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!

Monday, 14 June 2010

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


  1. I've always thought the same thing; the first half was great, the second half just felt kind of thrown together.

  2. “Our pilot is insane.”

    So speaks Faceman halfway through the episode, in reference to The A-Team’s pilot, Captain H.M. Murdock. Of course Face could easily be talking about the pilot episode itself. This show was a phenomenon when it aired. The stunts and special effects were unlike anything that we had seen on TV at that time. My jaw actually dropped when I saw the now-famous jeep flip that features at the end of the opening credits.

    A guy named “Hannibal Smith” who works as a movie monster because he longs to be an actor but can’t show his face on screen because he’s a fugitive. A con artist named “Face Man” who lies and steals for good causes -- including when he literally scams a jet plane from a saleswoman. Mr. T -- a huge star at the time thanks to “Rocky 3” -- cast in the role of an action hero...but he’s afraid to fly! And his fellow team members have to knock him out every time they travel. Their pilot is a crazy guy who they have to sneak out of a mental hospital...or is he just pretending to be crazy so he can scam his own free room and board, while shielding his connection to the Team?

    Was “The A-Team” a serious-but-clever action show, or a parody of the genre? You make your own choice. A running joke in many early episodes is how the A-Team would often come up with plans inspired by action movies they had seen. In the case of this episode, however, the A-Team pretends to be making their own movie (with Face as Producer and Hannibal as the Director) in order to scam weapons and supplies from the Mexican Film Commission!

    There is a scene that was filmed but deleted where Hannibal poses as Andre, a pretentious film director, who promises the hotel manager he can do a nude love scene with Bo Derek in his movie. In exchange, the hotel manager arranges free lodging for the Team. (In the actual episode, you can still see Hannibal dressed as Andre the Director when the Team arrives at the private villa.)

    The city in Mexico they travel to was supposed to be Acapulco, but the name of the city was redubbed in postproduction.