The A-Team title screen (seasons 1–4).
|Created by||Frank Lupo |
Stephen J. Cannell
|Starring||George Peppard |
|Theme music composer||Mike Post |
|Composer(s)||Mike Post |
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||98 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Stephen J. Cannell |
Frank Lupo (seasons 4 and 5)
|Producer(s)||John Ashley |
Tom Blomquist (season 5)
|Camera setup||Film (1982-1986) |
Film (Principal Photography)/Videotape (Post-Production (1986)
|Running time||48 minutes per episode (without advertisements)|
|Production company(s)||Universal Television |
In Association With Stephen J. Cannell Productions
|Original run||January 23, 1983– March 8, 1987|
The A-Team is an American action-adventure television series about a fictional group of ex-United States Army Special Forces personnel who work as soldiers of fortune, while on the run from the Army after being branded as war criminals for a "crime they didn't commit". The A-Team was created by writers and producers Frank Lupo and Stephen J. Cannell at the behest of Brandon Tartikoff, NBC's Entertainment president. Despite being thought of as mercenaries by the other characters in the show, the A-Team always acted on the side of good and helped the oppressed. The show ran for five seasons on the NBC television network, from January 23, 1983 to December 30, 1986 (with one additional, previously unbroadcast episode shown on March 8, 1987), for a total of 98 episodes.
The show remains prominent in popular culture for its cartoonish, over-the-top violence (in which people were seldom seriously hurt), formulaic episodes, its characters' ability to form weaponry and vehicles out of old parts, and its distinctive theme tune. The show boosted the career of Mr. T, who portrayed the character of B. A. Baracus, around whom the show was initially conceived. Some of the show's catchphrases, such as "I love it when a plan comes together," "Hannibal's on the jazz," and "I ain't gettin' on no plane!" have also made their way onto T-shirts and other merchandise.
The show's name comes from the "A-Teams," the nickname coined for U.S. Special Forces' Operational Detachments Alpha (ODA) during the Vietnam War, although this connection was never referenced on-screen.
A feature film based on the series was released by 20th Century Fox on June 11, 2010. A comic book series, A-Team: Shotgun Wedding, began March 9, 2010.
NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff pitched the series to Cannell as a combination of The Dirty Dozen, Mission Impossible, The Magnificent Seven, Mad Max and Hill Street Blues, with "Mr. T driving the car."
The A-Team was not generally expected to become a hit, although Stephen J. Cannell has said that George Peppard suggested it would be a huge hit "before we ever turned on a camera." The show became very popular; the first regular episode, which aired after Super Bowl XVII on January 30, 1983, reached 26.4% of the television audience, placing fourth in the top 10 Nielsen-rated shows.
The A-Team revolves around the four members of a former commando outfit, now mercenaries. Their leader is Lieutenant-Colonel/Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith (George Peppard), whose plans tend to be unorthodox but effective. Lieutenant Templeton "The Faceman" Peck (Dirk Benedict; Tim Dunigan appeared as Templeton Peck in the pilot), usually called "Face," is a smooth-talking con-man who serves as the team's appropriator of vehicles and other useful items. The team's pilot is Captain H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock (Dwight Schultz), who has been declared insane and lives in a Veterans Administration mental institution for the show's first four seasons. Finally, there is the team's strong man and mechanic, Sergeant First Class Bosco "B.A.," or "Bad Attitude," Baracus (Mr. T).
It is unclear to which U.S. Army unit the four belonged. A patch on Hannibal's uniform in the Season 1 episode "A Nice Place To Visit" indicates they belonged to the 101st Airborne division in Vietnam, but the patch was replaced by the 1st Air Cavalry Division patch in the Season 5 episode "Trial by Fire." In the Season 1 episode "West Coast Turnaround," Hannibal stated they were with the "5th Special Forces Group."
For its first season and the first half of the second season, the team was assisted by reporter Amy Amanda Allen (Melinda Culea). In the second half of the second season, Allen was replaced by fellow reporter Tawnia Baker (Marla Heasley). The character of Tia (Tia Carrere), a Vietnam war orphan now living in the United States, was meant to join the Team in the fifth season, but she was replaced by Frankie Santana (Eddie Velez), who served as the team's special effects expert. Velez was added to the opening credits of the fifth season after its second episode.
During their adventures, the A-Team was constantly met by opposition from the military police. In the show's first season, the MPs were led by Colonel Francis Lynch (William Lucking), but he was replaced for the second, third, and earlier fourth season by Colonel Roderick Decker (Lance LeGault) and his aide Captain Crane (Carl Franklin). Lynch returned for one episode in the show's third season ("Showdown!") but was not seen after. Decker was also briefly replaced by a Colonel Briggs (Charles Napier) in the third season for one episode ("Fire!") when LeGault was unavailable, but returned shortly after. For the latter portion of the show's fourth season, the team was hunted by General Harlan "Bull" Fullbright (Jack Ging), who would later hire the A-Team to find Tia in the season four finale, during which Fullbright was killed.
The fifth season introduced General Hunt Stockwell (Robert Vaughn) who, while serving as the team's primary antagonist, was also the team's boss and joined them on several missions. He was often assisted by Carla (Judith Ledford, sometimes credited as Judy Ledford).
In the pilot, Face was portrayed by Tim Dunigan, who was later replaced by Dirk Benedict, because Dunigan was "too tall and too young." According to Dunigan: "I look even younger on camera than I am. So it was difficult to accept me as a veteran of the Vietnam War, which ended when I was a sophomore in high school."
Carrere was intended to join the principal cast of the show in its fifth season after appearing in the season four finale, providing a tie to the team's inception during the war. Unfortunately for this plan, Carrere was under contract to General Hospital, which prevented her from joining The A-Team. Her character was abruptly dropped as a result.
According to Mr. T's account in Bring Back... The A-Team in 2006, the role of B.A. Baracus was written specifically for him. This is corroborated by Stephen J. Cannell's own account of the initial concept proposed by Tartikoff.
James Coburn, who co-starred in The Magnificent Seven, was considered for the role of Hannibal in The A-Team, while George Peppard (Hannibal) was the original consideration for the role of Vin (played by Steve McQueen instead) in The Magnificent Seven.
Notable guest appearances
Notable guest stars included:
- Dean Stockwell as Police Officer Collins — SWAT in "A Small & Deadly War".
- Wendy Fulton as Kelly Stevens in "Bounty". Fulton and Dwight Schultz had married a few years before the episode, and the episode plays on the theme of Kelly and Murdock falling in love.
- Boy George as himself in "Cowboy George".
- Isaac Hayes as C.J. Mack in "The Heart Of Rock N' Roll".
- Hulk Hogan as himself in "The Trouble With Harry" and "Body Slam".
- Rick James as himself in "The Heart of Rock N' Roll".
- David McCallum as Ivan Trigorin in "The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair". McCallum guest stars as a former associate of Robert Vaughn's character General Stockwell. Vaughn and McCallum had co-starred together as friendly American and Russian secret agents in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. This The A-Team episode sent up many aspects of the classic series.
- Joe Namath as T. J. Bryant in "Quarterback Sneak," season 5, episode 4.
- William "The Refrigerator" Perry as himself in "The Trouble With Harry."
- Markie Post as Rina in "Hot Styles" and Sister Teresa/Leslie Becktar in "The Only Church in Town."
- Pat Sajak as himself in "Wheel of Fortune."
- Vanna White as herself in "Wheel of Fortune."
- Yaphet Kotto in "The Out of Towners"
- Shecky Greene as himself roasting Gen. Harlan "Bull" Fulbright, in "Members Only"
The "crime they didn't commit"
During the Vietnam War, the A-Team's commanding officer, Colonel Morrison, gave them orders to rob the Bank of Hanoi to help bring the war to an end. They succeeded in their mission, but on their return to their base four days after the end of the war, they discovered that Morrison had been killed by the Viet Cong, and that his headquarters had been burned to the ground. This meant that the proof that the A-Team members were acting under orders had been destroyed, and they were arrested. The team was imprisoned at Fort Bragg, from which they quickly escaped before standing trial.
The first four seasons
The show's early seasons did not have overarching plots, although occasionally there would be two-part episodes. The episodes are linked to a specific season by their primary antagonist, a recurring assistant character and its particular use of guest stars (the first season was relatively low on guest stars while the show's fourth season often featured well-known stars, such as Boy George and Hulk Hogan).
As such, only a few significant developments are made during this time, which include the blood transfer between Murdock and B.A. in the first season episode "Black Day at Bad Rock", the replacement of recurring character Amy Allen with Tawnia Baker and the replacements of the recurring antagonists of the Military Police. The final episode of the fourth season does present two unusual occurrences; the antagonist (General Fullbright in this case) works with the Team and also features the second on-screen death (also General Fullbright). This episode, together with the first three of the fifth season, deal extensively with the team's Vietnam history.
The fifth season
As the television ratings of The A-Team fell dramatically during the fourth season, the format was changed for the show's final season in 1986–87 in a bid to win back viewers. After years on the run from the authorities, the A-Team are finally apprehended by the military. General Hunt Stockwell propositions them to work for him, whereupon he will arrange for their pardons upon successful completion of several suicide missions. In order to do so, the A-Team must first escape from their captivity. With the help of a new character, Frankie "Dishpan Man" Santana, the team fake their deaths before the firing squad.
The new status of the A-Team, no longer working for themselves, remained for the duration of the fifth season; both Frankie Santana and Hunt Stockwell were added to the credits. The missions the team had to perform in season five were somewhat reminiscent of Mission: Impossible, and based more around political espionage than beating local thugs, also usually taking place in foreign countries. These changes proved unsuccessful with viewers and ratings continued to decline. Only 13 episodes aired in the fifth season.
In what was supposed to be the final episode, "The Grey Team" (although "Without Reservations" was broadcast on NBC as the last first-run episode in March 1987), Hannibal, after being misled by Stockwell one time too many, tells him that the team will no longer work for him. At the end, the team discusses what they were going to do if they got their pardon, and it is implied that they would continue doing what they were doing as the A-Team.
Themes and other characteristics
The opening theme tune was composed by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter.
Each episode of the first four seasons began with this voiceover introduction (altered after the first season to keep it from becoming out of date):
|“||(Ten years ago / In 1972), a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The A-Team.||”|
The intro was narrated by John Ashley, who was also one of the show's producers. The intro was dropped for the final season, in which the A-Team's circumstances changed instead to working for General Stockwell. The theme tune was changed to match.
The A-Team is a naturally episodic show, with few overarching stories, except the characters' continuing motivation to clear their names, with few references to events in past episodes and a recognizable and steady episode structure. In describing the ratings drop that occurred during the show's fourth season, reviewer Gold Burt points to this structure as being a leading cause for the decreased popularity "because the same basic plot had been used over and over again for the past four seasons with the same predictable outcome." Similarly, reporter Adrian Lee called the plots "stunningly simple" in a 2006 article for The Express (UK newspaper), citing such recurring elements "as BA's fear of flying, and outlandish finales when the team fashioned weapons from household items."
Episodes start with the main introduction and title of the episode, followed by scenes focusing on the plight of the episode's victim, who is hoping to hire the A-Team. These prospective clients are usually led through a series of off-beat and comedic tests, after which a member of the team, most frequently Hannibal, will reveal himself and tell the clients they've "just hired the A-Team."
Frequently, one of the clients will be a young woman whom Face is immediately attracted to and who will serve as the object of his advances (though in a few episodes it's Murdock who has a romantic interlude). Occasionally, the A-Team is on the road and simply stumble across someone who needs its help. The A-Team often returns its fee to the most needy clients or finds another way to pay their expenses.
By this time, Murdock will escape from the psychiatric hospital, where he is interned, with the help of Face. After scamming items necessary for the mission, often directly angering the episode's antagonist, the A-Team will confront that antagonist, insulting him/her, which will lead to a counter-attack later on.
Generally, the A-Team then assist their clients in their daily routine, while furthering Face's romance with the female guest star and initiating a conflict between B.A. and Murdock. These scenes will usually also feature clients and the team alike questioning Hannibal's sanity, leading to the proclamation that Hannibal is "on the jazz," a term to denote the adrenaline rush that accompanies their adventures.
Traditionally, the antagonist's counter-attack then follows, which succeeds and leads to the team's capture. In order to escape, the A-Team will usually construct a weapon; often in the form of a vehicle, of sorts from their available resources. This is detailed in a musical montage focusing on the team's hands and the tools used. The escape will be successful and the antagonist will be defeated with use of the new weapon. The team's opponents are rarely hurt, as bullets miss their targets and the enemies manage to evade or survive, unscathed, said gunfire, numerous explosions, or vehicles crashing (usually in the form of a barrel roll).
The show became emblematic of this kind of "fit-for-TV warfare" due to its depiction of high-octane combat scenes, with lethal weapons, wherein the participants (with the notable exception of General Fullbright) are never killed and rarely seriously injured (see also on-screen violence and Principle of Evil Marksmanship).
After the defeat of the antagonist, the episode's other storylines will be wrapped up as the team make their escape. Every few episodes, the Military Police catches up with the team, giving them an extra obstacle to overcome in that particular episode, sometimes also appearing in the final few minutes of the episode, forcing the team to make a quick exit. A recurring element that can usually be fit anywhere into the episode is B.A.'s fear of flying, which leads to the team having to knock him out (either by drugs or, less often, a blow to the back of the head using a heavy object and once even using hypnotherapy) to get him onto a helicopter or plane. In "The Beast From The Belly of A Boeing," while B.A. is awake for the flight that occupies most of the episode, he does go catatonic twice.
Connections to the Vietnam War
The origin of the A-Team is directly linked to the Vietnam War, during which the team formed. The show's introduction in the first four seasons mentions this, accompanied by images of soldiers coming out of a helicopter in an area resembling a forest/jungle. Besides this, The A-Team would occasionally feature an episode in which the team came across an old ally or enemy from those war days. For example, the first season's ending episode "A Nice Place To Visit" revolved around the team travelling to a small town to honor and avenge a fallen comrade, and in season two's "Water, Water Everywhere," the team came to the aid of three disabled Vietnam veterans.
An article in the New Statesman (UK) published shortly after the premiere of The A-Team in the United Kingdom, also pointed out The A-Team's connection to the Vietnam War, characterizing it as the representation of the idealization of the Vietnam War, and an example of the War slowly becoming accepted and assimilated into American culture.
One of the team's primary antagonists, Col. Roderick Decker (Lance LeGault), had his past linked back to the Vietnam War, in which he and Hannibal had come to fisticuffs in "the DOOM Club" (Da Nang Open Officers' Mess). At other times, members of the team would refer back to a certain tactic used during the War, which would be relevant to the team's present predicament. Often, Hannibal would refer to such a tactic, after which the other members of the team would complain about its failure during the War. This was also used to refer to some of Face's past accomplishments in scamming items for the team, such as in the first season episode "Holiday In The Hills," in which Murdock fondly remembers Face being able to secure a '53 Cadillac while in the Vietnam jungle.
The team's ties to the Vietnam War were referenced again in the fourth season finale, "The Sound of Thunder," in which the team is introduced to Tia (Tia Carrere), a war orphan and daughter of fourth season antagonist General Fullbright. Returning to Vietnam, Fullbright is shot in the back and gives his last words as he dies. The 2006 documentary Bring Back The A-Team joked that the scene lasted seven and a half minutes, but his death actually took a little over a minute. His murderer, a Vietnamese colonel, is killed in retaliation. Tia then returns with the team to the United States (see also: casting). This episode is notable for having one of the show's few truly serious dramatic moments, with each team member privately reminiscing on their war experiences, intercut with news footage from the war with Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction playing in the background.
The show's ties to the Vietnam War are fully dealt with in the opening arc of the fifth season, dubbed "The Revolution"/"The Court-Martial" in which the team is finally put on trial for the robbing of the bank of Hanoi. The character of Roderick Decker makes a return on the witness stand, and various newly-introduced characters from the A-Team's past also make appearances. The team, after a string of setbacks, decides to plead guilty to the crime and they are sentenced to be executed. They escape this fate and come to work for a General Hunt Stockwell, leading into the remainder of the fifth season.
The A-Team was one of a wide variety of successful television shows from prolific television producer Stephen J. Cannell. Cannell was known for having a particular skill at capitalizing on momentary cultural trends, such as the helicopters, machine guns, cartoonish violence, and joyful militarism of this series, which are now recognizable as trademarks of popular entertainment in the 1980s as seen in the TV shows Magnum, P.I. and Airwolf as well as the films Rambo: First Blood Part II and The Final Countdown. Cannell had been producing shows for ABC in the early 1980s, but was fired by the network for not producing a hit for them. His next project would be The A-Team.
The show became popular internationally. In 1984, the main cast members of The A-Team, George Peppard, Mr. T, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz were invited to the Netherlands. George Peppard was the first to receive the invitation and thus thought the invite pertained only to him. When the other cast members were also invited, Peppard declined, leaving only Mr. T, Benedict and Schultz to visit the Netherlands. The immense turn-out for the stars was unpredicted, and they were forced to leave early as a security measure. A video was released with the present actors in which Dwight Schultz apologized and thanked everyone that had attended.
The show has achieved cult status through heavy U.S. and international syndication. It has also remained popular overseas, such as in the United Kingdom, where the show has been on-air almost continuously in some form (currently running on the satellite/cable channel Bravo and the cahle Centric) since it was first shown in July 1983.
In 2003, in research conducted by web-portal Yahoo! amongst 1,000 television viewers, The A-Team was voted as the one "oldie" television show viewers would most like to see revived, beating out other popular televisions series from the 1980s such as The Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider.
As well as having huge ratings and being especially popular amongst children, there was countless merchandise available, including:
- Action figures of the characters, as well as their van and car.
- A cola-flavored popsicle in the shape of Mr. T was on the market at the show's height.
- A View-Master A-Team gift set, with 3-D viewer and 3 reels containing 21 3-D pictures of the A-Team episode "When You Comin' Back, Range Rider?," was produced by View-Master International.
- Electric race car track with A-Team vehicle covers instead of normally cars.
- Train set with various accessories and pieces themed for the A-Team look
Marvel Comics even produced a three-issue A-Team comic book series, which was later reprinted as a trade paperback. Mr. T has appeared in his own comic books, while a Mr. T graphic novel is set for worldwide release in summer 2008, preceded by a Limited Advance Edition launched in February 2008. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, an A-Team comic strip appeared for several years in the 1980s as part of the children's television magazine and comic Look-In, to tie in with the British run of the series. It was preceded, though, by a short run in the final year (1984) of TV Comic, drawn by Jim Eldridge.
- Several novels were based on the series, the first six published in America by Dell and in Britain by Target Books; the last four were only published in Britain. The first six are credited to Charles Heath.
- The A-Team (adapted from the pilot written by Frank Lupo and Stephen J. Cannell)
- Small But Deadly Wars (adapted from the episodes "A Small and Deadly War" written by Frank Lupo and "Black Day at Bad Rock" written by Patrick Hasburgh)
- When You Comin' Back, Range Rider? (adapted from the episode of the same name written by Frank Lupo)
- Old Scores to Settle (adapted from the episodes "The Only Church in Town" written by Babs Greyhosky and "Recipe for Heavy Bread" written by Stephen J. Cannell).
NOTE: Unlike most novelisations of television episodes, the story of the second-billed episode is told first in the actual book.
- Ten Percent of Trouble (adapted from the episodes "Steel" written by Frank Lupo and "The Maltese Cow" written by Thomas Szollosi and Richard Christian Matheson)
- Operation Desert Sun: The Untold Story, credited on the cover to Charles Heath but on the title page to Louis Chunovic.
NOTE: This is the only book in the series not to be based on episodes of the TV show.
- Bullets, Bikinis and Bells by Ron Renauld (adapted from the episodes "Bullets and Bikinis" written by Mark Jones and "The Bells of St. Mary's" written by Stephen J. Cannell)
- Backwoods Menace by Ron Renauld (adapted from the episodes "Timber!" written by Jeff Ray and "Children of Jamestown" written by Stephen J. Cannell)
- The Bend in the River by David George Deutsch (adapted from the episode of the same name written by Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo).
- Death Vows by Max Hart (adapted from the episode "Till Death Us Do Part" written by Babs Greyhosky).
NOTE: This is the only book in the series to be adapted from one standard-length episode; #1, 3 and 9 are based on two-hour episodes.
The original main theme by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter was released on the vinyl LP Mike Post - Television Theme Songs (Elektra Records E1-60028Y, 1982) and again on the Mike Post - Mike Post LP (RCA Records AFL1-5183, 1984), both long out-of-print. The theme, as heard on seasons two through four (including the opening narration and sound effects), was also released on TVT's Television's Greatest Hits: 70s and 80s.
Though no original music (other than the theme) has been released as of December 2010, in 1984 Silva Screen issued an album of re-recorded material from the series conducted by Daniel Caine (reissued on compact disc in 1999, SILVAD 3509).
- Theme From The A-Team (3:13)
- Young Hannibal (2:57)
- B.A.'s Ride (2:34)
- The A-Team In New York City (2:43)
- Bandits (2:08)
- Taxi Chase (2:13)
- The A-Team Escape (1:16)
- The A-Team Prepare For War (2:08)
- Showtime (3:22)
- Move, Sucker (1:04)
- Let's Get Busted (1:06)
- Murdock's "Face" (3:01)
- Helicopters (2:36)
- More Bandits (1:22)
- Theme From The A-Team (3:27)
Bring Back... The A-Team (2006)
On May 18, 2006, Channel 4 in the UK attempted to reunite the surviving cast members of The A-Team for the show Bring Back... in an episode titled "Bring Back...The A Team". Justin Lee Collins presented the challenge, securing interviews and appearances from Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, Marla Heasley, Jack Ging, series co-creator Stephen Cannell, and Mr. T.
Collins eventually managed to bring together Benedict, Schultz, Heasley, Ging and Cannell, along with William Lucking, Lance LeGault, and George Peppard's son, Christian. Mr. T was unable to make the meeting, which took place in the Friar's Club in Beverly Hills, but he did manage to appear on the show for a brief talk with Collins.
A feature film based on The A-Team was released on June 11, 2010, and was produced by 20th Century Fox.
|This section contains too many or too-lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry. Please help improve the article by editing it to take facts from excessively quoted material and rewrite them as sourced original prose. Consider transferring direct quotations to Wikiquote. (March 2009)|
During the show's first season, The A-Team managed to pull in 17% to 20% of the American households on average. The first regular episode ("Children of Jamestown"), reached 26.4% of the television watching audience, placing fourth in the top 10 rated shows, according to the Nielsen ratings. By March, The A-Team, now on its regular Tuesday timeslot, dropped to the eight spot, but rated a 20.5%. Although the start of April 1983 saw a small drop for the show to 18.0%, it quickly recovered the following week, to 21.6%, which accounts for approximately 18 million homes. During the sweeps week in May of that year, The A-Team dropped again but remained steady at 18.5%, and rose to 18.8% during the second week of May sweeps. It was the highest ratings NBC had achieved in five years. The A-Team continued to rank in the top 10 highest rated shows for the remainder of its first season and reruns.
The premiere of The A-Team's second season reached 20.9% on the Nielsen Rating scale. It continued to soar that season, reaching third place in the twenty highest rated programs, behind Dallas and Simon & Simon, in January (mid-season). The season finale, titled "Curtain Call," put The A-Team in fourth place with a rating of 19.5%, whereas the episode preceding it, "Semi-Friendly Persuasion," rated 21.6%. In June, the series took the top spot with a rating of 19.3%.
The third season premiere of the series rated fifth in the top 10 with a rating of 19.0% (16.1 million homes), beaten out by four other NBC shows, including The Cosby Show, which placed first and featured the return of Bill Cosby to television after eight years. The A-Team remained in the top 10 for the remainder of the season, and for the first time since 1969, NBC won both sweeps weeks in the May 1985.
The fourth season saw The A-Team experience a dramatic fall, as it started to lose its position while television viewership increased. As such, the ratings, while stable, were relatively less. The season premiere ranked a 17.4% (a 26% audience share on that timeslot) on the Nielsen Rating scale, but after ratings quickly declined. In October, The A-Team had fallen to the 19th spot to 15.3%, whereas it had held the 6th spot for most of its third season. In contrast, The Cosby Show had more than double the amount of viewers. In the second week of January 1986, The Cosby Show reached a 38.5% rating in its timeslot. In that same month, The A-Team fell to the 29th spot, on Super Bowl Night, the night on which the show had originally scored its first hit three years before. For the remainder of its fourth season The A-Team managed to hang around the 20th spot, far from original top 10 position it had enjoyed during its first three seasons.
After four years on Tuesday, NBC decided to move The A-Team to a new timeslot on Friday for what would be its final season. Ratings continued to drop, and after seven episodes, The A-Team fell out of the top 50 altogether with a 13.3 Nielsen Rating. In November 1986, NBC cancelled the series, declining to order the last nine episodes of what would've been a 22-episode season.
The show's seasonal rankings and audience were as follows:
- Season 1, 1983: #10 – audience 16,743,300
- Season 2, 1983–1984: #4 – audience 20,112,000
- Season 3, 1984–1985: #6 – audience 18 593 100
- Season 4, 1985–1986: #30 – audience 14,517,100
- Season 5, 1986–1987: #53 – audience 9,361,000
International response to The A-Team has been varied. Although ratings soared during its early seasons, many television critics described the show largely as cartoonish and thereby wrote the series off. Most reviews focused on acting and the formulaic nature of the episodes, most prominently the absence of actual killing in a show about Vietnam War veterans.
- "They are all Vietnam veterans. The gradual assimilation of Vietnam into acceptable popular mythology, which began solemnly with The Deer Hunter, has reached its culmination with The A-Team: No longer a memory to be hurriedly brushed aside, but heroes of a network adventure show. Their enemy is a comic army officer, Col. Lynch, see Sgt. Bilko, see Beetle Bailey, see M*A*S*H*, whose pursuit of our heroes is doomed to slapstick failure. This is classic right-wing American populism; patriotic, macho, anti-authority, and is unlikely to be understood in Britain, where to be right-wing implies an obsequiousness towards officers and the status quo. But right-wing this series certainly is. The bandits, it turns out, are in league with a group of sinister guerrillas who are trying to destabilise the country. Thanks to the A-Team's hearts and minds policy, the villagers rise up and put them to rout, in a 20-minute series of comic-book battle scenes, over-turning cars and airplane stunt-tricks, in which not a single person is hurt".
- —Mary Harron, New Statesman (UK), July 29, 1983, volume 106, p. 133
- "Despite realising what a load of codswallop it all is, I find I can watch A-Team without feeling any pain. Perhaps it is because of the bizarre Mr. T, a baubled, bangled and beaded non-actor who plays a mechanical genius, omnipotent muscleman and rigidly moralistic puritan. Not even Olivier could make him believable, but without Mr. T this show would be considerably weakened even with all the superb stunting, meticulously planned explosions and Schultz as the chronically eccentric Murdock. This is a performance to relish. If this show is remembered in the future for anything, it will be for giving Schultz a chance to show his skillful comedy style."
- —Dean P., The Courier-Mail/The Sunday Mail (AUS), January 8, 1985
- "Proving there is truly no justice on this earth, Mr. T gets $40,000 an episode for merely standing around looking nasty, occasionally beating up a couple of crooks or letting off a machinegun. He also does a fair bit of growling at the supposedly insane member of the team, Murdock, who is portrayed by Dwight Schultz. Murdock is a convincing nutcase and adds some bright spots to the plot, which holds no surprises, in tonight's episode called 'In Plane Sight.' Perhaps Schultz really has gone insane from doing what amounts to be the same plot with only minor variations in each A-team episode. The show is made for the average 10-year-old intellect which presumably has a desire for lots of car chases, flying bullets and punch-ups."
- —Coomber J., The Courier-Mail/The Sunday Mail (AUS), October, 1985
- "Many people complain about the TV wasteland and probably point to The A-Team as an example of mindless, violent, primitive, exploitive sausage factory fodder. Who's arguing? It's all those (and more) except mindless. Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo have created an action farce, but sometimes the scripts are more subtle than most suspect."
- —Dean P., The Courier-Mail/The Sunday Mail (AUS), May 27, 1986
- "And the penny has finally dropped. It is a farcical comedy, aimed at kids who would know no better and ones whose parents allow them to read escapist comic books. [...] Pow, blam, zap, kerpow! You expect the words to flash across the screen as about 1000 rounds of ammunition are fired across the village. No one ducks for cover, no one hides and amazingly, no one is injured, let alone killed. Just for amusement, Mr. T goes into mufti to nail the revolutionaries while the rest of his alleged intelligence team is in jail. Some intelligence, that lot. In the slammer while their getaway boat is captured. Then when the hoedown really gets down to tin-tacks, the Beatles' song Revolution is played in its entirety while the stuntmen – and there must have been dozens of them – do their stuff. That's The A-Team for you folks. A merry jape".
- —Gibson R., The Courier-Mail/The Sunday Mail (AUS), June 30, 1987
In fact, the show has been described as cartoonish and likened to Tom and Jerry. Dean P. of the Courier-Mail described the violence in the show as "hypocritical" and that "the morality of giving the impression that a hail of bullets does no-one any harm is ignored. After all, Tom and Jerry survived all sorts of mayhem for years with no ill-effects."
According to certain estimates, an episode of the A-Team held up to 46 violent acts. Stephen J. Cannell, co-creator of the show responds: "They were determined to make a point, and we were too big a target to resist. Cartoon violence is a scapegoat issue." Originally, The A-Team's status as a hit show remained strong, but it ultimately lost out to more family-oriented shows such as The Cosby Show, Who's the Boss? and Growing Pains.
According to an article in The New York Times, titled "TV View: It's Fun And It's Not Violent" there was a clear reason for this:
But television, a notorious devourer of talent, is never that simple. There are other factors. One is that a substantial number of viewers, if the ratings in recent months are to be believed, are clearly fed up with mindless violence of the car-chasing, fist-slugging variety. Another, more subtle, is that younger audiences are tuning out of commercial television to watch MTV or their VCRs. Significantly, the only hit series routinely featuring violence in the past year or two has been Miami Vice, which, in addition to being a fashion show, looks like an extended music video.
In any event, former celebrations of violence like The A-Team, in the Top 10 not too long ago, can now be found sinking to the bottom of the ratings lists. The younger audiences who made the show are, in their familiar fickleness, deserting it. Meanwhile, the networks are rediscovering that older audiences are still big consumers who remain attractive to advertisers.— John J. O'Connor, The New York Times, February 16, 1986.
The violence presented in The A-Team is highly sanitized. People do not bleed or bruise when hit (though they might develop a limp or require a sling), nor do the members of the A-Team kill people. The results of violence were only ever presented when it was required for the script. In almost every car crash there is a short take showing the occupants of the vehicle climbing out of the mangled/burning wreck (even in helicopter crashes), although by late in the fourth season, some of these takes were dropped. According to Stephen J. Cannell, this part of the show did become a running joke for the writing staff and they would at times test the limits of realism on purpose.
During the show's tenure, the show was occasionally criticized for being sexist. These critiques were based on the notion that most female roles on the show were either a lead-in to the episode's plot, the recipient of Face's affections, or both. The only two regular female members of the cast, Melinda Culea (season 1 and the first half of season 2) and Marla Heasley (the latter half of season 2) did not have a very long tenure with the show. Both Culea and Heasley had been brought in by the network and producers to stem these critiques, hoping that a female character would properly balance the otherwise all-male cast. Culea was fired during the second season because of creative differences between her and the show's writers; she wanted more lines and more action scenes. It is unknown if Culea was fired or she left of her own accord, but an oft-cited tale exists that Culea was fired; she was given a script and found out that she wasn't included in the episode. Also, Peppard did not like Culea, and said that the show did not need a female lead character. Heasley was brought in to replace Culea as a similar assisting reporter character, but with a more fragile and seductive quality to her.
Ultimately, she was written out of the show at the start of the third season when the network determined that a female cast member was not necessary. While the character of Amy Allen suddenly disappeared between two episodes, Tawnia left the team on-screen, choosing to marry and move out of Los Angeles. The character of Amy Allen was only briefly referred to once in the episode "In Plain Sight," and a couple of times in "The Battle of Bel Air," the same episode that introduced Tawnia Baker, in which she was cited to have taken a correspondence job overseas (in Jakarta, Indonesia).
Marla Heasley's experiences on-set
As Marla Heasley recounts in Bring Back... The A-Team (May 18, 2006), although sexism was not prevalent on the set per se, there was a sense that a girl was not necessary on the show, and she was even approached by George Peppard about it:
|“||He was really serious. He said: "When you're finished with your make-up, I would like to talk to you. Please come to my trailer." I said: "Okay." So I went to his trailer and he said, "Have a seat," I said, "Okay," and then he said: "I just want you to know that we don't want you on the show," he said "We don't want you on the show. None of the guys want you here. The only reason you're here is because the network and the producers want you. For some reason they think they need a girl."||”|
The interview continues with Marla Heasley noting that on her last day of work Peppard took her aside again, saying:
|“||I'm sorry that this is your last day, but remember what I said the very first day, that we didn't want a girl, has nothing to do with you. You were very professional, but no reason to have a girl.||”|
In an interview with the Sunday Mail (AUS), Peppard admitted that he thought that "whenever the studio slips an actress on to the team, she becomes a distraction. She always slows down the action. She's someone who's only there for the glamor shots. Everything stops for the sexy smiles – and I can't see why that's necessary on The A-Team."
Response by Dirk Benedict
In Bring Back... the A-Team, Dirk Benedict also remarked that, indeed, the show was very male driven:
|“||It was a guy's show. It was male driven. It was written by guys. It was directed by guys. It was acted by guys. It's about what guys do. We talked the way guys talked. We were the boss. We were the God. We smoked when we wanted. We shot guns when we wanted. We kissed the girls and made them cry... when we wanted. It was the last truly masculine show.||”|
In two similar interviews in 2007, on the Dutch talk shows Jensen! and RTL Boulevard (both broadcast on May 11, 2007), Benedict remarked again that The A-Team was a guy show, and if it were remade today, it'd be a lot more feminine, and a more adequate naming would be "The Gay-Team."
During its time, The A-Team was nominated for 3 Emmy Awards: In 1983 (Outstanding Film Sound Mixing for a Series) for the pilot episode, in 1984 (Outstanding Film Sound Mixing for a Series) for the episode "When You Comin' Back, Range Rider?" and in 1987 (Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series) for the episode "Firing Line".
Many of the episode titles (and plots) are plays on those of famous movies. For example, the title of an early episode, "Black Day At Bad Rock", is a play on the classic 1955 movie Bad Day at Black Rock. An early Knight Rider episode, "Good Day at White Rock", is also a similar play on the title. Both episodes also contain notable parallels, with both stories involving a biker gang terrorizing a small town.
In "Pros and Cons", Face pretends to be Dr. Dwight Pepper, the author of a book on prison reform. The photo on the back of the book (supposedly the actual Dr. Dwight Pepper) is a photo of Stephen J. Cannell, the producer of the series. The name is a gag on the soft drink of the same name, although some[who?] have noted that Dwight is Dwight Schultz's first name, and Pepper is similar to Peppard.
A "lost episode", "Without Reservations", aired for the first time during re-runs in March 1987. This episode was meant to air before the final episode, "The Grey Team", which is reflected by the fact that in "Without Reservations" Murdock's T-shirt says "Almost Fini" while in "The Grey Team" it says "Fini". Apparently, the axe fell on the series more suddenly than expected, leaving the episode too short to be broadcast. To make it long enough to air, the entire pre-opening credits sequence was made up of footage from the first season episode "Holiday In The Hills", re-edited with a new fifth season-style backing score, and a shot of Frankie added from the fifth season episode "The Crystal Skull". "The Grey Team" is also more likely to be the "proper" final episode, as Hannibal tells General Stockwell that the team will not work for him (Stockwell) any longer after being misled one time too many, and at the end of the story, the team ponders their future.
The final episode of the fourth season at one point may have been the last, as Murdock's "All Good Things Must Come To An End" T-shirt hints. But the show returned, re-vamped, for one more season.
The show featured professional wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, Professor Toru Tanaka, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, The Dynamite Kid, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Davey Boy Smith, Big John Studd and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, in most cases playing themselves. In the episode "Body Slam", which featured Hogan, wrestling interviewer and announcer "Mean" Gene Okerlund also appeared.
The GMC van
The 1983 black and metallic grey GMC Vandura van used by the A-Team, with its characteristic red stripe, black and red turbine mag wheels, and rooftop spoiler, has become an enduring pop culture icon. One of the original six vans used for the show is displayed in the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Keswick, northern England. The GMC Vandura used on the A-Team movie was also on display at the 2010 New York International Auto Show.
Early examples of the van had a red GMC logo on the front grille, and an additional GMC logo on the rear left door. Early in the second season, these logos were blacked out, although GMC continued to supply vans and receive a credit on the closing credits of each episode.
It is a common error that the van is said to be all-black, whereas in fact the section above the red stripe is metallic gray; this error was even continued on most toy models of the van. The angle of the rear spoiler can also be seen to vary on different examples of the van within the series. Additionally, some versions of the van have a sunroof, whereas others, typically those used for stunts (and including the one displayed in the aforementioned Cars of the Stars Motor Museum) do not. This led to continuity errors in some episodes, such as in the third season's "The Bells Of St. Mary's", in a scene where (the double of) Face jumps from a building onto the roof of the van. There is clearly no sunroof. Moments later, in an interior studio shot, Face climbs in through the sunroof. Also, in many stunts where the van would surely be totaled, other makes have been used, such as a black Ford Econoline with red hubcaps painted to simulate the original red turbine mag wheels.
A number of devices were seen in the back of the van in different episodes, including a mini printing press ("Pros and Cons"), an audio surveillance recording device ("A Small And Deadly War"), and Hannibal's disguise kits in various episodes.
In early episodes the team used Colt AR-15 SP1 semi-automatic rifles (with automatic sound effects, simulating the M16), while in later seasons they used the Ruger Mini-14, and on rare occasions, the selective fire AC-556K variant of the Mini-14. Hannibal is also seen using an M60 machine gun in some episodes as well as a Micro-Uzi. Hannibal's sidearms are either a nickel plated Smith and Wesson Model 59, or a stainless steel Smith and Wesson Model 639. Unusually in the episode "Black Day At Bad Rock" he is seen carrying a Browning Hi-Power. Many antagonists and members of the team are seen using 1911s as well.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released all five seasons of The A-Team on DVD in Region 1, 2, and 4. In Region 2, a complete series set entitled "The A-Team--The Ultimate Collection" was released on October 8, 2007. A complete series set was released in Region 1 on June 8, 2010. The set includes 25 discs packaged in a replica of the A-Team's signature black van from the show. The complete series set was released in Region 4 on November 3, 2010.
All 5 seasons were re-released in Region 2 with new packaging on June 21, 2010.
|DVD Name||Ep#||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|Season One||14||June 8, 2004||September 13, 2004||December 3, 2004|
|Season Two||22||April 12, 2005||July 4, 2005||July 13, 2005|
|Season Three||25||January 31, 2006||May 22, 2006 |
(R2 has different cover art)
|July 20, 2006|
|Season Four||24||April 4, 2006||September 18, 2006||September 19, 2006|
|Season Five: |
The Final Season
|13||October 10, 2006||February 12, 2007 |
(R2 has different cover art)
|February 21, 2007|
|The Complete Series||98||June 8, 2010||October 8, 2007||November 3, 2010|
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|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: The A-Team|
- A-Team co-creator Stephen J. Cannell (official website), class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Abook&rft.genre=book&rft.btitle=A-Team%27%27+co-creator+Stephen+J.+Cannell&rft_id=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cannell.com%2F&rfr_id=info:sid/en.wikipedia.org:The_A-Team">
- A-Team Resource Page, class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Abook&rft.genre=book&rft.btitle=A-Team+Resource+Page&rft_id=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ateamresource.com%2F&rfr_id=info:sid/en.wikipedia.org:The_A-Team"> — contains information on episodes, cast, etc.
- The A-Team at TV.com
- The A-Team at the Internet Movie Database
- The A-Team at AllRovi
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