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!

Friday, 6 August 2010

When You Comin' Back Range Rider? s2ep5

Co-starring: Richard Yniguez as Daniel Running Bear, Morgan Woodward as Bus Carter, Mills Watson as Stryker, Lance LeGault as Colonel Decker, Carl Franklin as Captain Crane, Dana Kimmell as Lane Carter
Written by Frank Lupo
Directed by Christian I. Nyby II

The team go up against a gang of castle rustlers who are stealing wild horses.

The second of the four 90 minute episodes that were made during the run of the series, this is easily the best of the four. The main reason for the feature-length is that there are essentially two stories to tell. The first is the introduction of Colonel Decker, the team's best military foe, marvellously played by LeGault. Proving all heroes need strong adversaries, LeGault's contribution to the show was immense, always enhancing the episodes in which he appeared (which was less than you might expect, only 16 out of 94 if you include his cameo in “Trial By Fire”).

Whereas Colonel Lynch was always a figure of fun and portrayed as a fool, Decker is much more of a threat, as is acknowledged early on by Face and Hannibal (“Who is this guy?”, “I don’t know but it’s going to be fun finding out”). The first half hour has Decker twice corner members of the team who escape via a chase in a Trans-am and then by driving the A-Team van off a harbour (it was never established how they got it back). It’s all very enjoyable and a fine starting point for the adversarial relationship with Decker that was to develop as the season progressed.

The main plot then begins and given how many episodes have western-type scenarios, it was inevitable that there would eventually be one set in the Wild West. The outdoor filming gives the story a greater sense of scale than in most and the slower-than-usual pacing suits the more relaxed locale. It has to be said that Amy is largely absent, basically relegated to being the romantic interest for the client, though she does get to handle a bow and arrow during one of the action scenes.

The action is excellent, moving past an initial fist-fight to stage a series of attempted train hijacks using various modes of transport. The action certainly makes up for dialogue scenes (including an obsession with “The Range Rider” for Murdock) that tend to lack spark. There is a good moment in the local store where a woman lets Face hide in her changing cubicle (Benedict: “Thanks, I really appreciate you for trusting me”, Woman: “Let's just say I like your face”, Benedict: “I have an honest face?”, Woman: “No, but I like it”).

The tendency with the 90 minute format was to let scenes drift on longer than necessary and that is often in evidence here. There's an extra meet-the-client scene, the end credits last almost five minutes and the construction montage is greatly extended (albeit with excellent music). An early series of flashbacks of A-Team military evasions looks suspiciously like padding, especially given that they use the opening escape from “Holiday in the Hills” out of context.

Nonetheless, for all the padding and indifferent dialogue, the end result is never less than entertaining. A few adjustments and script polishes could have made this one of the greats but it is still well above-average, building to an excellent train/helicopter set-piece and the classic western drive-off into the distance. 9/10

1 comment:

  1. My All-Time Favorite A-Team Episode. I really enjoy the slower pacing of the 90-minute episodes. The longer running time gives the story a chance to breathe, to take its time introducing us to the supporting characters, and to give the episode an overall feeling of a TV movie.

    This episode puts a spotlight on an important issue in the United States: the protection of the thousands of wild horses that roam the rangelands, which have been managed by the Bureau of Land Management since 1971.

    I remember reading an interview with Dirk Benedict back in the 80s where he stated that this was his favorite episode to film because of the horseback riding.

    Murdock’s character in this episode (the Range Rider) is hilarious, and may rank as one of his most memorable of the show’s run (along with Captain Cab). When we first see Murdock in his room at the VA, you can see "Honey Pops" cereal boxes all over the place where he cut out all of his Range Rider masks. BTW, “The Range Rider” was a real TV show in the early 1950s starring Jock Mahoney and executive produced by Gene Autry. I’m not sure if he had a horse named Thunder, though (I know he had a horse named Rawhide at one point).

    Amy doesn’t have a tremendous amount of screen time as H.M. pointed out in his review, but she does get to participate in one of the battles with a unique skill (archery), she has this episode’s major romantic interest, and she even gets to bring in the cavalry at the end (in the form of Col. Decker) to bust the bad guys!

    Decker, the Team’s iconic adversary, is given a wonderful introduction, and throughout the episode proves to be quite formidable as he doggedly pursues the team, catching Face in the middle of one of his scams, tailing B.A.’s van, pinning the Team down at their warehouse, and following the Team to Arizona where they barely stay a step ahead of him.

    As far as the clips of old episodes go, keep in mind that in the days before You Tube and DVD boxed sets, it was a rare treat to see scenes from earlier episodes of TV shows. However, the narrative offered by Col. Decker regarding the clips is completely inaccurate. The first escape is identified by Decker as the Team stealing a military jet in December 1977, but the clip shown is from the show’s pilot episode, (you can easily spot Amy Allen in the clip!), and the jet that Face scammed was not a military jet.

    This is one of several A-Team episodes to feature a Gratuitous Kid, but he’s barely in the episode, so no harm, no foul.

    Is the black Trans Am that Hannibal and Face use to escape from Decker a nod to Knight Rider?

    I tape-recorded most of this episode on audio cassette when it first aired (we didn't yet own a VCR), and I used to listen to it over and over again. Loved it. Wow, I miss those days.