I'll get to the first episode in a bit. The series was created by Brian Clemens (writing about Brian Clemens would be an entire blog in itself, but I will be covering - I hope - a fair bit of his work on this blog - have a look at his Wikipedia entry to gauge just how influential he was on this genre) and was produced by Mark 1, the company also responsible for The New Avengers. I use the word 'responsible' as the jury is still out as far as I'm concerned. Then again, I think The Avengers went downhill when Patrick Macnee took over designing his wardrobe from Pierre Cardin.
"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."
This is the introduction Cowley (Gordon Jackson), the head of CI5 give to the show over the opening titles. William Bodie - ex-army (Lewis Collins) and Ray Doyle - ex-police (Martin Shaw). The voiceover gets dropped pretty quickly in the titles and the reference to "every service" may have been an early concept of where the show might have gone, bringing in new ex-service characters as needed. Luckily for us, that never happened and we get Bodie & Doyle to ourselves for five seasons.
Against a backdrop of strikes, far-right protests and counter-protests, IRA bombings and kidnappings and a police force struggling in the face of corruption scandals, The Professionals, like many other shows of the 70s, portrays a lawlessness both on the streets and in the approach of the law enforcers. This has always existed in police procedurals, from Sherlock Holmes through to Philip Marlowe and Frank Bullitt. Although the 60s did throw up some 'honest cops' like Dixon, Columbo and those in Z-Cars, as the 70s ground on and the economic boom subsided, these squeaky-clean characters were replaced by the cynical Jack Regan and the down-trodden Harry Callaghan. Maybe it was the clothes.
Though considerably more tongue-in-cheek, the light-hearted banter between Bodie and Doyle often comes across as dark and in poor taste (for a modern, more politically correct audience perhaps) when contrasted with the themes of anarchy and terror. For a truly excellent send-up (if one was needed), The Bullshitters featuring DI5 boss Jackson (Robbie Coltrane), Bonehead (Keith Allen) and Foyle (Peter Richardson) is highly recommended.
The theme and most of the incidental music was composed by Laurie Johnson, the genius behind themes such as The Avengers and Animal Magic. Similar to Clemens, a look at his Wikipedia page gives ample material for yet another project.
In summary, the show is a must-see for the combination of Clemens' writing and production, Johnson's music, and plots consisting of good, if flawed, people doing bad things to worse people.