Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Avenues and Alleyways - Remembering The Protectors

The Protectors was a British Television series, an action thriller created by Gerry Anderson. It is Anderson's second TV series using live actors as opposed to animated puppets, and also his second TV series to be firmly set in the present day (following The Secret Service). It is also the only Gerry Anderson-produced television series to date that was not of the fantasy or Science Fiction genres. It was produced by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment production company. Despite not featuring puppets or any real science fiction elements, The Protectors became one of Anderson's most popular productions, easily winning a renewal for a second season, and a third was in the planning stages when the show's major sponsor pulled out, forcing its cancellation.
The Protectors first aired in 1972 and 1973, and ran to 52 episodes over two series, each 25 minutes long - making it one of the last series of this type to be produced in a half-hour format. It starred Robert Vaughan (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) as Harry Rule, Nyree Dawn Porter (The Forsyte Saga) as the Contessa Caroline di Contini, and Tony Anholt (Space 1999, Howards Way) as Paul Buchet. Episodes often featured prominent guest actors.
Three inexplicably affluent international Private Detectives/Troubleshooters who were charged with ensuring the protection of innocents. They belonged to an organization called The Protectors and were based in London. Harry led the group. The Contessa lived in Italy (when she wasn't working with Harry). She ran her own detective agency that specialized in exposing art frauds and recovering stolen art. Paul Buchet worked out of Paris, and was the group's researcher and gadget specialist. Adventures ranged from simple kidnapping to convoluted cases of international intrigue. These characters were all very wealthy and drove exotic cars of the era, like the Citroen SM and Jenson Interceptor.

According to Anderson, the show's format was outlined in a brief note that Grade gave him, and he was then given a free hand to develop it, although Grade ultimately cast two of the main actors himself. The format of the series allowed for occasional episodes in which not all of the main actors appear, including two episodes in which Vaughn's character is absent.

Like The Persuaders!, a similar series also produced by ITC, that aired around the same time, The Protectors was shot on location at numerous "exotic" locations throughout Europe, such as Salzburg, Rome, Malta and Paris, giving the series a sixties "jet set" feel (it was also the first Anderson production to have such a luxury). Some critics feel that the series has dated badly, with weak plots used as an excuse to string together the location footage. In order to offset the cost of location filming, and also perhaps because the equipment was more portable, the series was shot on 16mm film rather than the usual 35.

The theme tune for the series, "Avenues and Alleyways", was a minor hit for Tony Christie (and was later successfully revived by Christie in the 2000s thanks in part to its use in the soundtrack to the film Love, Honour and Obey.

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