The Persuaders - lovely crap TV

Published October 07, 2010


People have different ways of coping with stressful periods in their lives. Some turn to drink or other stimulants, others console themselves with food. Although I'm certainly no stranger to trying those methods of alleviating heavy burdens in my life, in recent years I've discovered an unexpected way to distract myself in times of stress: not-very-great television shows from the Seventies.

A few years ago, when my father had just died, I found that when I wanted to relax in front of the television I didn't feel inclined to watch anything too demanding, but nor did I crave a reality show or whatever else passes for mindless entertainment these days. No, the perfect escape was the first couple of seasons of - Columbo. Very popular in its day, today I have to say I was often shocked at how slow and boring it often was. But even the worst episodes were exactly what I needed to divert my thoughts: the lame plots, the wooden or over-hysterical acting, the early-to-mid-Seventies fashion and hair styles - not too demanding, but still oddly entertaining enough to distract me.

I'm currently experiencing something similar with The Persuaders, a show that was originally broadcast 1971-1972, starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis as a couple of playboys solving various mysteries. It was a show I truly loved as a child, and indeed it was very popular among Swedes in general. Today, of course, it's mainly a time-piece with little to recommend it in terms of plot, acting, or logic. Only John Barry's excellent theme music has stood the test of time.

However, when the news of Tony Curtis' death reached me last week, I didn't want to honour his memory by watching a truly great film like Some Like It Hot. No, it was The Persuaders I craved. I happened to own a DVD with the first four episodes, and found to my great surprise that after I had watched those, I wanted more. Well, being fully aware that I'd had a stressful few weeks I shouldn't have been surprised. Luckily, the complete series is available to rent at my local video store - I'm now up to episode 10...

I have to agree with British comedy writer Frank Muir, who, in a truly informative Wikipedia article about The Persuaders, is quoted as saying that it "must have been the best bad series ever made". Because it does have plenty to offer: a heightened version of the playboy lifestyle of the times, amazing late Sixties/early Seventies fashion (Roger Moore's outfits were all designed by himself) and interior decorating, and a lack of plausibility that is so consistent throughout the series that it somehow ends up working in its favour. Watching several episodes in one go, you find yourself pondering such mysteries as: why does an American like Danny Wilde (Tony Curtis' character) spend so much time in Great Britain, why does he wear gloves all the time, and if you are hit very hard on the back of your head with alarming regularity, wouldn't that result in some kind of brain damage after a while?

I don't know if The Persuaders is the right antidote for you in times of stress, dear reader, all I can tell you is that it works for me.