The Professionals (1977 - 1983) - "Anarchy, acts of terror, crimes against the public. To combat it I've got special men - experts from the Army, the Police - from every service. These are The Professionals." - George Cowley.
The Professionals was one of British television's most popular and successful action series of the 1970s and 80s. At their peak in 1980 The Pros were earning as many as 17.6 million viewers. The Professionals began life in early 1977, provisionally titled The A-Squad, in an idea conceived by Brian Clemens, the then head of the independent TV company Avengers Mark I Productions. His aim was to create a rival for Thames television's hugely successful long-running police series The Sweeney. Bodie, Doyle and Cowley could have looked very different to how we remember them as. A number of very different actors were considered for the three central roles, with neither of the final chosen team being the original choices. The final three were more or less drafted in when the first choice stars either declined or were axed. Gordon Jackson (formerly the distinctly unmenacing Butler Hudson in Upstairs Downstairs) and Martin Shaw (whose first TV appearance was as a hippie in 1960s Coronation Street) were first to be cast. During the filming of the first episode, Old Dog with New Tricks Bodie was in fact played by Anthony Andrews. Unfortunately, old mates Shaw and Andrews spent much of the time cracking up with laughter - hardly a recipe for ensuring the renowned edgy banter between the two leads. Lewis Collins (best known by this time as Gavin Rumsey in comedy series The Cuckoo Waltz) was brought in to play Bodie, with Andrews being given the heave-ho. Collins and Shaw had previously worked together just months earlier in an episode of The New Avengers, and were cast alongside each other again thanks to the 'sparky, abrasive' on-screen partnership that they generated. In other words, they didn't particularly like each other! But with the central cast c