The Protectors was a British television series, an action
thriller created by Gerry Anderson - his second TV series using live
actors as opposed to animated puppets, and the first of these that was not
science fiction. It was produced by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment
production company. 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 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
Vaughn (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) as Paul Buchet. The three were international private
detectives/troubleshooters who belonged to an organization called The
Protectors. The format of the series allowed for occasional episodes in
which not all of the main actors appear, including at least one episode in
which Vaughn's character is absent.
The theme tune for the series, "Avenues and Alleyways", was a
minor hit for Tony Christie. Episodes often featured prominent guest
actors. 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 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.
According to Robert Vaughn's autobiography, there were numerous
problems between the actor and both Grade and Anderson. Anderson has
claimed that Vaughn acted like a Hollywood prima donna and refused to get
on with the other actors. Vaughn claims that he felt the series was
"tasteless junk", and that he couldn't understand the scripts
either before or during shooting. Vaughn was given the opportunity to
direct one episode himself - #23 in production order, "It Could Be
Practically Anywhere on the Island". Grade called it the worst
episode he'd ever seen of anything.
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.