28 January 2006 | anthonywalshaw_2
Come in ITC, your time is up!
The Return of the Saint sits uneasily alongside both the previous ITC series and contemporary programmes of 1978, being a hybrid of the two. The location shooting and updated theme music compare with the most recent programmes, but the clichéd plots and much of the scripts/acting belong in the glory days of ITC a decade or so previously, when they were more believable to the audiences.
Staged set-pieces with buffoonish villains were now dated and improbable rather than stylish and entertaining. The same character actors involved could often be seen in such as The Sweeney and The Professionals doing fight scenes far more realistically.
There are likely several reasons why the programme did not extend beyond one series. Ian Ogilvy perhaps seemed a bit youthful compared to Roger Moore but his performances were fine and the programme was certainly popular at the time. The Grade Organisation (incorporating ATV/ITC) had not really moved on by the late-1970's, with its output still consisting of 1960's style caper/adventure movies/TV shows when almost everything else had moved towards a grittier realism. It was probably very expensive to make and worldwide sales might not have been good overall.
It is difficult to imagine ATV/ITC making shows with gratuitous violence and foul language and we should be thankful that they didn't. Their output, like the Hammer & Carry On films in the same period, had a brand quality and style particular to its maker and era. But by the late 1970's that era had gone and their empire was about to disintegrate.
That said, The Return of the Saint was not a bad way to depart being entertaining in the best tradition of ITC, with good guest actors complimenting the competent Ogilvy. Remember also that the seemingly more realistic Professionals had many ridiculous plot situations and equally has a mixed though generally favourable reaction when being assessed by critics.