Originally airing on ITV in 1981, a decade after the final episode of the original series, and now debuting on DVD just 12 months after the release of the monochrome episodes, it’s hard to imagine Callan: Wet Job not being heavily anticipated by anyone who became addicted to the murky world of espionage inhabited by Edward Woodward’s tortured David Callan.
Sadly, while the classic elements of double-crossing and uncertain morals, not to mention Woodward and Russell Hunter as Lonely, which made the 60s and 70s Callan’s so unmissable, are present in this TV movie, the overall feeling is that everybody involved was doing it out of duty rather than love.
The lacklustre plot sees a retired Callan, now with a new identity and girlfriend, pressed back into duty by a new Hunter as the Russians rear their heads for a new bout of Cold War antics.
Confused youths with misplaced loyalties get involved with ageing agents with old scores to settle, Callan left to ponder past glories as George Sewell adds a modicum of watchability to proceedings.
The idea of returning to Callan after an extended break may not have been the wisest, but there were always going to be ways to do the character justice. Whether Callan had become a washed up clone of Lonely or a high-powered Government official, the dramatic possibilities were endless.
For some reason what we got was an anaemic reunion that didn’t do anyone any favours.
In its favour, Wet Job does feature Callan and Lonely together again, even if the friendship supposedly enjoyed by the pair in the past is perhaps over-stated.
Woodward and Hunter bounce of each other like they’ve never been apart and one wonders if a simple 60-minute two-hander between the pair, two old men reminiscing about their lives, might have been yet another way to make this production more memorable.
For anyone stumbling across this review who decides to sample the world of Callan for the first time, be aware that Wet Job isn’t representative of the parent series. For everything I’ve said above you can reverse the sentiment for the original, which I still maintain is one of Britain’s finest televisual moments (if you can count four exemplary seasons as a single moment).
By all means watch Wet Job if you’ve already immersed yourself in the 60s version, but only then. That way you can put this quietly away on the shelf before picking up series one and starting all over again.