Ten years ago, 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.
It was revealed in "The A-Team: Lease with an Option to Die (#4.4)" (1983) from B.A.'s mother (played by Della Reese) that his nickname as a child was "Scooter".
Stephen J. Cannell and his frequent collaborator Frank Lupo created the show, which premiered in 1983 after Super Bowl XVII. The show pulled in between 17 and 20 percent of all American households in it's first season and increased that percentage to 21.6 during the second season. The viewership for each season was 16.7 million for the first season, 20.1 million for the second season, 18.6 for the third season, 14.5 million for the fourth season and 9.4 million for the fifth season.
When the show was finally cancelled in November 1986, NBC declined the option to show the final 9 episodes of the season, leaving the fifth season with 13 episodes.
One of the main characters was John 'Hannibal' Smith, who was played by George Peppard. Hannibal was a man who always had a plan, even
if it was a little off the wall in it's execution. From the start of the show, we learned that he always loved to have a cigar in his mouth. He also had many liasons with some of the older female clients the A-Team helped out. Throughout the show he put on many disguises, the most famous of them was Mr. Lee. Hannibal used this disguise and many others to make sure the clients that the A-Team would possible take on were not plants by the military. He was also an accomplished actor but only seemed to land roles as monsters. Some of his more famous roles were as the Aquamaniac, Gatorella and Killgator. Hannibal was a Colonel in the United States Army and received many medals and awards while serving, including the Medal of Honor, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star among others.
Hannibal's second in command is Templeton 'Faceman' Peck, who was played by Dirk Benedict. Face is the conman and scrounger for the team. If the team ever needed something for the plan that Hannibal came up with, Face would be the person to get what they needed. He also was a ladies man and always seemed to charm one lady each episode into going on a date with him. He was raised in a Catholic orphanage and is a Catholic himself. He also may have thought about being a priest at one time. He joined the army and rose to the rank of Lieutenant and eventually earned many commendations and medals including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Later in the show, Face learned that his dad was former presidential advisor and convicted criminal A.J. Bancroft but did not learn this until after his dad had passed away. He did find his sister and reunited with her.
The third member of the A-Team was Sergeant Bosco Albert Baracas. He was portrayed by Mr. T. He is known as B.A. though because he is said to have a Bad Attitude. In the first episode, he is described as having one of the worst personal conduct records, liked to slug officers and was a mechanical genius. B.A. is based off the public persona of Mr. T and he is known for his distinctive mohawk haircut and the large amount of jewelry he wears. The other members of the team try to avoid physical confrontations but B.A. always uses his fists to solve his problems or use his mechanical skills. He has a short fuse and is often antagonized by H.M. Murdock, their pilot. He also has a fear of flying and is often drugged by the team so they can get him on a plane. B.A. does not drink any alcohol and instead drinks milk. He also has a heart of gold and it usually shows itself when the team is around kids, who are not scared of him. B.A. also is very protective of his van, which is a GMC van with a red stripe running down the middle of the van and leading up to a rear spoiler. Some of his awards include the Silver Star, Army Commendation Medal and National Defense Service Force.
The final member of the team is H.M. Murdock, who was played by Dwight Schultz. Murdock was their pilot during Vietnam and was
committed to a psychiatric hospital after the war. He is said to have paranoid delusions and intermittent memory loss but some people are not so sure that he isn't faking it. Throughout the show, Murdock is broken out of the VA hospital by Face so that he can assist them on their missions. Murdock has many different delusions that are seen throughout the show, including his imaginary dog Billy, and also puts himself into the role of a certain character during the episode as well. Murdock and B.A. have a very antagonistic relationship but both men look out for each other like they were brothers. When Murdock is injured in the episode "Curtain Call", B.A. says that even though Murdock is a 'crazy fool' he is a good friend and would miss him if he died. Murdock always wears a ballcap, his custom A-2 leather flight jacket and a t-shirt with a comical or cartoon character on it. As the pilot of the team, he is able to fly many different types of aircraft and is often used as the getaway man during the team's missions. Some of the medals he earned during his time in the service were the Bronze Star, the Air Medal and the Joint Service Commendation Medal.
Amy Allen, played by Melinda Culea, hired the team in the series premiere and eventually became a part of the team for
the rest of the first season and part of the second. She worked at the Los Angeles Times and used her connections there to help the team on their missions. She always was willing to help the team out in any way necessary and she did many things, including disguising herself in the episode "Pros and Cons" among other things. Melinda left the series during the second season because of problems that she was having with George Peppard.
After Melinda left the show, she was replaced by Marla Heasley, who played Tawnia
Baker. She also was introduced to the show as a client and joined the show after that episode. She was also a reporter at the Los Angeles Times. She did many of the things that Amy had done when she was with the team as well. She left the show near the beginning of the third season when she had the team go to the Amazon to search for her fiancee. The reasoning behind Marla leaving was that she felt that her male co-stars, especially George Peppard, felt that having a woman on the show slowed it down and made it so that the show did not focus on the action.
Colonel Lynch, played by William Lucking, was the first person who was in charge of
capturing the A-Team after they escaped from prison. He always seemed to be behind the A-Team and seemed to get to the site where the A-Team was at the very end of their mission. He racked up a very nice arrest record of all the people that he brought in because of the A-Team. He eventually moved onto other things because of his failure to bring the A-Team in.
Colonel Decker, played by Lance LeGault, took over the chase of the A-Team in the second, third and part of the fourth season. He gave the A-Team more trouble than Lynch ever had and he even captured the team a few times. Each time, however, the team escaped from him because of Murdock.
Frankie Santana, played by Eddie Velez, joined the show in it's fifth season as another member of the team. He
worked as a special effects man on one of Hannibal's films and eventually joined them when General Stockwell forced him to join the team. He went on missions with the team and acted as a partner in crime with Face but he did not get as many ladies as Face did. Since the show ended prematurely during the fifth season, we do not know what was to happen with Frankie.
General Hunt Stockwell, played by Robert Vaughn, was introduced in the fifth season
General Hunt Stockwell
and was the new team leader. Throughout the last season, he gave the team missions that they would accomplish and when they had finished all the missions that Stockwell wanted them to, they would be free to go and their records would be expunged of all charges and they could reenter life as an ordinary citizen. The show never went into much of a backstory with Stockwell but in the episode "The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair", we learn that he had worked with a Soviet spy at one time. Like Frankie, when the show was cancelled, we never found out what happened to Stockwell and if he would live up to his promise.
Each episode of the A-Team started out pretty much the same way. The audience was introduced to the people who would be the client for that episode and also learn a little about the villain of the episode as well. The credits would roll and then we would see what the team had been doing since the last episode. Eventually, they would meet the client and begin forming the plan on how they would take the villain down. Face would normally go break Murdock out of the VA hospital and then the plan would commence. They would then do something that would get the villain angry and take care of the problem for a little while. The A-Team would then do something that would see them captured by the villains and left with the knowledge that the clients would die. The A-Team then would build some contraption that would allow them to escape and also defeat the villains. There would be a montage of them making the contraption. They would then escape, fight the villain/s for the last time and save the day. The episode would end with a freeze-frame ending and then the end credits would roll with snapshots from the episode serving as the background for the actual credits.
Stephen J. Cannell, the creator of the show, had been fired from ABC because he had not produced a hit for them but the A-Team was his first show after he left ABC. The show took on a huge following and when the cast went to visit the Netherlands, they were mobbed by people and were escorted from the event early because they thought it would be dangerous for them to stay any longer.
Mr. T T-Shirt
The person who benefited the most from the series was Mr. T. He used his persona from the show in many areas, from movies to cartoons to toys to cereal and many other areas. His most popular phrase, "I pity the fool" took hold around the world and is still in use today. Many people view Mr. T as a role model and he has used his popularity to showcase himself as a positive role model for people everywhere. Even today, Mr. T is a pop culture icon and people still use his phrases and emulate him.
The show itself has gone on to be super popular all around the world and is shown in syndication in many countries and has been on TV in Great Britain since it premiered in 1983. In 2003, a survey was conducted by Yahoo to see which older TV series people would love to see get remade. The A-Team received the highest percentage of votes from the 1,000 people polled, which beat out other fan favorites from the 1980s such as The Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider.
In the merchandise area, many things from the show have been reproduced including toy versions of the van and all the main cast members. A comic book put out by Marvel comics was put out as well. It consisted to three issues and was put out during the shows height in popularity. There were also 10 novels put out and most of them either adapted an episode from the TV show or took ideas from two or more of the episodes and created their own story from them.
In 2010, an A-Team movie finally made it into theaters. It is mainly an origin story for how The A-Team met and the movie ends with them beginning their work as guns for hire.
Criticism of the Show
The main criticism of the show was that it was too violent and the violence that was depicted was too cartoonish for people to watch week after week. One of the ways the show featured cartoonish violence was that every person in the show could not hit anyone, even if they were right in front of them. The show featured everyone being such poor shots that many veterans grew outraged because The A-Team had all been in Vietnam and had certainly killed people there while fighting in the war. The most cartoonish part of the show was that after every car crash, there was always a scene of the people in the car stumbling out of the wrecked car but ultimately not hurt seriously. The show writers began to see this as a running joke and tried to push the limits of realism in terms of the crashes. Cannell said that since their show was so popular it became an easy target for criticism and eventually seemed to suffer in the ratings because of it. In a New York Times article from 1986, written by John J. O'Connor, he said:
"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 VCR's. 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."
The other main criticism levelled against the show was one of sexism. Most of the female characters in the show portrayed either damsels in distress, romantic options for Face or sometimes both. The show runners tried to offset these criticisms by having Melinda Culea and Marla Heasley portray stronger female leads. However, Melinda left the show because of creative differences between her and the writers and Marla left, possibly because of some lobbying by George Peppard that the show did not need a female lead.