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!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Judgement Day s4ep1 & 2

Co-Starring: June Chadwick as Carla, Christine Claridge, Michael Delano as Johnny Angel, Dana Elcar as Judge Mordente, Carl Franklin as Captain Crane, LaGena Hart as Lori, Lance LeGault as Colonel Decker, Robert Miranda as Joe Scarlett, Zack Norman as Gino

The team are called in by a judge whose daughter has been kidnapped by the mobster whose trial he is presiding over.

Season four gets underway with a double episode that ranks as the all-time favourite among a number of fans. For at least part of the ninety-minute running time, it is easy to see why this is the case. With the possible exception of season two’s double episode ‘When You Comin’ Back Range Rider?’, this is the most action-driven A-Team episode of all and packs a series of highly impressive set pieces into its first fifty minutes.

After a courtroom scene setting up the plot, the action quickly gets underway as the mobster’s gang abducts the judge’s daughter by helicopter while she is riding a jetski. It’s a sequence worthy of gracing any Hollywood feature film and acts as a calling card for an episode that boasts stuntwork which is second to none. Moving quickly on, we have what seems to be a standard meet-the-client scene as Hannibal gets the lowdown from the judge while posing as a window cleaner on a high-rise building. However, Decker soon arrives on the scene, forcing Hannibal to parachute off the building to escape capture in what is another excellent stunt.

We get a chance to grab our breath at this point as the plot takes a firmer hold as the team kidnap the man responsible for the daughter’s kidnap and hold him hostage while Hannibal takes his place. Peppard plays both roles here and does it well, particularly when you compare it to something as woeful as David Hasselhoff playing the evil Garth in ‘Knight Rider’. Inevitably, Hannibal has to duke it out with his double when the plan goes awry but as predictable as such a scene is, it all adds to the fun.

The first half of the episode does mainly belong to Hannibal and the rest of the cast actually appear only sporadically. Murdock has a good scene in which he tries to break himself out of the VA hospital without Face’s help but it doesn’t go quite according to plan. Murdock then suddenly appears (somewhat confusingly) at what turns out to be the judge’s house where he is posing as an oddball butler. This scene is the first example of editing issues that crop up frequently across the course of the double episode.

Face doesn’t have a great deal to do in the first half of this episode but certainly has more to do than BA who only makes brief appearances and gets the sum total of two lines in the first forty minutes. The team come to Hannibal’s rescue once his cover is blown, leading to another strong action set-piece as the team attempt to get the judge’s daughter back and have to evade Decker who turns up halfway through the firefight.

You certainly can’t accuse this episode of being slow-paced as within an instant we’re in Italy, where the judge’s daughter has been taken. Once this has been established, it’s back to the action again as the team get involved in another fight to get her back. Benedict certainly gets stuck in during a good moment in which he attempts to karate chop a henchman, only to end up being hit and falling backwards down a hill. A vehicle chase sequence complete with exploding petrol cans follows, culminating in one of the great A-Team explosions that makes you wonder exactly how big the budget of this episode was.

So far, so breathless and certainly a feast for action fans. There isn’t a great deal of plot here and certainly one criticism of the episode is that there is hardly any story at all. The judge disappears from the episode shortly after he’s hired the team and the mobster on trial only crops up once more. Kidnap stories formed the basis for a number of A-Team episodes (Harder Than It Looks, Moving Targets, The Doctor is Out, The Say Uncle Affair) but all of them have more story in forty-five minutes than we get here in ninety.

The lack of story wouldn’t be an issue if the entertainment value didn’t start to collapse around the hour mark. The team are forced to go back to the US via cruise liner, leading to a series of uninspired scenes on deck and in cabins. Benedict takes centre stage here and the scenes that do work well are mainly down to him. Face poses as the assistant to the ship’s doctor and inevitably smooth talks the attractive cruise director and finds himself in a compromising position with a female passenger. Incidentally, that is the episode’s director David Hemmings playing the role of the doctor.

The episode loses all sense of purpose as the team just mill around and uninteresting supporting characters (particularly singer Johnny Angel) are given more screen time than members of the team. BA only appears on deck in one scene, though this may be because Mr T “walked” off the ocean liner during shooting (he left via helicopter). He did eventually return (presumably to shoot that one scene) but his absence does partly explain the choppy nature of the second half.

Continuity errors don’t exactly help matters, such as when an establishing shot shows the liner far out at sea but the deck scene that follows has islands and other boats in the background. The original plot (the judge’s daughter was kidnapped, remember?) becomes an afterthought and although the episode closes with another well-staged action sequence, the last half hour is something of a mess.

Quite where it all went wrong, we can only speculate. Perhaps the cruise liner sequence had to be rapidly rewritten in Mr T’s absence? Perhaps the crediting of three editors suggests a rushed post-production process? A rewrite may have been the first step as too much happens too quickly in the first half and then not much happens at all in the second. In any case, it’s still worth seeing but doesn’t end up being the absolute series classic it seems to be early on.

First 50 minutes 9/10, second 40 minutes 6/10

1 comment:

  1. Even though it's the result of a great sequence where B.A. drives through a plane(!), you have to question the logic of basing the second half on a cruise ship. It's a gimmick that would've probably fared much better as a stand-alone entry. As it stands, it manages to turn a pretty action-packed episode into something loosely resembling "The Love Boat".

    Another oddity is that the story abruptly ends without the usual epilogue to wrap everything up. This is even more surprising when you realize the episode runs longer than the previous two-parters. It certainly makes you wonder how Johnny Angel managed to get so much screentime.