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!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Skins s3ep17

Co-starring: John Quade as McKaydoo, John Calvin as Madrid, Daphne Maxwell as Kamora, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson as Novarro
Written by Mark Jones
Directed by Dennis Donnelly

The team are hired to travel to Kenya to fight some poachers who are killing animals in a nature preserve.

The show returns to a more traditional formula with this moderate entry in the third season, perhaps best described as a poor man’s ‘Diamonds n Dust’. It certainly opens strongly and seriously with poachers killing a ranger, a rare (almost) on-screen death. From thereonin though, there's a great deal of humour, beginning with Hannibal disguising himself as a robot for the meet-the-client scene. BA has a run-in with chimpanzee Kong (“Hey, get this thing off me!”) and the chimp then befriends Murdock (leading BA to remark, “That’s because you both have the same IQ”).

Given the episode’s supposed African location, much of it takes place indoors on sets which aren't entirely convincing. The would-be relationship between BA and Maxwell is as clumsily handed as all of BA’s romances on the show but at least adds an additional comic element to proceedings. There's also an interesting variation on the who-teams-with-who conversation in which Murdock asks if he can team up with the chimp (Hannibal: "No but you can have Face", Murdock: "It's not the same thing").

From the initial impression that the episode isn't going to get out and about much, things pick up a gear when the story does finally get out into the open. Interestingly, there's an almost re-run of the dynamite acquisition scene from 'Diamonds n Dust' when Face and Murdock pose as export inspectors. The stock villains don't exactly help matters but given how much the action dominates the second half, if you can forgive the rather obvious stock footage, there is much to enjoy here. 7/10

Champ! s3ep16

Co-starring: Alex Rocco as Sonny Monroe, Daniel Faraldo as Carrenza, Greg Collins as Billy Marquette, Holly Gagnier as Tina Marquette, Rich Balduzzi as Mick Halligan
Written by Stephen Katz
Directed by Michael O’Herlihy

The team help a boxer who is being forced to take a dive in an upcoming fight.

The attempts to move away from the standard A-Team formula continue with this rather bland but still reasonably entertaining tale. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in pace, keeping on the move in the first half with a succession of short sharp scenes.

Of course, these scenes don't do a great deal more than advance the plot of what is a fairly talky episode in which the only action to speak of is a couple of brief fistfights. There's an enjoyable scene in which Murdock (posing as BA's trainer) is threatened by crooked promoter Rocco in the back of a limo. Face is also called upon to do the most unusual form of safecracking you're ever likely to see.

A final boxing match takes up much of the final third which is fine if you like boxing and though the restrictive sets and lighting hide the absence of a large crowd, they also rob the scenes of any kind of believability. Watchable but nothing more. 6/10

Friday, 10 December 2010

The Big Squeeze s3ep15

Co-starring: Wings Hauser as Jack Lane, Al Ruscio as Gino Gianni, Janine Turner as Theresa Gianni, Marshall Teague as Travis Mason, Joseph Sirola as Nathan Vincent
Written by Stephen J Cannell
Directed by Arnold Laven

The team help a man whose restaurant is under threat from a loan shark.

Written by series co-creator Cannell, this is an intriguing episode that is predominantly set-bound and talky but the cast are on fine form and it works well due to the excellent work of Peppard and Schultz and a typically flamboyant performance from Hauser as the villain.

There’s no meet-the-client scene here and Cannell is clearly trying to avoid working to any kind of formula, so there’s also no pre-finale construction montage and more plot than in most episodes. The result is something of an acquired taste but there is more emphasis on the comic element than in Cannell’s other episodes and all of the cast get their share of the humour, even BA with his reference to the AOAMS (the Association of Angry Mud-Suckers and they aren’t a funny union).

The talkier episodes are usually the weaker ones but Cannell has fashioned a strong storyline here, putting Hannibal to the forefront as he poses as an Irish restaurant owner. Murdock gets to try out his Irish accent as well, memorably trying to out-Irish Hannibal at one point and he also gets to sing “I’ve been working on the dishline”. His best scene though comes as a priest leading a mock funeral, saying “Let’s have a hand for the deceased! …… Perhaps a moment of silent prayer is better”.

In many ways, this is similar in tone to season two’s ‘Recipe for Heavy Bread’ but is stronger through its humour and willingness to break away from the set-bound chat. The pacing is rather stop and start but once the team gets around to talking to boss Sirola, the episode is better for it. There’s plenty of gunfire at the finale and the episode is never dull but you’d be forgiven for feeling somewhat under-whelmed. Overall, it is a taste of things to come in season four, a creditable attempt to break free of what had become the A-Team formula but not an entirely successful one. 7/10

Cup 'A Joe s3ep14

Co-starring: John Ashton as Cactus Jack Slater, Lisa Denton as Patty Dutton, Claude Earl Jones as Skeeter, Dave Shelley as Joe Dutton, Gary Lee Davis
Written by Dennis O’Keefe
Directed by Craig R Baxley

The team help a family who are being pressurised into selling their diner by a local rival.

It may not be particularly original but this is an enjoyable episode of a type that was the bread and butter of the show (pun intended). Writer O’Keefe is clearly writing to what he sees as the stock A-Team formula but the cast really knew the parts they had to play in this type of episode by now and there’s a strong sense of the camaraderie among the team. Ashton (best known for his role in ‘Beverly Hills Cop’) makes for an effectively threatening villain and Denton (as Patty, the daughter of the couple who own the diner) is gorgeous even by the usual high eye candy standards.

In many ways, this is even more of an archetypal episode than ‘The Taxi Cab Wars’, ticking off pretty much every familiar A-Team situation. So along the way we have the infiltration of the villain’s headquarters and subsequent action breakout, Face smooth-talking his way into Ashton’s office, an attack on Joe’s diner that leaves Ashton leaving with his tail between his legs and an armor-plated vehicle build for the final confrontation.

Face tries his best to charm Patty, Murdock creates culinary masterpieces in his role as chef and he also gets to try out his Darth Vader impression in a scam with Face. As an in-joke, the driver of Ashton’s rig is played by Jim Boeke who previously appeared as a rig owner way back in season one’s ‘West Coast Turnaround’.

The action is frequent and well-delivered by Baxley and the final set piece is suitably spectacular. The overall effect could hardly be more derivative but even if this is The A-Team On Autopilot, it’s as good a summary of what the show was all about as you would find in any season. 8/10

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Breakout! s3ep13

Co-starring: Steve Sandor as Deke Logan, Jeff Doucette as Malcolm Jones, Robert Donner as Sheriff Bickford, Bruce M Fischer as Jones, Tawny Mayer as Patty, Lenore Kasdorf as Callie Russell, Lance Le Gault as Colonel Decker, Carl Franklin as Captain Crane
Written by Mark Jones, Stephen Katz
Directed by Dennis Donnelly

BA and Murdock are arrested when they are mistaken for part of a gang who robbed a bank.

Although this episode does not feature Face beyond two short scenes conducted over the phone, it is one of the highlights of the season. A fast-moving tale with plenty of action and good humour, it benefits from an excellent script in which a number of subplots are built into a strong overall storyline. The episode gets off to a quick start with a well-staged chase sequence and the pace never lets up from there, partly due to Decker never being too far behind.

Having BA and Murdock together but separate from the others works superbly well, not only from the humour of their antagonism but also from seeing them having to co-operate to evade the pursuing Decker. The episode is like an A-Team version of ‘The Defiant Ones’ for part of the running time as events see Murdock and BA chained together and forced to go on the run.

Hannibal, meanwhile, has an individual subplot involving the robbers who framed Murdock and BA. You might expect this part to lack interest givent that Hannibal is on his own. It is a credit to Peppard’s strong screen presence that he makes the scenes in which he has to protect a young family just as involving and entertaining as the BA/Murdock sections. Among the overall highlights are Hannibal’s improvised flamethrower, BA and Murdock’s windbuggy and a fight with Murdock disguised as a scarecrow.

The dialogue is sharp and funny with Murdock taking the lion’s share while BA reacts in his typically aggressive but this time somewhat supportive way. Upon their arrest, Murdock memorably remarks of BA, “Does he look like the kind of guy who would threaten someone? Let me rephrase that”. I also love the moment all the convicts say "Hey!" back at Mayer when she arrives in the truck.

The action is frequent and well-integrated into the story and although the ending suggests the team have forgotten about their van, such a minor criticism can’t detract from one of the all-time great episodes. 10/10

Hot Styles s3ep12

Co-starring: Markie Post as Rina, Richard Lynch as Jonny Turian, Arthur Taxier as Turian's Assistant, John Moschitta Jr as Jason Burnette, Andy Romano as Mr Dubio
Written by Stephen Katz
Directed by Tony Mordente

Face asks the team to rescue his current girlfriend from a gang who have kidnapped her but when it turns out the woman does not want to be rescued, it is clear things are not as they seem.

During the show’s run, there were three episodes made in which one member of the team made only a cameo appearance. This is the first of these and it is BA’s turn to be absent, appearing only in the final few minutes for the gag finish. At first this doesn’t appear to be a problem as the episode opens brightly with a kidnap, car chase and subsequent storming of the villain’s headquarters, all within the first five minutes. After that though, matters start winding down and the result is an episode that is just too low-key.

It isn’t clear at first exactly what the plot is, something that makes the episode initially intriguing as little hints are dropped as the story begins to unfold. Having fashion as the background doesn’t suit the nature of the show though but it does lead to one of the more unusual variations on the standard construction montage.

In the absence of BA, Murdock stands in, driving the van and wearing the jewellery. For the most part though, this is a Face-driven episode and reunites Benedict with Post who played Face’s high school sweetheart in season two’s ‘The Only Church in Town’. There are two infiltrations by Face in an attempt to contact her, meaning Hannibal and Murdock are also absent for a fair part of the running time.
Though there is a rare reference to the crime they didn’t commit, the dialogue scenes fail to spark into life and you would be forgiven for drifting off before the not particularly interesting end. The final gag is ok (re-using footage from part one of ‘When You Comin’ Back Range Rider?’) but the conclusion you may well reach is that any episode that has a member of the main cast missing is a dud. This, though, would be disproved in the very next episode. 5/10