Tina Backus is in a terrible character position she's a "use her or lose her" character in that you feel very little empathy, sympathy or comfortable with her. Backus doesn't connect or convince either as an ex-agent or as a career high flyer and does very little for adding sex appeal to the show as she does very little in terms of dialogue or scenes. The constant cutting back to see her moping behind a computer screen doing absolutely nothing at points of high tension or action are more than an annoyance. In the main she's always on the "outside looking in" unless they do something drastic and make it an equal three-way split between Curtis, Keel and herself then that's the way it's always going to be.
"The PC character definition is also at direct odds with her lines. She will berate Spencer for calling someone instantly a "he" in a quick fit of sexual equality, yet do a "duh! I'm dumb, I'm female" routine when Curtis asks where her mobile phone is. "A mobile phone? In this dress?" "A sickbag. In this living room. Please?" was my direct comment. Backus, unlike Curtis, has no potential strength of character to exploit short of turning her away from a rule-book beating, hypocritical, clothes-horse by scripting her a few solo outings (please for God's sake someone whack the "I have a gun in my hand therefore I pose like Naomi Campbell" attitude out of her!), showing that's she's more than a bimbo with a modem and access to the fax machine. Or just get RID! I have to admit I find the character Bacus insulting, as a woman, she represents every misconception and veneering of the gender. The female characters written for the original and other Brian Clemens series have been strong, well written, beautiful yet able to hold their own in a male-dominated sphere. Backus, with the current grade of writing, couldn't hold a glass of water, let alone attention. I dream she had a character transplant with Ellen Ripley."
Edward Woodward ("Harry Malone")
Naturally we expected great things of Edward. And in the first two episodes ('Back to Business' and 'Phoenix') he certainly showed potential. "Yes," I thought, "with a little more 'fine-tuning', this is really going to work." I felt, however, his performance started slipping from episode three and lacked any real 'character' or consistent flair. (He did have his moments, though!). Like Colin Wells, it was sometimes painfully obvious that he was 'acting' the role. It's difficult to guess what went wrong but I imagine the weak scripting is the main culprit. Occasionally he would bring a touch of welcome humour a shame he wasn't given more of an opportunity for this. I've seen Edward play a great many roles and this is the first time I've been disappointed. Although direct comparisons between him and Gordon are unfair (they were not, after all, playing the same character), thirteen episodes of Malone made me appreciate Cowley even more (and, indeed, reminded us just how superb Gordon had been!). Well that was just my view clearly many others didn't entirely agree....
"Here goes another vote for Edward Woodward to my surprise (I thought before the show started that it too expedient) is quite excellent."
"Edward Woodward is good in his role as Malone, but he reminds me far too much of The Equalizer."
Andy from Germany:
"Edward Woodward as Malone is good. Of course it would have been better to have Collins in the role... but EW was fine. He had the right air for a tough-as-nails commander of the boys and was believable."
Marco Lang from Germany:
"I especially liked Edward Woodward, who was a more than good successor for the late Gordon Jackson. He plays his role not quite as "serious" as GJ did, more often uses the odd joke to underline his orders and requests. This may be due to the German dubbing, though. But seeing him smile quite often makes me think that also the English dialogues might be fitted with the odd joke as well. A very moving scene was the final one of the first episode, where Malone found an image of Cowley, the "founder of CI5". He placed it on the wall of his office and saluted in front of it. Shivering-time, as far as I'm concerned."
"Edward Woodward doesn't have the same authoritative "clout" Gordon Jackson had in the original series. Not as a slight against Woodward's skills as an actor, he just appears to be playing Malone as an older Robert McCall when the role, in definition, commands a lot more grit and spitting wrath. There appears to be very little difference in the way Malone addresses his agents and his superiors, which is not only unrealistic but makes you wonder how Malone got the job in the first instance! Given a little more time though Woodward does have the skill to turn up the "heat" in his performance. Although I have to admit I'd prefer Tony Doyle (Col. Hadley in "Who Dares Wins" and Deakin in "Between The Lines" but tragically recently deceased) in the same role now he REALLY could give CI5 agents the 'rounds of the kitchen! He would have had the pin-point accuracy to turn a complement into an insult.
"I'm gonna draw on comparisons with the original series again, after all it's better to compare like to like than to a different idea and concept with a incompatible character/objective base. In the first season of the original Professionals it was laid down flat like LAW that George Cowley ran EVERYTHING. If he didn't have his finger on the pulse you might as well call it DEAD! That was achieved by some great, nay FANTASTIC, scenes. Where does Harry Malone stand? Cowley's successor? Lap-dog to politicians? Spooked more by ghosts than by real-life? What, where, how? He commands no authority, knows nothing until he arrives on the scene, rarely uses observational skills (not that the storyline NEEDS him to). Certainly NOT the the head of the most powerful and feared crime-fighting organisation in the world. Hand picks his agents? HA! I wouldn't let him hand pick FRUIT! Because Malone has so far been set up as a weak, inferior character with very little control he LOOKS like a character with very little control, it doesn't mean that he ISN'T in charge or have his finger on the pulse as often as Cowley, it's just the perception points elsewhere. Malone is a classic example of character building if not done in the formative episodes of a series being made to look like a damp squib."
"Edward Woodward was wonderful and I loved all the little bits about recognising the old show whereas other shows that I've seen have just ignored the past. He added a quality to the show and with him in it you knew that he would be top class and he certainly proved that."
The Plots and Scripts
This is the element I'm disappointed with more than anything. Most of the storylines are simply dull and mechanical the ideas sometimes good but their execution lacking flair, suspense and twists. Consequently this does not bring out the best in the actors.
To be candid, some of the plots in the original show weren't terribly good a failing usually more than compensated for by the actors even in the lesser of the 1977 episodes when they were still 'finding their footing'. There were often little plotholes here and there but because, on the whole, the shows were enjoyable, these were easy to overlook. In the new show, the holes are not only far bigger but the sheer tedium of some of the stories makes them more obvious anyway (and, therefore, annoying).
The dialogue was often unimaginitive and there was precious little of the biting humour of the original series (which comes as a shock when you consider that Brian Clemens wrote the majority of the new scripts or was credited with doing so.)
So what happened? For one thing I don't think Brian was expecting to have to write so many. I understand he was also busy with other projects at the time. Additionally/alternatively it may well have been that his scripts were 'tampered' with for the better or worse, who's to tell except for the actors, who probably had to read both versions!
Speaking of the scripts in particular, the actors allegedly often found themselves having to patch up gaping holes in the scripts usually on the spot because, they say, there was never a script editor or Brian on-set to help.
"I don't think that the series is very Americanised (but more so than the original which was extremely British). I think that it definitely has a very British touch. Maybe it is because the plot isn't always so predictable?"
Andy from Germany again:
"The biggest disappointment which of course reflected on my rather lacklustre reception of the pilot was the writing. Oh my god! What a silly and dumb mess. This hasn't anything to do with larger than than life, this was just plain stupid. I have seen episodes of Acapulco Heat one of the all-time bad crime-shows which made more sense. Brian Clemens, what has become of you?"
"The plots and storylines [are] mostly flimsy (not saying a damned thing about the dialogue!), too convenient, have lost the "Dark Horse" twists (ie there's always a character/object introduced early or late on in the story who holds or contributes to the resolution the question is which one) and there's also very little focus on Curtis and Keel as a working unit (what I wouldn't give for a minute of mildly-insulting yet acutely amusing and mundanely philosophical chatter between those two instead of the statutory editing trip back to Backus and her computer monitor!). All three characters in the original series had thought processes which weedled their way into the storyline and plot, the current bunch are point in the rough direction of where the trouble just has to be with very little independant thought as if they didn't have a brain in their heads. The reason, I think, the plots are so mindless is not because the audience is regarded as clinically brain-dead but because the characters are. Make the "heroes" smarter than the bad-guys and equally, if not smarter, than the audience simple!"
"Focus: There appears to be a major problem with this. The storylines, script, scenarios and direction don't seem to be able to handle a four-way character-play. It's too jumpy. One minute you're here, next you're there and you're never too sure who the hit character is (The character to whom the story relates most strongly), it's almost like everyone is scrabbling for equal screen-time. In a first season that's BAD. It affects any chance the audience has of building an association with characters, it distorts the plotlines and completely screws up the audience's perspective, not to mention what it does to the performers."
"... the weak plots in some stories and continuity is a shocker. The writers leave a lot to be desired and the actors deserve credit for putting a lot into their parts which such poor scripts. Perhaps we are using too many writers from the original series?
"I think poor scripts will bring about the demise of this series and any future series although I do hope that they will produce a second series and have the same principle actors. They just need to give Backup more to do, and give Curtis and Keel a profile that will carry on and greatly emphasise their characters."
Although lacking the raw visual grit of the 1978 'car smash' opening, I thought the new set looked pretty nifty, though contained a couple of elements to cause concern. Commencing, of course, with a vehicle crashing through a plate-glass window, DWTV elected to use a Ford Explorer, rather than a more traditional, appropriate "muscle car". I'm guessing this is because of the importance of US sales the Explorer is one of the few Ford vehicles that is sold on both sides of the Atlantic.
The titles also gave what I thought would be an early warning sign: the actors' credits did little more than flash on the screen a habit Wickes seems to have picked up from the Americans. If you're going to credit your performers, at least give viewers a chance to appreciate it! The titles comprised mainly of action shots taken from various episodes one assumes DWTV couldn't afford to put together a unique sequence like both versions of the titles in the old show.
I was deeply concerned about what was going to happen when David Wickes announced that a "revamped 90's theme" was going to be produced (it was hoped the original theme would be re-recorded). In the end, I need not have worried. The main theme is, in fact, by Laurie himself and I quite like it, though the brass of the original has been replaced by a rather cheap, shrieky synth sound. Unsurprisingly I do prefer the controlled raucousness of the original but the new one is perfectly acceptable to me (and certainly better than some of Laurie's own previous cover versions!).
Unfortunately I can't say the same for the incidental themes, which were composed by Chris Winter and Hywel Maggs (virtual unknowns amongst viewers but apparently reasonably well-known in the industry). In the first couple of episodes, I felt they were good but from then on decent ones were scarce and often they descended into something bland, 'generic' and totally forgettable. Despite his apparent supervisory role, Laurie does not appear to have had a hand in the incidental music at all. A few fans have commented that it would have been nice to revamp some of Laurie's original incidentals in fact that appears to be what Laurie was hoping for as well!
Interestingly DWTV first approached the band Jamiroquai, who are fans of the original series. Sadly they already had commitments elsewhere. Given the band's supreme ability to meld currently-popular seventies styles with chart-topping catchiness (give "Cosmic Girl" a listen!), one can't help feel they would have been an ideal choice for the show. They are also a far better "hook" for the commercial saleability of the show than Winter, Maggs and even (dare I say it) Johnson!
This from Singapore-based viewer Robin Nayak:
"The theme music here is great (the old one was great in its time, but let's face it, would have most 90's viewers charging for their remotes). [Of course to turn the volume UP!! Dave] Pacy, action-packed (lots of synth horns etc) yet retaining the [conceptual] theme."
Although occasionally hampered a tad by Wells' uncertain performance, the action scenes were often every bit as good as before. For me this represents the best element of CI5 The New Professionals.
I can't quite figure this one out. In some episodes (I'm thinking in particular of the ransom scene from 'Back to Business') it's rather obvious from the camera angles/editing that they are trying to make the series appear violent without offending certain broadcasters' delicate tastes. At other times (most notably in the caravan scrap in 'Orbit' and numerous other shoot-out scenes) the violence levels surpass those of the original show. It's almost as though there was a change of policy part-way through filming the series. Whatever I'm glad they eventually had the courage to portray violence realistically.
Ann Sahlstrom felt that the violence quotient is actually quite high certainly on a par with the old series. Dave Rogers descibed the original as "stylised mayhem". Ann:
"If anything, the heavy action is now even more stylised yet still realistic.".
Richard Ford from Southern Ireland:
"It was apparent that the new CI5 is less inclined to violence than the old and that Keel and Curtis are rather more low-key than the old team. For instance in the episode Miss Hit there is an early scene in a wine-bar where K & C confront a guy with IRA connections. He summons his "friend", a big pug-ugly with a baseball bat. In the 70's this would have been an excuse for five minutes of designer violence by the end of which the pub would have been wrecked (think of 'Not A Very Civil Civil Servant'). In the new show Keel punches the guy, takes his baseball bat off him and they try to stare one another down until the heavy slinks off with his tail between his legs. (Good trick if you can do it!)."
"Violence: Not enough of it. To be honest, ABSOLUTELY honest. Not enough of the right KIND of it. CI5 were created to work beyond the powers of normal authorities yet it appears the idea of psychological thumbscrews have been abandoned as have casual punch ups in favour of on the streets bloodshed and stories in which our "heroes" suffer more wounds than their opponents. The shoot-outs tend to happen in places where not even the non-PC, "hell for leather" CI5 lads of the seventies would have even DARED, for endangering the lives of innocent civilians (see the hospital shoot-out in "Back to Business") and incurring the wrath of Cowley. The fact also remains that Curtis, Keel and Backus never seem to bring anyone in for questioning just shoot-'em-dead (Is that the new CI5 modus operandi? Shoot first ask questions later?) so forays into psychological mind-games are effectively sealed off as are excellent show stealers (Backus could probably prove her status in an interrogation situation). The nearest to an aimless "punch-up" Curtis and Keel have had was in Tusk Force where, yet again it was whip out side-arms in preference to strong-arms."
You'll have noticed that I keep referring to the first two episodes, which really did show all-round potential (even if the main plot premise in 'Back to Business' was mundane beyond belief). From then on things seem to have gone quickly downhill.
So did the series match the original? Obviously no way. Did it come even close? Yes. OK, so we are not expecting a "slavish copy" (as Edward rightly said in an interview for BBC Radio Five) but we do expect an alternative that is at least as good in its own right. In that sense the series largely failed. What it lacked, in my opinion, was the humour, acidic banter (indeed any sort of imaginitive dialogue at all!) and superb performances of the original. Not that these elements were missing entirely it's just that there was nowhere near enough! Even worse was that most of the episodes were simply dull though I think lack of directorial flair didn't help nor the WRITING! As fans of the original, perhaps we are bound to say all this (and, in fairness, the new show may well build up a small following of folk who have never seen the original show) but lack of interest from major broadcasters would seem to demonstrate that it's not just us viewers who are uneasy about the series.
The greatest tragedy falls upon the actors themselves. Given such weak material it is hardly surprising they could make little of their roles (although, as I said, young Weber did very well under the circumstances).
Nevertheless, I hope the series does go to a second season. From my correspondance with DWTV, they do seem to welcome opinions and "advice" from fans and, indeed, understand concerns raised over the quality of the scripts. Many have said (me included!) that had Brian Clemens had a more "hands-on" contribution, the series would have worked far better. Yet, as mentioned above, DWTV insist that Brian did play a major role in the series' production anyway.
However, with the exception of a couple of episodes, repeated viewing found myself enjoying the show a little more each time. Despite all the faults, there is something there to build on. But if it is to be favourably compared to the original, it desperately needs major improvements in several key areas primarily those of characterisation (for both the leads and the guest roles), plotline inventiveness & integrity and dialogue.
Summing up the series in general, Jesper Antvorskov found it to be of very mixed quality, though the episodes with more violence and closer to the original series were better. Here's what he had to say (I've modified Jesper's text slightly to aid translation):
"Keel and Curtis have made their own roles I don't compare them to Bodie and Doyle anymore. That dosen't mean that I wouldn't like a few changes. Malone is the best and most believable figure in the series. The New Professionals is NOT to be compared to the old series. The new one is larger than life in many ways. I like the new series on its own terms but I can't help comparing the two, and... [then] the new one seems weaker. Things I like: Malone, some of the plots, the humour, the title theme and accompanying visuals, CI5 agent Spencer, the action and excitement. Things I don't like: Backus, too much fashion & clothes, larger then life, Curtis and Keel are not tough enough, not enough roughness. CI5 worldwide is confusing: the idea is good enough, but dosen't stand up in practice. Many of plots don't work either."
"The humour is good, getting closer to the original as the series goes, but I always got the impression there was a deeper tension between Bodie and Doyle, whereas these guys seem just a little too chummy. As the series wore on, a little of the tension of the original series began to appear, old loyalties, go-it-alone bravado and of course a bit of woman trouble. Let's hope Mr Wickes sticks with it and serves us up some more."
"I do think that the new series is much more up to its name. The new guys, and girls, seem much more highly trained professionals (to my untrained eye), while the original more relied on luck and hard fists..."
Israel-based fan Warren Bassett has seen most of the episodes, mooting 'Skorpion' and 'Miss Hit' as his favourites, with 'Souvenir', 'High Speed' and 'Hostage' coming close, while 'Samurai Wind' was "terrible". Warren sums up the series thus:
"Towards the end of the series the episodes did get progressively better. The episodes that were set in England were, I thought, a lot better, but they did not have anywhere near enough outside scenes especially with the cars this is seriously lacking. As someone who saw nearly all of the original Professionals I think they should now take stock at the end of the first series and ask people who have seen it what they think, they should take some active criticism from people to make further series better."
Mike Jones in the Czech Republic:
"Frankly my worst fears were not realised. I had half expected a sanitised, Americanised, Stephen J Cannell style load of garbage. The new show, however, is by far and away the best action show I've seen for ages. While it definitely comes off second best when compared to the original, I wish the cast and producers lots of success."
Ann Sahlstrom was very positive about the new show, feeling that it looks more stylish and benefits from its modern cars, fashions and gadgets. Ann also enjoys the reworked title theme and new title sequence. Ann agreed with other correspondants that some of the dialogue is hilarious. She didn't feel the that the show was overly Americanised.
Andy Linton from Southern Ireland sums the series up as follows:
"The show certainly got better as the series progressed and Tina's role was more prominent, which was a good thing. Generally, the storylines were quite good too, even if they did rely on the Bad Ole Russians a bit too much. All characters seemed to be settling into their roles as the series progressed. It did become more enjoyable to watch and I found myself picking holes in it less and less. I hope there will be a second series, as the makers would learn from their mistakes."
"I had never even heard of The Professionals when I started watching [the new series] (since then I've become addicted to Bodie and Doyle). I really liked the [new] show however if you compare the two [series], the original is much better. The New Professionals is a very Americanised show, it's glossy and full of beautiful people. The Professionals, on the other hand, always seems more believable (mind you, this goes for most English shows over American, maybe this has to do with Ireland being so close to England we can relate better to the weather, the look of the place etc.) All in all I liked the New Professionals (and I really liked Curtis and Keel!)."
"At first it was difficult to get used to the new characters and style of the show but it was OK and I enjoyed the music and title sequence. It's very impressive but a bit American in that they have largely edited together clips from the show rather than shot an entire custom sequence like those of the old show. It seems to me however that the new series really comes into its own when it moves onto its own territory and stops trying to emulate the old show. For instance the episode First Strike is an action-oriented story about an armed militia in Louisiana. Without giving too much away the plot reminded me of the movie Broken Arrow. CI5 are involved in an attempt to intercept a plane from Russia which is carrying a ten-million dollar cargo. Malone assumes this is drugs but as the body-count goes up and a number of bizarre and terrifying incidents occur he realizes he is very, very wrong. On a personal note and one which will seem ridiculous to many readers I was a little disappointed to notice that in his scenes in Washington DC, Malone used a couple of American pronunciations. I know he is supposed to be a CIA guy but Edward Woodward really capitalises on his very English diction and I found this minor point really irritating.
"However the action scenes in 'First Strike' and many of the episodes were excellently staged and edited and the lengthy shoot-out scenes were like something out of a John Woo movie. I do think that the new agency is much less violent than the old but when they do get their nuts out of their pockets they don't mess about removing their enemies with surgical precision. None of the single shot deaths of the old days: Keel,Curtis and Backus pump the targets so full of lead that if they were immune to bullet-holes they would die of lead poisoning anyway!
An observation I would like to make is that fans of stunning Canadian actress Lexa Doig will know that she can make a strong impression with very limited screen time and has done so in other TV series like Tekwar. I imagine this stood her in good stead for The New Professionals as, although she is totally underused, I felt that Backup was a much more effective field agent than either of the two guys. In the episode 'Samurai Wind', for example, K&C do a Tomorrow Never Dies style HALO jump onto the island and are hunted and captured with surprising ease whereas Backup swims ashore in a rather fetching black outfit and saves the day, even refusing to allow the two guys to offer her any assistance! In this episode the two guys are almost superfluous and Backus and Malone get results while Keel and Curtis run around before being bound and gagged in the baddies' hide-out next to the bomb. In this episode the guys are the damsels-in-distress. 'Samurai Wind' was written by Steven Whitney and is very reminiscent of a BUGS episode: a plot of mass destruction with lots of computer hacking and explosions and two guys who run around while a beautiful woman saves the day by her expert electronics knowledge. However I thoroughly enjoyed it."
An anonymous UK viewer watched several episodes with a group of friends and, between them, felt that although the new episodes in no way measured up to the original series (again, lack of "raw edge" was mooted), with the exception of the "appalling" 'Tusk Force', they were at least "watchable" and thankfully better than had been feared. Colin Wells had failed to impress them but Kal Weber was felt to show potential and Lexa Doig certainly scored highly!
Marco Lang again:
"Overall it was very entertaining to watch, lots of action as was to be expected. The settings were quite a bit too glamorous... with their American cars and mobile-phones with in-built colour-tv-cameras and so forth, a touch of James-Bond-stylishness here, in contrast to the more rough and realistic approach the original 70s-eps had, which made the series "live". All in all, I must say that I liked the series rather than disliked it. Let's see what the coming eps will bring."
I've been watching the series on Sky One over the last few weeks. I have to say when it first started I was in two minds. I LOVED the Professionals and I also had my mind made up before the new series started that it was going to be CRAP, whatever happened (No Bodie? No Doyle? No Ford Capris? - No WAY!). I have to admit, though, I'm a reformed character. I really do enjoy my weekly transfusion of CI5 on a Sunday night religiously, it's addictive now. Frankly I've warmed to them. CI5 The New Professionals has great potential, so far from the episodes I've seen as a series with a chance for longevity.
"New versus old and Censorship: Almost twenty years and various political upheavals have gone by since the last series of The Professionals it was bound to happen that CI5 was NOT going to be a carbon copy of the original. However it is undoubted that the new series is aiming at a completely new audience, of which age group I'm not too sure and personally I don't think they are either. It's got the concept and cast to do the business but aside from that it's done for. There's almost an insecurity about the whole thing. Nineties society isn't that much different from late seventies early eighties society only the labels have been changed to protect the sensibilities of pressure groups and lobbyists "male-chauvanism" = "New-Ladism" Yet no attempts have been made so far to capitalise on any of this. Censorship is performing more of a suffocation routine on the content and plots than anything else but because you can't blame one social group for it you can't kill it. Concerned parents who've so graciously provided televisons, videos and satellite decoders in their 6 year old's bedrooms are making other adults pay for their oversights by demanding more and more censorship.
"Because watching two televisions (one through two support walls, a ceiling and a staircase) is impossible and they want to control what their children watch, Sky One may be slitting CI5 to shreds and Granada Plus doing the same for The (original) Professionals (they've killed many a decent series with that kind of treatment) but I don't think any other channel, terrestrial or otherwise, would treat it any differently. They'd view it as a "family entertainment" show no matter what (see the almost ritualistic chopping of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena Warrior Princess for proof). Today's TV execs seem to think unless a series has "responsible" adult themes or is classed as a modern drama, thriller or pre-watershed soap opera then it entitled to be spared the editor's cutting room (see McCallum, Liverpool One, Prime Suspect, etc). If it's an "action series" then off it goes to editing hell because it's for "kiddies". Grown-ups don't like car chases, shoot-ups, brawls, fights and bombs primed to explode. If that's true why's Die Hard and 18 certificate film? PAH!
"I may have slaughtered it, butchered it, torn it to shreds and held it against the light of the original Professionals but I'll be damned if I'm gonna stop watching CI5 The New Professionals... 'cause, actually, I think I'd be lost without it!
"The thing that surprises me more than anything else about the comments on CI5 I've seen is the amount of flack the actors get for it when most of the glitches which annoy the hell out of me are technical and more production and construction problems (sloppy/sluggish direction, bad character formats, scripts, sound, sound effects etc etc etc) the guys in front of the camera are pretty low down my list of mud slinging. I will admit though everyone except Kal Weber did cop the lot in my comments.
"CI5 does appear, so far, to be a series without any real teeth. The series handles major catastrophies and large scale (movie worthy) situations [but] unfortunately it appears to be getting bogged down in having to EXPLAIN the size of the problem all the way through which leaves little chance for constructing a good plot and character development/outline. It hasn't got any grit or edge on either its predecessors or contemporaries. It doesn't mean it hasn't the potential to, just that no one has pushed the boat out, taken risks, yet. Which if they do will make it an excellent series.
"I suppose CI5, for me, is the only show which challenges the imagination. I sit on the sofa every Sunday night imagining a better this that or the other, then ripping it apart until the next week's ep. If the challenge wasn't there I guess I wouldn't be so enthusiastic but it has some excellent base points and a good cast (hooray for the "unknowns"!) I just can't understand for the life of me why the faults weren't picked up in pre-production, while they were filming or post production?? I find it quite baffling that the quality is so bad yet it's singular redeeming feature is Curtis and Keel (down in a large chunk to Wells and Weber) who appear to be having more chemistry in what they don't say than what they do because the scripting verges on the banal and senseless."
"I have enjoyed the shows so far with "Samurai Wind" being my favourite. I especially enjoy all the action sequences. The boys show great athlecticism and graceful movements. The bantering between the boys is also good. It is a fun show and great to watch. It is not fair to judge the boys too harshly. They have done a great job and I really enjoy the way they work together. I believe that this show should be judged on its own merits and not compared to The Professionals.
"You just can't compare the old and new Professionals - they were in a different era and a very different world. The 90's is very different. The show has great potential. Lots of shows take time to find their feet and this show is no exception. I for one certainly hope that they get the funding for a secound season. Thirteen episodes is definitely not enough!"
Melanie Hack from the UK:
"My own view is that the series has a lot of potential, but that there needs to be some serious work on the scripts - they are definitely not up to the standards of the original. The writers also need to get Tina out from behind her desk, in the days of strong female characters such as Nikita her role is underdeveloped to say the least. Of the two guys, Colin Wells is shaping up well, but maybe I'm just biased!"
"I find the new series engrossing enough despite the weak plots and the unimaginative dialogues."
Julia Anderson again:
"I have just received a tape from England with the last four eps of CI5 plus 'Back to Business' which I didn't tape and have spent a wonderful weekend watching them all. My head is spinning at the moment. I think that watching any show on TV today if you wanted to pick it apart you could. So I say if you don't like it why watch it? I would much rather sit down and enjoy a show than try to find fault with every episode. On the whole I totally enjoyed the last four eps. I think that it is pretty obvious (from my England sourced copies) that Sky TV chopped bits from the eps especially in Orbit with the fight scene in the caravan. There didn't seem to be much action and the bits we did see seemed very disjointed."
Incidentally you can also find a few short reviews on the Internet Movie Database.
Here is a very quick summary of opinion: Curtis and (in particular) Keel are doing well with the ladies in the audience but essentially failed to find an on-screen rapport, Backus needs to be given a far better role, almost everyone thinks Edward is great and most people like the new title theme (though there are a few dissenters). As to the action: it is slick and stylish but male viewers are complaining that it lacks the raw visual grit of the original. There is general disagreement on whether the show is too transatlantic. Most agree, however, that the plots and scripts MUST be improved next time around!
As a post-script to this, a second season was never made and the actors' contracts duly expired.