Conceived by Sir Roger Moore and Lew Grade, the Persuaders is part of that wonderful range of cult TV programs released by ITV. The premise is the peak of contrivance (two bachelor playboys get conned out of their jet-set lifestyle to use their skills at fighting crime), but the entire program is built on the chemistry between the lead actors.
Avengers alum Brian Clemens and Doctor Who scribe Terry Nation are just some of the familiar names associated with this series. Similar in tone to Department S, this is a pulpy action program/male fantasy of the highest degree.
In 1971, Roger Moore was already a household name thanks to his enormous success as Simon Templar in the Saint (he hadn’t taken up the mantle of Bond yet). ITV prided itself on launching exciting all action programs that were big successes internationally. In this instance, an American co-star was decided upon and the unlikely Tony Curtis filled the part wonderfully.
Playing the NY-born Danny Wilde, Curtis ruffled Moore’s feathers every week with his boisterous and charismatic approach.
In sharp opposition, Moore’s Lord Brett Sinclair was a refined gentleman of high standing, it’s just that he used his position to live a fast lifestyle chasing skirts and driving fast cars.
Moore was very closely involved with the production right down to his rather outlandish outfits (he has his own line of clothing at the time). He even directed a number of the episodes. Billed as the most expensive TV program of its time, the value is plain on the screen as expensive sports cars race down breathtaking locations. The lead actors refrained from using stunt doubles in the fight sequences which is impressive given Curtis’ age at the time (46).
After watching the pilot episode, I still can’t figure out how/why these two characters were brought together or why, as the judge predicts, they are dynamite together. They seem to have random skills as the plot requires and are more interested in pursuing the fair sex than anything else. But I’m still early in this, so there may be more to come.
The theme tune by John Barry is without a doubt one of the more impressive of its kind and the stylish opening sequence is immediately memorable.
The premise of two playboys getting blackmailed by a judge into fighting crime makes absolutely no sense, but the series is not constructed on concepts but instead on character. Regarded as one of the finest of ITV’s spy/action TV series, The Persuaders won acclaim worldwide and remains a cult hit with its fans. I only just discovered it by way of a box set of ITV series including the Champions, the Prisoner and the Protectors and look forward to many more viewings.