The A-Team

The A-Team was a television show about four guys who rode around California in a van wearing flamboyant outfits. This was considered masculine in 1983.

Yep, totally not gay.

Problem Solving The A-Team Way!

Just The Facts

  1. The A-Team was an action adventure show that aired on NBC for five seasons, from 1983-87
  2. It centered around four ex-Special Forces on the run for a crime they didn't commit.
  3. The A-Team traveled around the country (which looked suspiciously like Los Angeles most of the time) as Soldiers of Fortune.
  4. Each episode had them fighting against some sort of injustice, 99% of the time an evil land developer trying to take someone's home/farm/youth center/etc.

"I Love it When a Plan Comes Together!"

The Show

The A-Team was the brainchild of writer/producers Frank Lupo and Stephen J. Cannell (the guy yanking a piece of paper out of his typewriter at the end of each episode), the team behind Wiseguy, Riptide and Hunter. In other words, everything awesome in 80's television. Cannell created nearly 40 shows for television, most of them crime dramas, and has scripted around 450 shows. (Still impressed by that six hours you spent getting that epic sword in World of Warcraft? Didn't think so). Cannell has also produced around 1400 episodes and written 14 books.

But, as neither of these two ever wore thirty pounds of gold chains or uttered snarky one-liners while chomping on a cigar, who gives a shit?

The A-Team were four former Army Special Forces who were, according to the opening sequence of the show, sent to a military prison for a crime they didn't commit. They proceeded to escape "from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune." This "crime they didn't commit" was kept vague when the show premiered. In later episodes, it was explained that during the Vietnam War their commanding officer, Colonel Morrison, ordered them to rob the Bank of Hanoi to help bring the war to an end (Wha?). After successfully completing this dubious mission, they returned to their base to find Colonel Morrison murdered by the Vietcong and his headquarters burned down.

Sounds likely, right? Of course it does. Well, after escaping to L.A. to "lay low", the four men: Col. John "Hannibal" Smith, Lt. Templeton "Faceman" Peck, Capt. H. M. "Howling Mad" Murdock, and Sgt. B. A. "Bad Attitude" Baracas, formed The A-Team, a band of mercenaries who could be hired via the want ads or word of mouth to solve problems. They would then appear in a souped-up black-and-gray GMC van with a wide red stripe down the side, armed to the teeth. Apparently, this is considered "laying low".

Shhh... we're all incognito and shit.

Shh...we're all incognito and shit.

So, to sum up the plot of the A-Team: Four escaped convicts place dubious ads in newspapers and ride around the country in a dark-colored, windowless van.

Source: Megan's Law

Source: MSNBC/To Catch a Predator

He's on the Jazz, Man

Characters

Col. John "Hannibal" Smith: Leader of the A-Team. His role was simple: assess the situation, make up a plan, then bark orders at everyone else until it got done, smiling like a motherfucker and smoking cigars. A man of many talents, his most useful skill was his mastery of the disguise. Or, rather, his ability to pull off some of the worst disguises in the history of forever, accompanied by culturally insulting accents. Oddly enough, rarely did the bad guys ever see through these disguises, leaving one to wonder if the A-Team only took on "special" villains.

Hannibal Smith was portrayed by veteran actor George Peppard, star of Breakfast at Tiffany's, How the West was Won, and the series Banacek, and a hell of a lot more. Peppard was chosen over James Coburn for the role. He was a Gunnery Sergeant in the USMC, which made him way more hardcore than you. He was kicked off the game show Password Plus for fighting with and shouting at the producers while the cameras were rolling. Again, definitely hardcore.

Lt. Templeton "Faceman" Peck: A pretty boy who supplied the team with weapons and equipment, and who pretty much slept with every woman he encountered. Why the guy named "Faceman" wasn't the master of disguise is anyone's guess. Faceman's claim to fame was the ability to find anything, anytime, anywhere. In the first season episode "Holiday in the Hills", Murdock reminisces about the time Face secured a '53 Cadillac while in the middle of the jungle. It's a pretty safe bet that he spent most of his spare time finding Vietnamese hookers, though.

Templeton Peck was portrayed by Dirk Benedict (bornNiewoehner), most famous for playing Lieutenant Starbuck on the original Battlestar Galactica, and not much else. The character was originally portrayed by actor Tim Dunigan, who beat out Benedict for the role, only to be replaced by him when the producers deemed him too "tall" and too "young looking". He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1974, and was told castration was the only answer. Benedict instead secluded himself in a remote cabin, changed his diet, meditated and exercised. The cancer was so embarrassed that it disappeared.

Capt. H. M. "Howling Mad" Murdock: The team's pilot, Murdock was clinically insane, requiring the team to break him out of a mental hospital at the beginning of nearly every episode. "Howling Mad" Murdock would frequently hallucinate during missions, often speaking to/playing with his invisible dog Billy, talking to inanimate objects, "channeling" famous people, including fictional characters, and singing at inappropriate moments. You know, like Aunt Bernice when she's gotten into the vodka again. Unlike the other three members, Murdock was not tried for or convicted of the bank robbery, although he did pilot the escape helicopter. It is never revealed what the "H.M. in his name stands for.

"Howling Mad" Murdock was played by Dwight Shultz, who went on to play Reginald Barclay on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: First Contact, and Star Trek: The Overexposed Franchise. Schultz has also performed voice work for video games including Mass Effect, several Final Fantasy titles, and (ironically enough) Battlestar Galactica. His voice credits also include numerous cartoons such as Ben 10, The Wild Thornberrys, Family Guy, and the character of Mung Daal on Cartoon Network's Chowder (Hear that? That's the sound of your stoner roommate muttering "Oh, yeah..." through a mouthful of Cheet-Os). Also co-hosted the radio programs UFOs Tonite! and Dark Matters.

Sgt. B.A. "Bad Attitude" Baracus: The team's driver, mechanic, and all-around scary-looking black man. Although the B. in his name stands for Bosco, it is never revealed what the "A." means, although several sources suggest it may be "Albert". This would make Sgt. Baracus the second-most unfortunately named African American in popular culture, right after "Orenthal James". The A-Team was originally envisioned with B.A. as the lead. It was decided that this would be far too badass, and may cause seizures in men and uncontrollable orgasms in women should it air, so Hannibal Smith was made the lead. B.A.'s main function on the show was to utter memorable wisecracks and scare the fucking bejeezus out of the bad guys. Since he stood 6'1" and was built like a brick shithouse, this was relatively effortless. B.A. also demonstrated incredible strength and an awesome haircut, a kind of mohawk derived from a Mandinka warrior's.

B.A. Baracus was made awesome by Mr. T (born Laurence Tureaud), who made his Hollywood debut as Clubber Lang in Rocky III (you know, the last good one). Mr. T also appeared in Wrestlemania, Wrestlemania II and other WWF events. Before that, Mr. T won the World's Toughest Bouncer competition, and was a professional bodyguard, protecting Diana Ross, Steve McQueen, and Muhammad Ali. That's right, he was Muhammad Ali's bodyguard. His job was to keep people from hitting Muhammad Fucking Ali. He has also appeared in commercials for World of Warcraft, but you're still a dork for playing it.

Afew years ago, Mr. T was diagnosed with cancer, but he told it to get the fuck out, and the cancer ran away, crying like a little bitch.

Amy Amanda Allen/Tawnia Baker: The A-Team also had female sidekicks, both sexy reporters mainly there to be eye candy for the male viewers (years before Fox News claimed the copyright). Amy Allen, or Triple-A, as she was called in the pilot (and never again), was replaced in the second season with Tawnia Baker. The reporters' job was to help the A-Team find people in need, then completely disappear for the rest of the episode.

Marla Heasley, or Melinda Culea. Or possibly one of Hannibal's better diisguises.

Marla Heasley, or maybe Melinda Culea. Or, one of Hannibal's better disguises.

The female sidekicks were played by Melinda Culea and Marla Heasley. Both were informed at one point by George Peppard that the cast neither wanted or needed a female character on the show, then reminded "I told you so," by him when they were replaced. Way to stay classy, George.

Frankie Santana: Added in the show's fifth and final season as a replacement for the icky girls, as the cast formed their own version of G.R.O.S.S.

Santana was a special effects expert who aided the team on some missions, but nobody remembers him, like the guys in red shirts on Star Trek.

Frankie Santana was played by Eddie Velez, who went on to... Oh, who really cares at this point?

Shut Up, Fool!

Show Structure

The A-Team's greatest claim to fame was it's over-the-top portrayal of violence. The A-Team presented an average of 46 violent acts per episode, including fistfights, drawn-out gunfights with automatic weapons, explosions, and crashing vehicles (cars, boats, planes, helicopters, etc.). However, despite all this violence, rarely was any character seriously hurt. A punch to the face left no bruise, bullets flew wildly without hitting anything, and bad guys were often seen climbing out of wrecked cars, and even planes and helicopters, coughing but unhurt. Some critics likened the violence on The A-Team to an episode of Tom and Jerry, adding "but with an undertone of homoerotica,".

In fact, there are only two instances of anyone even being hit by a bullet throughout the series' 98 episodes. So rare was this miraculous occurrence that these were considered Very Special Episodes. We're talking about "Black Day at Bad Rock", in which B.A. is shot (it's always the black guy, isn't it?) and needs a blood transfusion, and "The Sound of Thunder", the fourth season finale, in which the character of Gen. Fullbright is shot by a Vietnamese Colonel, who is blown up in return. These are the only confirmed deaths on the show.

The A-Team has the most memorable theme song, and it is now running through your head whether you like it or not. You're humming it right now, aren't you? Da-tadada, da da da. Deeda da ti da da, dundadada! It can't be stopped. On each episode's opening sequence, after a brief explanation of the show's plot, for lack of a better word, the sound of automatic gunfire is heard as the title is shot out of a red background, which is not only obnoxious but highly inaccurate, as The A-Team's marksmanship was so bad they rarely even hit walls.

Like many 80's action shows, The A-Team followed a formula. It rarely changed from show to show. Hey, if it works, why go for originality? An average episode began with the audience being introduced to this week's helpless victims, one of whom was required by law to be a Hot Chick. Her duties as Hot Chick included fretting over her parents/brother/sister/ex-husband/etc. being in danger, being harassed by the Big Bad Guy, looking all pretty and stuff, slapping the Big Bad Guy or one of his evil henchmen, and getting kidnapped. Most importantly, the Hot Chick was there to fall in love with Faceman.

As the victims are introduced, they bump into a oddly-dressed character with a cheesy moustache and indecipherable accent, who inquires about their difficulties. Whereas in real life this would be met with a kick in the balls and a faceful of pepper spray, on the A-Team, a group of harassed individuals under the scrutiny of a manipulative fiend gladly tell all their woes to a complete wackjob they've never met.

Aren't you the guy from the Six Flags commercial? Creepy bastard.

Aren't you the guy from the Six Flags commercial? Creepy bastard.

At this point, Hannibal removes said moustache, also fake eyebrows, possibly Castro-like beard, and so on, revealing himself and announcing "You've just hired the A-Team,". Why he had to don a disguise to meet a group of complete strangers is never explained. Meanwhile, Murdock is being broken out of the psychiatric hospital, usually by Face, possibly assisted by B.A. and/or Hannibal. Forget being a master of disguise, this motherfucker can be in two places at once! Face then acquires supplies for the team while the rest of them help their new clients with preparing for the next assault by the Bad Guys. During this time, the Hot Chick starts to fall for Face, Murdock acts loopy, and B.A. constantly bitches about Face and Murdock.

At some point during the episode, the team will most likely have to fly somewhere. As B.A. is afraid of flying and refuses to board, this leads to hilarious hi jinks in which the team either drugs, intoxicates, hypnotizes or knocks B.A. out in order to get him on the plane or chopper. Apparently, Face is also adept at scoring Roofies.

Then, time for the kidnapping. First, one member of the victims goes missing, either having been abducted, run away, or snuck off during the night to try to attack the Bad Guys' camp. The A-Team goes to investigate, and get kidnapped themselves. It's hard to believe these guys have been on the run from the entire U.S. military for ten years but get nabbed by Billy Joe and his Redneck Squad once a week. Invariably, the team is locked in a garage or shed of some sort, filled with old pieces of farm equipment or other mechanical devices, instead of just shot in the head and dumped at the landfill. This leads up to the most important part of the A-Team: The Montage!

Boom!

We're not sure what's going on here, but it's fucking awesome.

During The Montage, the team, led by MacGyver-wannabe B.A. builds some sort of device, usually an armored vehicle, out of the detritus in their "prison". In one episode, the team builds a cannon out of an old clothes drier, a truck, and other parts that fires cabbage and other vegetables at the Bad Guys. This somehow overpowers their machine guns.

After defeating the Bad Guys, which could have been handled hours earlier, since they usually knew where the Bad Guys were stationed, any other sub-plots are resolved, Hannibal either refuses payment or finds a way to reimburse the money (these guys were really lousy mercenaries), and Face stepped off-screen to repeatedly bone the Hot Chick, then strangle her and dump her body at the landfill, or so we have to assume as she was never seen on the show again.

"Mmmp! Mmmmmfff!" Thump! "Shut up in there, bitch."

Every few episodes, the Military Police will show up near the end of the episode, forcing the team to make a quick getaway.

"I'm a Bird! I'm a Plane! I'm a Choo-Choo Train!"

Popular Culture

Despite falling ratings in the fourth season and a format overhaul and eventual cancellation in the fifth, the A-Team became a staple of popular culture, even on Cracked. With quotable one-liners, especially from the ever-entertaining madman Murdock, the emblematic van, Mr. T's awesome hair, and the ridiculously cartoonish violence, the A-Team has been copied, parodied, mocked, worshipped, and reaching cult status since it went off the air in 1987.

The A-Team scored several notable guest appearances during its run, including John Saxon, Yaphet Kotto, Isaac Hayes, Boy George (what?), Rick James (bitch!), Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Several WWF personalities also appeared on the A-Team, most notably Hulk Hogan, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Big John Studd, and "Mean" Gene Okerlund.

It's like that Enzyte commercial, but even more uncomfortable to watch.

Merchandising for the show offered action figures, a three-part Marvel comics run, a View-Master A-Team gift set, and a cola-flavored popsicle in the shape of Mr. T. Are we sure this wasn't gay porn?

Anyway, the most popular A-Team export to popular culture was the quotes. The shopw was rife with zingy one-liners, oft-repeated by pre-teen and teenaged boys in the school hallways on Monday morning. "I pity the fool!", "I ain't gettin' on no plane!", and "Shut up, fool!" were B.A.'s most famous. Murdock, by far the most quotable, seeing as he was batshit insane, gave us: "Use your imagination! Or you can borrow mine.", "Trash bags! I want trash bags!", and "C'mere, Billy!" (calling his imaginary dog). From Faceman came "I lie, I cheat, I steal and I just don't get any respect." and "He's on the jazz!". And finally, Hannibal gave us the most quoted line: "I love it when a plan comes together!".

The A-Team has become such a cult hit that a movie has been made of it. Or, would have been, if the project hadn't gone through directors like Dom DeLuise at a Golden Corral buffet (too soon?) Supposedly, The A-Team feature film will be released to a disappointed audience in June 0f 2010. In the words of Hannibal Smith: "No matter how smart they think they are, they always screw up somehow!". When asked about the upcoming movie, Dirk Benedict was quoted as saying it was a bad idea, adding that it wold be a lot more feminine than the show, and nicknamed it "The Gay Team". Tough words from a man named "Dirk".

Benedict also stated at another time: "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", adding "It was the last truly masculine show,". Apprently, he'd never watched Ellen.