Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Professionals - Heroes s1e5

Heroes tells the story of the £150,000 assassination of a US politician, John Jerry Patterson, better known to us as Mr Waldorf Salad from Fawlty Towers. My comparison, Georgi from Greece in the previous episode is cheap as chips.

Cowley gets Patterson deported, but on the way out of the hotel our incredibly expensive professional assassins miss him with a long range rifle. Inexplicably, rather than racing to the airport and getting him the hell out of there, The Cow takes him to his office for a chat. Cowley hatches a terrible plan to smuggle Patterson in uniform in a bullion van to the airport.

A snitch at the US embassy tells the assassins and they carry out a shotgun slaying in the middle of the day in standstill traffic on a dual carriageway. This is witnessed by a motley collection of the public who all become have-a-go heroes to chase off the killers.

The press are spun the line that it was a robbery-gone-wrong, but that somewhat overlooks the dead American politician and the inevitable questions being asked by the US government. For which one might think Cowley might drop in some hot water.

But no, instead Cowley focuses on catching the killers and lays some bait by announcing that one has been identified, causing them to break cover in order to track down and eliminate all the witnesses. As one of them puts it, "Evidence on film doesn't stand up in court. Some judges won't even allow it." The ring leader, Georgie, with a patchy Scouse accent adds, "Unless backed up by eye-witnesses."

The Scouse stereotype existed in the 70s too... can you spot him?
Evidence on film not standing up in court in 1977 and within fifteen years the UK becomes one of the most CCTV-heavy nations in the world. It's everywhere. I find it creepy that it's now in schools and especially the classroom, conditioning our youth to accept it without question from an early age. Insert comment about everything being carefree and wonderful <back then>, whenever that was. Apart from the chronic disease. And synthetic clothing. A lot of synthetic clothing.

The race is on to protect the witnesses and we're introduced to Tommy Mackie (John Castle), CI5's resident loose cannon. He wears a Guiness t-shirt and hair voluptuous enough to give Doyle's a run for its money. He likes killing people, which Bodie doesn't like and expresses his disapproval repeatedly throughout. But, like any named CI5 agent other than Bodie and Doyle, you can probably guess what's going to happen to him.

Grenade launcher, shotgun and unconvincing reassurance
Cowley does a bit of emoting as various witnesses get picked off, he descends into a depression and sits, motionless, watching his high-tech Sony Betamax video recording of the cine footage and news interviews with the witnesses. We see a more sensitive side to Bodie as he does his best to cheer up The Cow and a slightly more racist side of Doyle as he finds it necessary to beat up a black doorman the minute he opens the door to him. But all is forgiven when they realise he's on their side. And only one snooker-cue induced concussion.

Today much would be made of the "botched police operation"; the principal target was killed, one witness shot at, two dead and another injured. Cowley takes responsibility but there are no consequences, no knee-jerk changes, which perhaps would have made for a more interesting episode, seeing Cowley playing the politics. But all this is glossed over and CI5 live another day. Not much has changed - the police promoted the officer in charge of the de Menezes shooting in 2005 and the shoot-to-kill policy changed its name.

It's a shame Tommy doesn't make it through; I think that having a gallery of CI5 semi-regulars, especially a nut-job like him, would have been interesting, if a little Mission: Impossible in nature. Plus, John Castle has great hair and a great voice.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

The Professionals - Killer With A Long Arm s1e4

This episode starts well. Our killer, Georgi (Michael Latimer) drives off the hovercraft at Ramsgate. Off the Hoverlloyd 'Swift' at Pegwell Bay to be exact.

I miss arriving on the Continent like this
My memories of travelling on the hovercraft were that of being on a bad flight; very bumpy and I remember being very glad of the seatbelt. But my, was it cool - hurtling across the channel in 35 minutes. The Princess Anne still holds the record for the fastest crossing. Twenty-two minutes!

The Princess Anne, though also a SR-N4, is larger than the Swift, having been extended by seventeen metres for extra capacity. Non-functioning, she can be seen at the Hovercraft Museum in Lee-on-Solent. The sister craft, The Princess Margaret, features in Diamonds Are Forever. They ran the Dover-Calais route and were originally owned by SeaSpeed, which was another sprawling tentacle of British Rail, when BR was in a phase of owning lots of things not particularly directly related to railways. Gleneagles hotel and golf course?

Back to the episode. Georgi is in town to commit murder... of the Greek-royalty-assassination kind. He has brought with him his very special penis gun, which he doesn't let anyone touch. Even though it's described as beautiful, powerful. He has to focus on the job in hand. I could go on.

Georgi meets up with a motley collection of terrorists, none of whom really look the part. Costa is the least Greek-looking (the usual 70s casting decision of putting any foreigner into a foreigner role - the actor is actually Czech) and manages to look like a trigger-happy monk, while Hilda isn't Greek but believes in The Cause and wears colourful died clothing. Tommy lives with his mother, has a small penis motorbike and a penchant for double-denim. Spot the weak link.

CI5 get involved when Costa shoots a police motorcyclist and forensics discover the hidden compartments used to smuggle the special gun from Greece. The boys eventually track down Tommy and leave him to be interrogated by Cowley, who delivers the least reassuring smile I've ever seen as the boys exit.

We cut back later to find Tommy sweating profusely and Cowley playing the part of confessor. Tommy breaks. Who wouldn't when faced with an angry Cow?

Georgi is very fond of shouting at the others, despite them paying his extortionate wage, and calling them "amateurs!" at any random opportunity. Enter a room without saying your name? Amateur. Buy houmous? Amateur. Use a sawn-off shotgun to shoot a policeman stopping you for speeding? AMATEUR!

Bodie spends half the episode in a god-awful burgundy or purple double-breasted gold-buttoned blazer with enormous cream flares. It sort of works in the sense of what an ex-military type used to wearing uniform 24/7 thinks a CI5 investigator should wear. Like he'd been watching the Sweeney but tried to make it more country club. Thankfully he changes into a roll-neck and leather jacket combo, far more man of action. But then mixes and matches the roll-neck with the blazer and flares. It's reminiscent of the Ken Campbell guest spot in Fawlty Towers.

Speaking of the military, his special ability in this episode is being able to judge distance incredibly well, to the extent that both Cowley and Doyle ask him to measure about distance on their behalf. Man's got to have a hobby, I suppose.

Doyle has the best and worst lines in the episode, and a terrible all-green outfit described perfectly in Unmann-Wittering's ongoing Ten Things I Noticed About... The Professionals.

Worst - "You serve a lousy... moussaka" as he threatens a restaurateur.
Best - Cowley: "There's one thing you and I share" in a polemic to Bodie
Doyle: "Your secretary"
Cowley: "Eh?"
Doyle: "Hm?"
It comes across as a very modern style of joke, similar to the kind of thing used in Family Guy.

Butter wouldn't melt in Doyle's mouth.
There's a lot of hunt-the-villains, Tommy's banged up, Hilda ends up in a coma after getting hit by a taxi while running from the police. As they try and return an orange she dropped. That's going to be a tough one to explain to the IPCC. The bad guys take hostages, of course it goes awry and Bodie and Doyle save the day.

There are some great sequences but overall the plot doesn't make much sense; a lot of questions are raised and the decisions made by the bad guys are just silly. The passing of two days of action is covered in about 30 seconds of screen time, not really adding much to the tension. Nowadays of course those two days would make two series of 24.

The way to enjoy this episode is to go for the ride and don't ask too many questions. Capiche? (Or the Greek equivalent)