Tony Earnshaw: Big screen treatment for The Professionals is one idea worth forgetting

Tell me it’s not true... nearly 30 years since it was last considered a hit and 12 years after a short-lived TV rehash crashed and burned in spectacular fashion – the 1970s action series The Professionals is to be given the big screen treatment.

I grew up on that show. Forget 007. It was CI5 that grabbed my pre-teen imagination given that I got two hard nuts for the price of one. And it was a seemingly never-ending collection of adventures with quick-tempered, fast-shootin’, pouting William Bodie and no-nonsense, curly-topped but equally lethal Ray Doyle stopping a variety of bad guys on a weekly basis.

But that was 1978. Nowadays, The Professionals can be viewed for what it is: medium-octane entertainment ripe for spoofing in car adverts with strutting heroes toting pistols and dodgy haircuts. It is seriously retro and, for Lewis Collins at least, represents the zenith of a career that came to a shuddering halt with a succession of ‘B’ movies.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

As for Martin Shaw, he’s replaced John Thaw as TV’s ubiquitous actor. Though I venture he won’t want to be reminded of his macho past.

And that’s where The Professionals should stay: the dim and distant past, fondly remembered by 70s teens as a nostalgia piece.

Except the whispers are growing ever louder. Names in the frame for what will doubtless be a fast and furious update are Gerard Butler and Jason Statham, with Gary Oldman as their rasping boss, Cowley. Or maybe Cowley could be a woman à la Judi Dench in the Bond films.

One thing is certain: the movie of The Professionals, like Miami Vice and Edge of Darkness, will be but a distant relative of the show that lends it its name. Studio execs will argue that it needs an injection of modernity – that what was hip and cool in 1978 has passed into clunky, creaky, televisual history.

So why do it? The archives are constantly being pillaged for projects that can be dusted off for a new audience. Everything from Thunderbirds to Josie and the Pussycats via Scooby-Doo and Lost in Space have been given the dubious benefit of a glossy “re-imagining”. And don’t get me started on Starsky and Hutch...

The key point is that they are no longer relevant to the audiences that once watched them, nor are they remotely of interest to modern children who consider the original shows passé. Lampooning the originals is what we can expect, and The Professionals is apt for that approach.

Heaven forbid Collins and Shaw should be offered a cameo as their replacements’ fathers, uncles or mentors. Or villains. Or their older selves like David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser in Starsky and Hutch.

Whatever happens, I’m dreading it.