About this blog

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.

This was the introduction to one of the great TV series of the eighties. The purpose of this blog is to build up the definitive episode guide to the show across its five seasons which ran from 1983 to 1987. So this isn't too much of a burden, I'm intending to watch a couple of episodes a week and given that there were around 100 episodes made during its run, this will turn into a year-long project!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

The Out-of-Towners s1ep7

co-starring: Yaphet Kotto as Charles F Struthers, Priscillia Pointer as Tracy Richter's Mother, Albert Popwell as Digger, Jack Kruschen as Bernie Shatzman, Robert Tessier as Scully, J Jay Saunder as grocery store owner, Billy Jacoby as Nicky, Wendy Hoffman as Tracy Richter
Written by Frank Lupo
Directed by Chuck Bowman

The team are hired by a group of New York shopkeepers who are being forced to pay protection money.

A solid episode from the first season, inevitably shot on the backlot with New York stock footage added in at various points but if you can ignore this then there is much fun to be had. A memorable early scene has BA trying to overcome his fear of flying by going on a commercial airliner but not even making it on board. There's a catchy music score to buoy the episode along with a grand New York theme and another good cue when the team borrow a garbage truck. The acquisition of the truck has a memorable payoff which I won't spoil here and there's also a classic moment when Mr T almost cracks up when he's unable to get the refuse truck moving on Dwight's cry of “Garbage Ho!”. It's a funny example of a mistake turned into a great gag.

Yaphet Kotto (best known for his Bond villain role in 'Live and Let Die') makes a good bad guy even if his hair is rather distracting, though it looks more like a wig than his own hair. The episode builds to a well-staged action finale in which the team have to adopt a traditional siege-like mentality to protect the shopkeepers and Murdock makes the mistake of using an oil drum for cover. Good fun. 8/10

The Rabbit That Ate Las Vegas s1ep6

co-starring: Richard Romanus as Jackie Martell, Terry McGovern as Professor Bruce Warfel, Luke Andreas as Jilly, Kitty Moffat as Darlene, Floyd Levine as Carmine, Charles Cioffi as Gianni Christian, Tracey Scoggins as Elly Payne
Written by Frank Lupo
Directed by Bruce Kesster

The team are hired to find a professor who has been kidnapped having found a system to win at casinos.

A very ordinary episode, distinguished only by a final chase sequence in which Murdock flies a helicopter along a busy highway in pursuit of the villains. This welcome action set-piece includes a shot that would later become part of the opening credits in which a car crashes into a ditch and splashes water into the camera. Beyond that (and a final gag which has Murdock hitch-hiking along a runway), there really is very little to say about this episode. It is hampered by dull villains and is too set-bound to be particulary interesting. Mainly composed of a lot of not very interesting talk, this is certainly the weakest entry in the first season and a disappointment from the usually reliable pen of co-creator Frank Lupo (“A Nice Place to Visit”, “Steel”, “Battle of Bel Air”). 5/10

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Black Day at Bad Rock s1ep5

co-starring: Ed Lauter as Sheriff Thompson, Tricia O'Neal as Dr Maggie Sullivan, John Dennis Johnston as Snake, Sid Haig as Sonny Jenko, Ted Gehring as Deputy Harmson
Written by Patrick Hasburgh
Directed by Christian I Nyby Jr

After BA is shot, the team take refuge in a small town which is under threat from a biker gang.

This highly entertaining episode establishes real momentum early on with the injury to BA and the pace never lets up from thereonin. There’s no time for an elaborate Murdock breakout scene, the dual stories keep the focus very much on the plot and the impending arrival of the military police adds a sense of urgency. Among the memorable moments are BA getting some of Murdock’s blood in an emergency transfusion and the ribbing from Murdock that follows. There is also a rare romance for Hannibal with local doctor Sullivan, a character who would return in the season two episode “Deadly Maneuvers”. In a strange coincidence, Lauter (who plays the sheriff of Bad Rock) also makes an appearance in “Deadly Maneuvers” but plays a different character to the one he plays here.

This is a good episode for Culea as well and you can see how her good friendship with Schultz off-screen adds something to her scenes with him in the car. The episode soon builds to well-staged battle as the team and local police join forces to fight against the biker gang on the main street of Bad Rock. It is all very effective and much of the success of the episode is down to the quality of the script from Patrick Hasburgh. There isn't any padding, every scene has a definite point and then ends quickly having made it. It all adds up to a classic episode that is the highlight of the first half of the season. 10/10.
Incidentally, the title is a play on words on the classic 1955 Spencer Tracy film “Bad Day at Black Rock”, though in terms of plot, the episode is much more like the John Wayne classic “Rio Bravo”.

A Small and Deadly War s1ep4

co-starring: Jack Ging as Captain Stark, Dean Stockwell as Officer Collins, Norman Alden as Inspector Ed Maloney, Al White as Officer Meadows, Fil Formicola as Shaeffer, Carol Baxter as Nurse, Rhonda Shear as Stark's Girlfriend
Written by Frank Lupo
Directed by Ron Satlof

The A-Team are hired to stop a gang of SWAT team cops who are available as assassins for hire.

Another of the early, more serious episodes, this is still an involving tale that perhaps lacks too many of the archetypal A-Team elements to be a fan favourite. In many ways, this episode could have been written for any eighties action series but the quality of the performances makes it worth watching. Alden makes a strong early impression as the good cop wanting to expose the truth, Stockwell (best known to TV viewers as Al from Quantum Leap) does well as the more nervous member of the SWAT team and Ging also makes his mark as its leader. Ging would later return to the series as a border patrol officer in "Bad Time on the Border" and then again in a recurring role as General Fulbright towards the end of season 4.

There's good humour from Amy and Face when they fake a cockroach infestation to place “bugs” on the cops' uniforms (Amy: “Bringing me along to sew, how wonderfully sexist”). Murdock has a great scene in which he’s required to feign tuberculosis to get out of the VA hospital and he also gets to deliver flowers to Ging while the cop is entertaining a lady friend. This certainly isn’t a wall-to-wall action episode. The emphasis is more on the build-up of tension (such as in the night-time stand-off) and the growing paranoia among the SWAT group. The location shooting helps a great deal throughout and the episode builds well to a face-off in a deserted amusement park during which BA jumps onto the hood of a moving car. Overall, not a classic episode but it is nevertheless a strong story very well-told. 8/10

Monday, 14 June 2010

Pros and Cons s1ep3

co-starring: Clifton James as Warden Beale, William Smith as Jason Tatero, Paul Koslo as Deputy Sneed, Red West as Lieutenant Trask, Hugh Gillin as Sheriff, Ken Norton as Jackhammer Jackson, Meeno Peluce as Joey, Elsa Raven as Prison Psychiatrist
Written by Stephen J. Cannell
Directed by Ron Satlof

BA discovers an old friend is being held in a prison where the inmates are forced to participate in bare knuckle fights.

This is one of the best early episodes, much more like the A-Team we know and love. It's a pacy, well-written tale with the right balance of action and humour. Clifton James (best known for his role as Sheriff J.W. Pepper in the Bond film Live and Let Die) co-stars as the prison warden and is a first-rate bad guy, an essential ingredient in the best episodes. As a further in-joke, the prison reform academic who Face poses as in order to gain access to the prison is named Dr Pepper!

The action is well-staged, most notably the scene in which Hannibal drives a car into the sheriff's office in an attempt to get arrested, a great moment that became a permanent part of the opening credits. There's a strong comic vein running throughout the episode with Hannibal pretending to be an effeminate hairdresser and Murdock causing chaos in the jail’s hospital with his constant cries of “I want some trash bags!”. One of the best moments sees Murdock and Hannibal using the trash bags plus some hair-dryers to float over the prison walls. Top class. 10/10

Children of Jamestown s1ep2

co-starring: John Saxon as Martin James, Gerrit Graham as Brother Stephen, Ron Hayes as Tim Coulton, John Carter as Sheila's Father, Sherilyn Wolter as Coulton's daughter, Carol Jones as Sheila Rogers
Written by Stephen J. Cannell
Directed by Christian I Nyby Jr

The team are hired to rescue a girl being held by a religious cult.

The first 45-minute A-Team episode is, in terms of tone, one of the more serious. The scene in which the captured team talk to frightened Amy about accepting death is one of the darkest moments in any episode. Saxon gives a bizzare but memorable performance as the leader of the cult, sometimes seeming to have wandered in from an entirely different TV show. There is some good humour to lighten the mood, notably a running gag about Hannibal's boots. When told to take them off, Hannibal states, “These are $600 ostrich boots, Jack. Tell you what, I'll hang onto them and if the maker wants them, I'll see to it he gets them” and later, “He stole my boots, nobody steals my boots”.

The action takes over in the second half with the team attacking the religious compound in a jeep armed with a flamethrower and then defending a farm where they have taken refuge. Of course, the farmer’s daughter falls for Face who was almost knocked out in an earlier fight. She is convinced he should rest rather than prepare for the battle ahead (“On your feet Lieutenant!” growls Smith in response). It all builds to a lively final showdown in which acetylene tanks are used as improvised rocket launchers. Cue plenty of explosions and the requisite jeep flipping.

Schultz has said on a number of occasions that he expected to be fired during the pilot as the producers didn't like his performance. When Murdock proved to be a popular character, he was quickly added into the early episodes which had initially been written without him. Certainly in this episode Murdock's scenes seem to have been tacked on. He is separated from the rest of the group for most of the running time and largely unnecessary to the plot. 8/10

S101 Mexican Slayride - pilot

co-starring: William Lucking as Colonel Lynch, Phil Sterling as Grant Eldridge, Sergio Calderon as Malavida Valdez, Melody Anderson as Avon salesgirl, William Windom as Al Massey
Written by Stephen J Cannell, Frank Lupo
Directed by Rod Holcomb

Amy asks the team to rescue a reporter friend who is being held by guerillas in Mexico.

Unlike most eighties action series, the A-Team pilot is not one of its best episodes. The show never really suited the 90 minute format and took a while to really find its feet. Part of the problem here is the presence of Tim Dunigan who played Face before being replaced by Dirk Benedict for the main series. Dunigan isn't a bad actor by any means, just rather ordinary, the type who were two-a-penny in Hollywood at the time. He’s also rather young to be a Vietnam vet, ultimately the main reason he was let go.

There are plenty of good moments though, starting with an early chase sequence with Hannibal in full aquamaniac costume sitting in the back of an open-topped car. Many of the traditional A-Team elements are established here: BA's fear of flying, Hannibal's many disguises, the construction montage, the car flips and the hundreds of rounds fired without ever hitting anyone.

The first half is the best section, bringing the team together, having them evade Colonel Lynch and fly to Mexico. There's plenty of good dialogue, the pick perhaps being when Lynch visits Murdock at the mental hospital: “Don't you think I want to get out of here and see E.T. like everyone else!”. The episode may have been better trimmed to 75 minutes but it's never less than entertaining, just not as polished as some of the later entries in the season. 7/10


Created by Stephen J Cannell, the A-Team starred George Peppard as John "Hannibal" Smith, Mr T as B.A. Baracus, Dirk Benedict as Templeton "Faceman" Peck and Dwight Schultz as "Howlin' Mad" Murdock. During season one and part of season two, the team were assisted by Melinda Culea as reporter Amy Allen. She was replaced by Marla Heasley who appeared as reporter Tawnia Baker during the later stages of season two but she too was written out during a two-part episode at the beginning of season three.

During the run of the show, the team were pursued by the military police, initially by William Lucking as Colonel Lynch and then more famously by Lance LeGault as Colonel Decker. Jack Ging took over the pursuit as General Fulbright towards the end of season four.

For its fifth and final season, the show underwent a radical overhaul in which the team went to work undercover for General Stockwell, played by Robert Vaughan. They were assisted by a new addition to the team, special effects man Frankie Santana played by Eddie Velez.