It was a show loved like family and had a cast list that resembled a pick’n’mix, but it was one of the best pieces of television for the people of the 1980’s. Let’s takes a flight through the world of the A-Team (although Mr T couldn’t join us as he apparently doesn’t like to fly..)
What were you doing in 1972? That is of course provided that you are in fact OLD enough to have been around at that time. I know I wasn’t, I was a Star Wars starlet from 1977, but if you look back at that year, some very important things happened back then. The government, for example, declared a state of emergency in February when miner’s decided to strike; in April the first mobile phone was used in New York; and Geri Halliwell was born… well, OK not EVERYTHING was important, but there were some major things happening in ‘72, which leads us to why this year is even being mentioned.
There were a team of crack military commando’s who were sent to court for a crime that they didn’t commit. They then promptly escaped to the Los Angeles underground to survive as soldiers of fortune. “if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, then maybe you can hire the A-TEAM!!” (cue music)
The show where every machine made felt like a cross between Blue Peter and Scrapheap Challenge, and the fact that only two people in the ENTIRE series were ever killed, yes people, the thoughts of nobody meeting their maker are in fact false (General Fallbright at the end of the fourth and final season and Gianni Christian, a gangster who fell, Lethal Weapon 2 style to his death in a swimming pool from a hotel balcony). This was what 80’s television was all about when The A-Team made it’s world debut on the 23rd of January 1983 on American network NBC. For the rest of us though, we would remember sitting eating our dinner in front of the Goggle-Box at around 5.45 on a Saturday evening watching Hannibal Smith, B.A. Baracus, Face, and Murdock make the world a better place by eradicating the problems of everyday folks in their neighbourhood.
Not your regular programming
Coming from the stables of Stephen J. Cannell, who apparently suffers from Dyslexia, this show ran for a total of 4 years, finishing on March 8th, 1987. This had everything that your typical young audience wanted, from comedy, to military undertones, to machine guns, but most importantly of all, to good ol’ fashioned fightin’.
The four men of the GMC truck-alypse were all convicted for a crime that they did not commit. What actually happened was that their Commanding Officer in Vietnam gave them an order to rob the Hanoi Bank in a hope to end the conflict, but when the men returned from their successful mission, they would arrive back to find their commander slain by the Vietcong, with his HQ also burnt to the ground. With no proof that they were working under orders, the men were arrested and sent to court, from which they would escape and become mercenaries for our entertainment.
There’s no I in team
My own personal views on the show were that it was great for kids to watch, sitting in front of the telly, screaming “YAY” when B.A. would put to rest the dastardly work of a young punk, or wondering if Hannibal would pull it off with another one of his mad disguises, if Face would find another woman to fall under his spell, or if Murdock was gonna really piss of the gold wearin’ powerhouse again, while doing his job. The flashes and bangs of all the action, every one of them in slow motion, was what we all wanted and we were all too young back then to actually notice if anyone was getting killed or not, with so many episodes ending with the immortal line “I love it when a plan comes together”.
This line was delivered by the ringleader of the gang, John “Hannibal” Smith, played by the late, great, George Peppard. Peppard had starred in many B movies and had a major starring role alongside Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, before ending up on the A-Team. George was himself a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps, so that would have put him in good stead to be the leading man of this four man army. Sadly, he died in 1994, aged 65 of pneumonia, brought on by complications of his treatment for lung cancer.
The second member of this band of merry men we come across is Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck, played by Dirk Benedict, although he did not actually play this character in the pilot episode (Tim Dunigan had that pleasure). Mr Benedict, born Mr Niewoehner (his name was changed as a result of him needing a catchier surname and his agent getting the inspiration from Dirk‘s breakfast on the morning of their meeting), was also a man of the screen before he appeared on the “Team”, most notably appearing in Battlestar Galactica as Starbuck. Dirk is still alive and kicking to this day.
Contestant number three is H.M. (Howling Mad) Murdock, or Dwight Schultz to the normal world. Dwight will also be known for his role as Lt. Reginald Barclay in the Star Trek: Next Generation episodes, but what is more impressive is his credentials for gaming and cartoon voices. He’s been in the brilliant anime Princess Mononoke, Family Guy, Johnny Bravo and has also been in Final Fantasy X, X-2 and a voice in Psychonauts on current gen consoles.
Last, but certainly not least is Laurence Tureaud, or Mr T. as we all know him. This former bouncer became the brawn of the outfit, Sgt. Bosco Albert (B.A.) Baracus. Mr T., who is a born-again Christian, starred in Rocky III in 1982, before making his appearance on our screens as the man who pitied fools. He had his own cartoon show in 1983, which ran for 16 episodes, an album called Mr T’s Commandments, a good moral message rap special which lasted 7 tracks, and he also appeared in Wrestlemania’s 1 and 2.
There have been other members of the A-Team besides the fab four. Melinda Culea (Amy Amanda “Triple A” Allen) was a reporter who was a part of the team from the offset, but as time went on, she began to fall out with the people behind the cameras and was written out midway through the second season. Maria Heasley played Amy’s replacement character briefly in 1984. The only other “member” was Eddie Valez who played Puerto Rican pyrotechnic man, Frankie “Dishpan” Santana. Unfortunately, his character just didn’t work in the show that well.
Then we come to the men who were looking for Hannibal and his troops. You have, Colonel Lynch, the Commander of Fort Bragg, the stockade from which the A-Team broke out, played by William Lucking. He was their pursuer during the first season, but alas, unable to apprehend them. A new season, a new Colonel, and probably the one most people remember, Colonel Decker, played by Lance LeGault, who chased after them for the rest of the programmes run. He didn’t do it either, but eventually, Hannibal and co. ran out of luck and were caught and had to face General Hunt Stockwell, played by The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’s Robert Vaughn, with the A-Team having to do jobs for him in return for their freedom, which was granted in the big finale of the series.
Mr T’s appearance in two of the WWE flagship events was a product of an agreement between the then World Wrestling Federation and the programme makers. This then led to appearances by a list of famous wrestlers, such as Hulk Hogan, Davey Boy Smith (the British Bulldog), the Dynamite Kid, Bobby “the Brain” Heenan and “Mean” Gene Okerlund. Wrestlers, however were not the only celebrities to make cameo appearances, although I wouldn’t include Boy George (so I won’t). The big names include Lance Henriksen, Dennis Haysbert, Isaac Hayes and Michael Ironside.
The phenomenon that was the A-Team has reached and stayed at cult status for so many years, with many people and programmes producing parodies within their own TV shows, like Family Guy, Saturday Night Live and many more, with so many items of merchandise coming out here there and everywhere, from Die-Cast miniatures of the now iconic Black GMC van with it’s red stripe, to Mr T. keyrings, which are readily available on the high streets still to this day.
The A-Team has not just been a major influence on people’s lives, it has also affected the way action television is made and has cemented itself upon the media culture of today. It is something that will live in our hearts for a long, long time to come.
So, 1972 then. Not a bad year then. If only they could have stopped the prospect of five evil women subjecting the British public to bad music by allowing B.A. to rap to Geri and thus saving us a hell of a lot of sore ears 26 years later.