When I think about 80’s TV Shows there are only a small handful that immediately stick out.
The A-Team is one of those shows. It had adventure, some comedy, great explosive fight scenes, and an awesome GMC Van that I always wanted to jump into the back seat of while Mr. T drove away.
First though let me know tell you how this was initially pitched to Stephen J. Cannell. He’s the one whose end logo credits are of him typing on an old typewriter and then throwing the paper in the air. Stephen was hired by NBC and his first project in the 80’s was The A-Team. The NBC President at the time pitched the show as “a combination of The Dirty Dozen, Mission Impossible, The Magnificent Seven, Mad Max and Hill Street Blues, with Mr. T driving the car”.
Like many shows in the 80’s the popular references of the time were all there, the Vietnam war, machine guns and helicopters (also see: Magnum PI and Knight Rider). The only overall story arc of the show was the constant want of The A-Team to prove their innocence. Which gets brought up on occasion with use of flash backs to their Vietnam War times. But the general theme of each individual episode is the same.
These soldiers or fortune are asked to help someone whom the police will not or cannot help. BA Baracus will probably complain about getting on a helicopter or an airplane. Murdock will have to get out of the mental ward. Face will hit on a girl. And Hannibal will have some crazy unorthodox plan to rescue the person in need.
And you know what it works every time. Watching these shows again 30 years later I find that the same thing which hooked me as a child still got to me today. The fact that these guys could make an armored vehicle or weapon out of anything they found in some farmers shed. Much like another favorite show of mine (see: MacGyver) these guys have a creative albeit almost impossible ingenuity. Making missiles out of fuel tanks and flame throwers out of BBQ grills. All of which were weapons that apparently could take out an entire Mexican army. Shows like this as a child are definitely the reason I’m such a DIY person today.
The show in this form only lasted a few seasons. After 4 seasons of the same rescue mission ratings dwindled. In an attempt to revive the show in the 5th season The A-Team was captured and told by the CIA their records would be wiped if they did some missions for them. This theme continued for the entire 5th season. And just in case you want to watch the show I won’t tell you how it ends.
If you do watch the show I will say skip the pilot episode. It was originally aired as a single 2 hour long ‘movie’ that played just after the 1983 Superbowl. On Netflix it’s split into two episodes. Don’t watch them. Just start on Episode 3. That’s when Dirk Benedict starts acting as Face anyways. The pilot originally had a different actor cast and it just didn’t work for me. On top of that 2 hours was too long and slow for a typical A-Team episode. If this show was released today it would have been cancelled after it’s pilot episode.
Actually you can randomly watch any other episode from Seasons 1-4 and you wouldn’t be lost. Typical of 80’s shows and their episodic nature each one stands on it’s own.
If old 80’s TV isn’t your thing I will give kudos to the creators of The A-Team movie remake. It is the only 80’s TV show remake which I found to be genuinely entertaining while not ruining the show I so fondly remember. If you think 80’s TV isn’t for you don’t fret you can safely watch the 2010 film remake and be entertained.
Once my son is a few years older this is a show I hope he enjoys. While you have plenty of guns and explosions The A-Team never kills anyone. No one bleeds. The worst that happens is someone limps away or is wearing a sling. It’s truly a PG show in comparison to anything today. For that reason I think there will be a lot of 80’s TV show watching in my household. Besides who doesn’t love some over the top explosions and ridiculous stunts?