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The A-Team: when a plan comes together

posted by Paul on 4/24/01

"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."

And so it began.

The "A-Team" distinguished itself in an era of excess - when overkill was the by-word. The 1980s had a truck-load of over-the-top, actionified TV shows. You had Jan Michael Vincent furrowing his brow and buddying up with Ernest Borgnine in "Airwolf"; David Hasselhoff, in ridiculously tight flares, talking to a super-intelligent and sardonic car in "Knight Rider"; and "Streethawk" with its flashy, erm, bike. All good shows. All deserving of some nostalgic props down the W-D road, but in my opinion, ALL eclipsed by the wonder that was "The A-Team".

To my knowledge, there hasn't been a show that's come close to "The A-Team" - either in its sheer chauvinistic presentation or staggering level of success. The show, which ran from 1983 to 1987 and five seasons, was quintessentially '80s, but beautifully made in its own right. When it was first aired, many critics thought it was too violent and too absurd. The absurdity never dimmed, but the show didn't deserve the "violent" tag. For all the gunfire and explosions, no-one was ever seriously hurt. And the "bad guys", usually cartoonish baboons, were never too much of a threat.

They'd always pay the karmic price in the end, but even amidst a rain of bullets, they remained unscathed. Usually, they'd just fly through the air and land on some conveniently-placed haystacks. Or flee in fear.

If anything, "The A Team" was a parable about good and evil, with good always triumphing in the end. The actual "A Team" consisted of four very different men - B.A Baracus, Templeton "Face" Peck, Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, and "Howlin' Mad" Murdock. Each had served in the Vietnam War, and each bore the scars of that noted battle. In the 'Nam, they became good friends, experts in their fields and noted troublemakers. And after escaping from prison for a crime they "didn't commit", they figured it'd be a good idea to start up a special renegade unit. The aim of the unit was simple: "The A Team", always anonymous, would help any individual or group in need of their specialized assistance. The clients would need the resources to find and pay the team, but in return, they'd be free of the evil and repressive forces making their lives a living hell.

The A-Team were that good.

The Characters

George Peppard played the leader of the team - "Hannibal" Smith. He didn't eat people's flesh or suck brain (as the name might suggest), but he did appear in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and was Audrey Hepburn's square-jawed, pussy-whippite. You'd think that playing a tough character like Hannibal, after wasted years spent playing dweebs, would be a stretch for old Peps, but he made the role his own. It's a role that shouldn't even have been his, if rumor is to be believed. The producer wanted him from the beginning, but not everyone involved in the production was so sure he'd be right for the part. A renowned drinker with a sordid past and two bruised wives, Peppard was in the Downey Jr doghouse. The sort of doghouse that smells like piss, shit-stained trunks and cheap booze. Nevertheless, in a long and illustrious career, it was the role of Hannibal for which he'll be remembered most fondly. Not that any of his other roles screamed "wise career move". These days, he sleeps with the fishes, with his alcohol-filled past finally catching up to him. But that doesn't mean I can't write crazy, kindergarten-quality poetry in his honor:

You rot six foot under,
Your acting style was thunder,
You smoked a lot of dope,
Because you felt there was no hope,

You were a failure as a father,
And boozing you would rather,
A pig they said,
Many hookers you had paid,

I loved you as Colonel Smith,
Right now I'm getting stiff,
And I'll end this tiff,
Because the readers will think I've lost the plot,
Just to rhyme, I'll say "shot".

The character: Hannibal was my favorite character by far. Quite literally, the brains behind the operation, Hannibal served in Vietnam and was considered something of a maverick. He was always the voice of reason, easing the racial tensions between Murdock and B.A. He also wore black leather gloves, which suggested some perversion behind his calm facade. An actor in his spare time, he'd appear as "The Aquamaniac" in several abysmal B movies. "The Aquamaniac" was a crocodile, or some such dreg. Just in case you're curious. When he wasn't causing social unrest, he was partial to smoking his long cigar, revelling in his phallic victory. He only smoked when the work was done, suggesting two things:

a) his knob was huge.


b) he got a stiffy when things went his way.

Don't we all? That's probably just wishful thinking on my part, because I'm sure the writers weren't crafty enough to endow their main character with such dick-gesturing self-confidence. Probably just enjoyed a fine cigar...

up his anus, the dirty bastard

Quote: "I love it when a plan comes together."

I think it's virtually redundant trying to explain the enduring appeal of one Mr T. The guy is, without overstatement, an icon. It's not just that he's big, black, wears obscene medallions and has an ill-advised Mohawk. All that just provides the icing on the birthday cake. The guy is also afraid of flying and talks the biggest load of gibberish imaginable, fool. It's like God decided he'd take every sterotypical black gene, throw in some posturing stupidity, and VOILA...Mr T. That's the best way to explain him, because he's one of the few actors to make Sly Stallone look competent. It takes a certain level of ineptitude to accomplish that. But then, Mr T has bucket loads of ineptitude and an abundance of quirks. He once got stuck in a toilet, he's afraid of flying and even cancer can't shut him up. I guess, deep down, I love him.

The character: Sergeant Bosco "Bad Attitude (B.A.)" Baracus hailed from the mean streets of Chicago. He was also a technical wiz in the Vietnam war, and the van driver for the "A Team". And this wasn't just a regular van. Ok, it was. It just had a red stripe on its side. Humor me:

B.A being black, aggressive and subservient didn't set race relations back a few years. Throw into the mix that he was also permanently angry, incomprehensible and a hark back to blaxploitation, and it's reasonable to assume that Me Baracus was the sole cause of the L.A riots. Before Will Smith gave the world a positive black role model, with big ears and wicked rhymes (he doesn't need to cuss to sell records, you know), B.A was beating the snot out of every white punk who crossed his path. He had an almost irrational hatred for Murdock. Sure, the guy was white and insane, and perhaps a little annoying, but he seemed like a red towel to B.A's pepped-up bull. It didn't help that Murdock was the designated pilot, and Bosco abhorred flying. And I'm sure being called Bosco didn't go down too well in the ghetto, either. That's a name you give to a clown or a son you want to be gay. In nearly every episode, he made his displeasure at flying perfectly clear, so the team gave him the respect he deserved (a severe beating or drugs to sedate his roided ass, while they boarded him on the plane - influencing the L.A.P.D to give a similar fate to one Rodney King) No one pointed out the rest of "The A Team" were racists, intent on keeping the black man down, but... I just did.

His gold chains were likely a nod to the enslaved black man, bound in chains. Or a sign that Mr T had really bad fashion sense. Both, if you want to be cute about it.

Quote: "Shut Up, Fool!!."

Likes:Milk, children and, judging by the following pictures, wild gay sex with flamboyantly queer '80s icons:

An asshole was meant for that, sucka?

Played by Dirk Benedict, Lieutenant Templeton "Face" Peck, is the pussy magnet of the operation. I'm certain that most of our female readers will be moist just looking at him. That was certainly the case for any female who appeared in this male-dominated show. They served as love interests to the "Faceman", and..that's it. The guy rarely had to say anything beyond "well, hello" and the panties would be off. Until he was arrested in that one episode for "gross indecency". Besides his ridiculous nickname and flagrantly homosexual Christian name, "Face" was the con man of the group and could get in anywhere with his layers of charm and cleverly concealed sleaze. At the end of every episode, he had to ditch one of his adoring females. Right after he either got them pregnant or passed on some incurable STD.

People like him should be locked up, which is probably where he'd be, if he wasn't one of the two brains behind the "A Team". Or a fictional TV character. But hey, despite looking like a total dweeb, he's probably been in more bushes than Anne Heche after a break-up. Ooh, no-one will get that.

Murdock was the crazy one. He makes strange noises, talks to himself and has imaginary friends. Basically, just like Hugh Hefner. If he just shit his pants and drooled a lot, I'd say he was a lot like Ronald Reagan, but the script sadly never demanded that he shit his pants (although that's a sure-fire ratings winner). After Vietnam, he had to go to an institution, because apparently he saw some crazy stuff in the 'Nam, like B.A raping helpless children, or something equally disgusting (Rosie O' Donnell naked?). He flew the chopper and argued constantly with B.A, even though their love shone through. And he acted like a total buffoon all the time. It was also more than a little concerning that he had an imaginary dog called "Billy". Not that he had an imaginary dog so much that he called it "Billy".

Quote: "Suck me beautiful!!"

Opinions on the characters are divided, and different people had their favorites. Here's my guide to what your favorite character says about you as a person.

"Hannibal" - You like to be in control and are probably a well-adjusted individual with a bright future. "Hannibal" is admired by older people, who place shrewdness above physicality.
B.A - According to studies, B.A is loved most by younger boys who lack the physique to be "superheroes". So, B.A, with his door-ripping strength, became a role model. And continues to be a role model.
"Face" - If "Face" is your favorite, you enjoy a guy who is cunning and crafty. "Face" is a quick thinker and, oddly, a babe magnet, and that's the sort of guy you want to be. Even above the strength of Mr T.
Murdock- You have a good sense of humor, and don't take life too seriously, but are mad in the head. Murdock is child-like and quite innocent, and you like those qualities.

I remember "The A Team" with a great fondness, for it is one of the few shows which didn't over-stay its welcome or feature David Hasselhoff's chicken legs. Up until its untimely demise, it was consistently entertaining, escapist fun. I loved it, and I don't use that word lightly. The only show which would entice me to conciously leave friends' birthday parties, so I could watch it in my own space. Tempting though "Pin the tail on the donkey" was, it had to take a backseat to my childish admiration of this Saturday Night feast.

Because all my friends had to have their parties on Saturday afternoons. That was, to a selfish mind like mine, unsuitable to my busy schedule. "The A Team" started at 5:30pm every Saturday, and we didn't have the luxury of relying on ten thousand re-runs back then. You missed it, you missed out. And if you didn't tape it on your shaky VHS, you'd have to wait eight months to see it again. Sometimes more. And, although I appreciate the important things these days (read: I'm not a geekazoid), the thought of missing "The A Team" back then was unfathomable.

I guess that's why I miss it so much. That the only thing I had to worry about was feeding the goldfish and making sure I got my weekly fix of overblown action. There is an "A-Team" movie in the works, and there has been for years, but no matter how good the writing and how smooth the execution, they can never better the real thing. Because "The A Team" was more than just guys cracking one-liners and blowing things up. It was that time in your life when the world seemed like a much more simple place.

No worries.

In some ways, I'm glad to be getting older. But I miss the simple pleasures. Movies on a Saturday, party in the Afternoon, and "The A Team" in the early evening.

I loved it when a plan came together.

AOL IM: paulwdfans

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