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, 21 April 2011

Dishpan Man s5ep1

Co-starring: Sandy McPeak as Josh Curtis, David A. Hess as Ben Al Fraden, Fernando Escondo, Judith Leaford as Carla
Written by Stephen J Cannell
Directed by Tony Mordente

The team are informed by a government agent that a man who could clear their name is on a plane that has been hijacked.

The gradual decline in quality that had blighted the fourth season caused a major slump in the show's ratings. Like many action series, The A-Team had a formula which was both its initial strength and its ultimate downfall. An attempt had been made to move away from the ‘small business threatened by large rival’ plotline in season four but in its place we got ill-fitting guest stars and drab scripts.

In an effort to save the show, the complete revamp that was considered unnecessary at the end of season three was now put into action. The result was a completely new slant on The A-Team, one in which the team became covert government operatives under the command of Hunt Stockwell (Robert Vaughan) and joined by special effects expert Frankie Santana (Eddie Velez).

It was certainly a controversial change and remains a hotly debated topic among fans of the show. Many categorically dismiss the fifth season as being something more akin to ‘Mission Impossible’ and a betrayal of the show’s blue collar origins. Personally, I never had a problem with season five as I wasn’t particularly impressed with season four. The scripts were, by and large, superior to the fourth season and the fact that the team were working for Stockwell never bothered me particularly.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Stockwell missions were yet to come. First off we have what is generally referred to as the ‘court-martial’ trilogy, a series of three excellent episodes which introduced the new scenario and characters. This first of the three is the most conventional by A-Team standards but is no weaker for it.

Although season five divides opinion among fans, what doesn’t divide them is the new funkier theme tune. Although messing with themes was often ill-advised (the ‘Quantum Leap’ remix was particularly misjudged), the new version with its driving drum introduction gives the opening of the show a strong, dynamic edge. Another change came in the form of dropping the pre-credits ‘trailer’ (which often gave away much of the plot) in preference of an opening scene that set the story, though not all episodes in the season made use of this.

As for this individual episode, it is Cannell’s best writing contribution to the show since ‘The Taxi Cab Wars’. Along with director Mordente, Cannell delivers a fast-paced and highly entertaining episode with great humour, clever situations and solid action sequences. In many ways, this is the show’s third ‘pilot’ after the season one opener and ‘Battle of Bel Air’ in season two.

The early scenes introduce Frankie’s character and I can’t say I’ve ever been keen on his wise-ass character. His constant remarks could be more than a little grating but he came across better in some episodes than others. After Hannibal is taken to meet Stockwell, the team decide to gamble on the opportunity to be free to be normal people (Face: “No offence Murdock”, Murdock: “none taken”).

The parachuting footage from ‘One More Time’ is recycled here, meaning Frankie is dressed up as Amy was in that episode, even though shots of her descent aren’t used! Murdock gets to use a mini-helicopter that he has been “packing with his underwear” and though it was obviously not flight-worthy in reality, it adds an interesting extra dimension to the episode.

The method for getting on the plane is undeniably clever, more so that in season one’s ‘Beast from the Belly of a Boeing’. Indeed, it’s surprising how many first season reminders there are here with similarities to ‘One More Time’, ‘Beast’ and the aerial vehicle build from ‘Holiday in the Hills’. It’s a credit to how well the whole episode is put together though that it never seems to be re-treading an old formula.

You might argue that Cannell didn’t need to introduce Frankie (he certainly marginalises BA’s technical role) but he is at least wise enough to make the best use of Murdock, who often did not fare too well in the Cannell-penned episodes. Generally speaking, any script that was good for Murdock was good for the show. Indeed, the whole cast are on excellent form here and the final cliffhanger is a real attention grabber. Overall, this very enjoyable episode represents exactly the injection of energy that the show needed at this point. 9/10

No comments:

Post a Comment