Over the years, TV programming has improved in quality, and has had to change to meet the standards of modern life. In this essay I will be looking at the comparisons between a show from the 1970’s and a show from the present time. (The Professionals, and Spooks). I will be looking at how ideas, characters, special effects and political correctness are completely different in each programme. The ‘Professionals’ is set in London, in the CI5, a fictional organisation based on the MI5. There are three main characters, Cowley, Bodie and Doyle.
‘Spooks’ is set in the 21st century and the 3 main characters, a white man, a black man and a white woman. ‘Spooks’ is also based on the MI5, in London; this is where the similarities end. The ‘Spooks’ plots are more complex often using political issues and terrorists. This mirrors the more complex world affairs with the break of the USSR and the escalation of terrorism. Each episode of ‘The Professionals’ is ‘stand alone’, i. e. it has a clear ending where each problem is sorted out or solved. ‘Spooks’ has long running themes that carry on throughout the series.
There is a great emphasis on physical action in ‘The Professionals’, which is represented in the characters of Bodie and Doyle. It is fast paced with little room for character building. ‘The professionals’ are portrayed as one-dimensional characters with little depth or emotion. They are stereotypes of the public view of law enforcement. For instance, Doyle is seen as the more intelligent character that has risen through the ranks of the police force. Bodie, however, is ex SAS and is therefore portrayed as less intelligent but the most active and fit of the two.
In comparison, the ‘Spooks’ work much more through deduction and detection. There is a great deal of undercover work and of background detail for each case. Each characters personal life and how it is affected by their job, is explored and vice versa. For instance Toms relationship with his girlfriend is affected by the risks of his job. In the episode I have studied, Tom’s girlfriend is trapped inside their house. It is allegedly booby-trapped and she and her child are used as decoys by the terrorists.
‘The Professional’s’ one-dimensional characters are not able to have this emotional depth or personal problems. The characters in ‘Spooks’ are stereotypical in there own way, by the clothes they wear and the identities they assume In ‘The Professionals’ we see top British agents dressed in ordinary working mans clothes, and talking like ordinary people. This may be one of the reasons why ‘The Professionals’ was so popular. They had none of the stereotypical ‘James Bond’ secret agent style or charm, which made them a lot easier for the viewing public to relate to.
In ‘Spooks’ on the other hand, the leading roles are all dressed in suits and are much more technical and upper class. The special effects can be compared to the technology that was available at the time. ‘The Professionals’ mainly relied on car chases and ‘shoot outs’ to catch the excitement and fast pace of the show. ‘Spooks’ has less frequent special effects but they are more plot-based and the special effects often are more spectacular because of the advanced technology. The in- depth plots mean that the series isn’t reliant on special effects and thrill chasing but more on the storyline and the characters.
In Spooks one of the leading roles is a woman, Zoe Reynolds, played by Keeley Hawes, She is shown as a strong and independent women. This contrasts greatly with the female roles in ‘The Professionals’. In the episode studied the only main female character was drawn into crime by men, and then relied on a male character for everything. The second female is a runner who nearly ruins the CI5s plans. Women are therefore portrayed either as easily swayed and reliant on men or as getting in the way of men.
Another main character in ‘Spooks’ is a black man by the name of Danny Hunter, played by David Oyelowo. In ‘The Professionals’ there are no black characters of significance. One of the last episodes in the series was banned from the United Kingdom for being racist. There are many moral and political incorrect issues in ‘The professionals’. It is sexist, occasionally racist, and shows the main characters doing things that would not be allowed in this day and age ‘for instance, a scene where Bodie is drinking on the job’.
That is not to say that these issues are not tackled in ‘Spooks’, rather that it is the handling of them that has altered. For instance, drinking would be seen as something to overcome rather than being accepted. Despite these flaws, ‘The professionals’ were one of the most popular shows of their time, at their peak earning around 17. 6 million viewers. This shows how far society moved on from the 1980’s. A show that was once watched and accepted by most British people, would now offend many. This shows how television has mirrored society in its views and acceptance of women and ethnic minorities.
Although these are two very different ways of portraying the secret agent genre, both appeal to the audience, in different ways. ‘The Professionals’ with its easily understandable plots and unusual characters of Bodie and Doyle, and ‘Spooks’, with its cold, yet dramatic action, and the continual cliffhanger that runs throughout the series. In conclusion, ‘The Professionals’ and ‘Spooks’ are two series that are from the same genre, yet have little in common. Each reflects society and its interests and attitudes of the time.