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THE A-TEAM (***) 60 MIN (96EPISODES & 2 HOUR PILOT COLOR; 1983-1987 NBC) ADVENTURE with Mr. T as B. A. Baracus, George Peppard as Col. "Hannibal" Smith, Dwight Schultz as Capt. "howling mad" Murdock, Dirck Benedict as Lt. "face" Peckman, Melinda Culea as Amy Allen, Eddie Velez as Frankie Sanchez, and Robert Vaughn as Gen. Hunt Stockwell.
A perfect vechicle for Mr. T. And one that he is so obviously pleased with that in real life he incorporates an allusion to his series character on the license plate of his flashy red Rolls-Royce convertable. It reads: "MR.TBA"-with "BA" referring to his A-Team name, B. A. Baracus.
Mr. T has good reason to be pleased. This could have been just another routine action series, propped up by a familiar hollywood veteran (George Peppard), some good character players (Benedict and Schultz), and Mr. T himself-fresh from his role as the fighting-mad challenger in the hit theatrical film Rocky III.
Instead, at its best, The A-Team offers something just a little bit different: a send-up of its own adventure genre, complete with a quirky mix of offbeat stories and personalities. This light approach is pretty well executed by Stephen J. Cannell's production company, whose roots reach back to other genre series done with such a touch, including BLACK SHEEP SQUADRON, THE ROCKFORD FILES, and THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. In particular, The A-Team plays as a dead-on send-up of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.
To veteran TV watchers, the always-in-control, planned-to-the-last-detail routine of the Impossible missions force on MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE has always been an especially ripe target for parody, and much of the A-Team seems structured with an almost delibrate disdain for their perfect execution. Both groups might triumphantly drive off in a mysterious van at the end of each story, but there are two completely different worlds at work.
For starters, the members of the A-Team are wanted by the government, not employed by it. They had been part of a crack commando squad in Vietnam in the 1970s that was falsely accused and convicted of treason in the last days of the war. but they promplty escaped from their maximum security prison and headed back to the states. There, in between bouts with pursuing army officers and MPs, they operate as modern-day soldiers of fortune.
As such, the A-Team charges for its services, rather than drawing from some blank-check government account. But, like all good fictional adventure heroes, the A-Team members waive their $100,000 fee often enough to make you wonder just how they ever balanced their books.
Perhaps the most distinctive difference between the two teams is that the elaborate schemes of the A-Team more often than not carry a sense of backyard improvisation.
Team leader hannibal Smith might begin an assignment with a plan, but usually has to adapt it to unexpected twists. in fact, his trademark line ("I love it when a plan comes together!") often carries more than a touch of irony. In some episodes the mission can't even begin until "Howling Mad" Murdock (a crack pilot who also happens to be clinically crazy) is sprung from the local psych ward; or until B. A. Baracus is tricked into taking a knockout drug so he can be loaded onto a waiting plane (he has a fear of flying); or until the smooth-talking Lt. Peck can con someone out of the cash or materials necessary for their transportation.
Even the hardware reflects this humorous spirit. While the Impossible Mission forces always seems to have the latest top-secret electronic hardware straight from the CIA's weapons warehouse, the A-Team usually has to make do with whatever is at hand (rolls of toilet paper, for instance).
And, in the ultimate caricature of TV adventure series conventions, despite all the guns and explosions in story after story, nobody really gets hurt. a car might careen, tumble, and crash, landing upside down....but the occupants will always be in one piece with just enough strength to pull themselves from the wreckage and run away before it explodes.
Unfortunately, after about two dozen really good episodes, The A-Team itself sometimes falls into the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE formula trap, grinding out generally interchangeable confontations with generic bad guys. But even then, its lighter tone manages to save the overall series, with such touches as unusual guest stars (including Mr. T's chort from the wrestling circuit, Hulk Hogan, and pop singers Boy George and Rick James) and in-joke media allusions (for example, Dirck Benedict, who had previously played Starbuck in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, finds himself face-to-face with a man dressed in an alien Cylon costume).
For its final season, the A-Team swaps some of its FUGITIVE trappings (pursuit by the army) for formal entry into the espionage game. After facing a firing squad, they strike a deal to do some impossible missions for a rogue government agent, played by Robert Vaughn. This also provides the setup for a delightful tip-of-the-hat tribute to Vaughn's THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. days, a story called "the Say Uncle affair" (with guest star David McCallum).
Extract taken from 'On The Jazz' newsletter Volume 1, issue 1. This was taken from 'Harry And Wally's Favorite TV Shows'.
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DVD » A-Team Movie
They’re armed, dangerous...and downright crazy. Buckle up for an adrenaline-fuelled, action-packed thrill-ride starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Sharlto Copley. Convicted by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit, a daring team of former special forces soldiers must utilize their unique talents to break out of prison and tackle their toughest mission yet. It’s going to take guts, split-second timing and an arsenal of explosive weapons--this is a job for The A-Team. Special Features > Audio commentary with director > A Team Theme Mash Up Montage
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