There are moment in every fangrrly life, in which an old fandom surges up out of the depths of memory and reminds you of your old obsessions. As, let's face it, all fandom is obessessive. Fan conventions are like Alcoholics Anonymous for culture junkies. And some of us, to switch metaphor abruptly mid-paragraph, are serial monogomists when it comes to fandoms. We adore a series, then we move on. In terms of my fannishness, I am married to Doctor Who but have extra-marital affairs with all manner of fandoms. One of my early, pre-adolescent, pre-Doctor Who even, crushes was on The Professionals.
A chance channel-flick two nights ago slammed me straight into the middle of the series (Need to Know). I'd forgotten how, even in the era when they wore flares, the trousers were very very tight around certain areas of the anatomy. It you ever wonder why I consider Orli and Johnny Depp and all the others as "pretty boys" rather than handsome, you have to realise I had a poster of Bodie and Doyle, arms slung about each other, on my bedroom wall in 1980. That kind of thing leaves an impression. So, having intended to spend Saturday cleaning the house prior to a week long writing session, I...er...cracked open an archive box and pulled out tape upon tape of The Professionals. All recorded off Granada Plus in the late 90s. Watching them provides the double-nostalgia of my beloved Bonehead and Foyle* and their barely hidden slash potential but also of cheap cable adverts from the late 90s. Ah, a time before the damn "calm down dear" advert was sprung on us. Oddly enough, the advert with the blue talking phone seems to carry on regardless (although I'm still not quite sure which company it is).
It also reminded me of something I was grouching about in email the other week: you can't recreate these cult series. They've tried resurrecting Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) (and nearly got away with it), they tried The Professionals. There is a never ending rumour about a film of the Prisoner. So never-ending that I met some young men last weekend who actually thought there had been a film of the Prisoner. A reason they can't recreate these series is not that the actors are now too pretty (although I struggled with the new Professionals - not a broken cheekbone amongst them), or that the times have changed (although you suspect the days when Lewis Collins or Patrick McGoohan could be filmed driving about London in everyday traffic are long gone). No, it's about the filming technology. The Prisoner has that mid-60s grainy, staurated film look. It was also shot assuming a dual audience: those with colour tv sets and those without. Try turning the colour down on your set next time you watch an episode and you can see the contrast design. The Professionals is more muted colourwise, although it avoids the overlit video look of contemporary Doctor Who.
Modern television direction not only directs scenes differently, it uses different technology so it's impossible to recreate the precise appeal of the original when a series is remade. It could almost be as if the different ways of capturing light cause different moods. The whited-out skies of The Professionals scream "1970s" as strongly as the tight crotch of Doyle's jeans. Well, OK, you can resurrect these things, even get the grainy texture vaguely right, but it is always knowingly parodic like the wonderful Golden Lion segment of Tarantino's Kill Bill 2 which delights anyone who has seen too many Bruce Lee films. Let the old cult series fade, still adored by handfuls of fans and talked about towards last orders in pubs in conversations which inevitably end with the "there was acid in the sugar cubes" theory of The Magic Roundabout. Not drag them out and force them to scrub up a bit for the shiny digital cameras.
I'm not sure this will apply to Doctor Who. The great advantage of a series which began when tv drama was still getting used to being pre-recorded, which pushed CSO (bluescreen) back in the early 70s and which showed off Quantel when Bodie and Doyle where still doing handbrake turns in LWT's carpark** is that there is no single visual which embodies the series. There's the allegedly wobbly sets, and the cheap props and all the other cliches, but it was filmed over so many decades, using so many different technical forms of recording that it can't/won't seem odd to see it filmed on digital video.
Now I need to go back to contemplating just how camp Bodie's pink shirt was.
*Note for non-Pro fans: Bonehead and Foyle are Bodie and Doyle's nicknames, due to the fantastic pisstake by the Comic Strip lot (although it was not officially a Comic Strip... film), The Bullshitters.
** I had my first ever driving lesson in my then-boyfriend's MkII Ford Capri.