The Persuaders!

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.


7 thoughts on “The Persuaders!

  1. “More interested in pursuing the fair sex than anything else”, well if they’re successful at it they’d be fools not too! If I may make a slight correction, although the series you list *were* all on ITV (a single channel split up countrywide between various networks) they were made by Sir Lew Grade’s *ITC*. Grade was a cigar-chomping showman (and ex-dancer!) whose company was famous in the Sixties and Seventies as you know, with the Roger Moore-starring The Saint being the longest-running. The Persuaders! was Grade’s latest and most blatant tilt at the US market but ironically it proved a hit almost everywhere but the USA, your country being traditionally resistant to overseas series with notable exceptions including Danger Man and the non-ITC Avengers (a further irony is that the most famous British Fantasy Adventure series of the 1960s *wasn’t* made by Grade). The adventurous likes of your good self would seek out the magic stuff but until recently most British series would only be on PBS etc and wouldn’t reach wider audiences however they *would* reach the brighter people (!) now any idiot with a computer can see various British stuff, of course while Who and Sherlock thrive on BBC America older better series are still obscure and that goes for over here in Perfidious Albion too (ITV has been dying for years ever since Thatcherite policies smashed it, it’s now homogenous and the network has been reduced to nothing not that the BBC hasn’t been ravaged by the same things, it’s now living dead for the most part, and governments and the BBC itself seem to be trying to kill it completely. Erm, O Woe!).
    The Persuaders! marks the point when fantastical elements were being played down, Jason King would really end that era and then only Doctor Who and SF series such as UFO would let the weirdness in. John Barry’s theme is great and the best thing about that gleefully absurd series apart from the Foxy Ladies. Bret and Danny *are* Dynamite together…for some reason :). Check out Avenues and Alleyways –


    • Aha! I was wondering why I kept typing ITC then correcting myself with ITV… very perplexing. This is a realm of cult TV that I am happily exploring for the first time. I’m very interested in The Saint, Man in a Suitcase and (probably unrelated) the Sandbaggers. I only caught a couple of episodes of Jason King’s solo series and my head nearly exploded. I’ll have to go back for that one.


  2. The theme to The Protectors, that’s the best thing about that fag-end ITC series apart from the interesting cast of Robert Vaughn (Napoleon Solo himself!), Nyree Dawn Porter (The Forsyte Saga) and Tony Anholt (Space : 1999 Season 2) and the fact it was produced by Gerry Anderson.
    I’d highly recommend James Chapman’s book Saints and Avengers which focuses on many of the Adventure Fantasy series of the Sixties with fascinating material not just on the wonderful iconic Avengers and The Prisoner but also lesser-known gems such as Man in a Suitcase and Department S. Who can resist a bit of Peter Wyngarde as the camp old roue Jason King or delicious self-possessed Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) and the scrumptious young Linda Thorson? Not I. Ahem.
    Hey, Jameson I know you want to dress up as Danny Wilde, I however get to dress up in Rog’s duds as Lord Bret Sinclair. I win! However, I’d rather be John Steed with Cathy Gale, Mrs Peel, and Miss King – what a lucky dog… πŸ˜‰ And all the delightful strangeness. Yes Please.


  3. Hmmm, I very much doubt Moore did his own stunts. He seems to have stunt men for running scenes, nevermind fighting scenes.


  4. So, it’s just me then is it?! No, I was having fun imagining that you were such a fan of The Persuaders! that you’d begun dressing as Tony Curtis but as I am an Englishman that if I was a big fan I’d be dressing in Roger Moore’s OWN designs! There’s no end to the man’s talents (?!) Obviously, you are not *deranged*, I on the other hand… Ha. Don’t worry Fredric Wertham doesn’t need to be concerned. Anyway, doesn’t everyone dress as their favourite Adventure t.v. characters? Here’s a hint, you may not want to dress as Jason King…


  5. The Sandbaggers was later but having read about it recently it sounds *very* good, much better than the recent Spooks/MI5 in fact. It seems that getting hold of it would be a fine idea. The comics writer Greg Rucka was inspired by The Sandbaggers to pen the Queen & Country comic books and novels. Apparently he is too relaunch the comics soon.
    As regards ITC you may want to check out the original Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), private detective who comes back as a ghost to help his partner? You know you want to see *that*! Warning: the words “Jeff! He’s behind the door…with a bottle” will become familiar.
    Jason King is nuttily, gloriously Camp but Department S is better. Look out for many great theme tunes.


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