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, 31 October 2010

The Bend in the River s3ep2/3

co-starring: Marta DuBois as Bobbi Cardina, Barry Van Dyke as Brian Lefcourt, Sergio Calderon as El Cajon, Mike Preston as Doyle
Written by Frank Lupo, Stephen J Cannell
Directed by Michael O'Herlihy

Tawnia asks the team to rescue her writer fiance who is being held by river pirates in Peru.

The third of the four feature-length episodes, this is not particularly interesting and suffers from too much padding to reach (almost) 90 minutes. In many ways, Lupo and Cannell have almost re-written the pilot (at least the second part of it), following the same set-up / battle / capture / battle structure.

The similarities to the pilot don't stop there. Once again the team enter a bar on their arrival in the Peruvian jungle, requiring BA to smash his way through the door when a brawl ensues. And if main villain Calderon looks familiar, it's because he also played the villain in the pilot, different name but basically the same character.

Unlike the pilot, there is no need to introduce the team, so standard scenes are extended (such as Face breaking out Murdock) and more time is spent with minor characters. Spending more time with the villains is hardly what anyone tunes into the A-Team for and the characters are still thinly-sketched. You only need to compare this episode with others with a similar story (such as the tightly-plotted and far superior “The Only Church in Town”) to highlight its limitations.

Thankfully, there are bright moments along the way, notably BA being transported to Peru in a coffin and Murdock's rendition of "The Witch Doctor" (is Mr T trying not to laugh during it?). Murdock's delusion this time is that he is a famous film director and there's a good moment when he introduces himself in the bar ("My name is HM Murdock, better known in theatrical circles as HM, M or hmm").

The action is ok as far as it goes but with all the padding, it's difficult not to find your attention wandering. There's an extended armaments loading scene to waste some time in part two and did we really need all that footage of a rope being unwound before the boat sets off at the end of the part one? The plot takes a strange turn in the final third, suggesting Lupo and Cannell knew the rescue plot wasn't enough to sustain 90 minutes, so they tacked another story on the end. This sums up the overall nature of a double episode for which the word “untidy” could have been invented. 6/10

The episode ends with Tawnia being married off and consequently written out of the series. This is probably her best episode, one in which she is less whiny than usual and finally gets her hands dirty (though she's messy in a glamorous kind of way). Unlike Culea's departure, Heasley left on friendly terms, her character being simply seen as unnecessary and not particularly popular with viewers. The decision was made that the woman-along-for-the-ride role could easily be created as necessary for individual episodes (such as Judy in 'In Plane Sight') and the team would remain a foursome until the introduction of Frankie Santana in the fifth season.

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