Posted in Procedural

The A-Team: In which we learn that Hannibal liked dressing in Yellow Face (Done)

First Aired 22 July 1983

Cast:

George Peppard John ‘Hannibal’ Smith

Mr. T Bosco ‘B.A.’ Baracus

Tim Dunigan Templeton ‘Faceman’ Peck

Dwight Schultz H.M.Murdock

Melanie Culea Amy Allen

 

Plot: San Rio Blanco, a small village in Mexico is being repeatedly robbed and terrorised, this time the group is looking for American journalist Al Massey, who is with local Manny Cortez, tries on his own to escape, sparing the town any reprisals, but is caught. In LA, newspaper journalist Amy Amanda Allen is trying to find out what happened to her friend Al but is suspended by her editor, due to her harassing the authorities over the issue. At her wit’s end, she looks into another story her paper isn’t looking into, that being the team of soldiers on the run from the military police after escaping custody after they were arrested for a crime they didn’t commit. These men John’ Hannibal’ Smith, Templeton ‘Faceman’ Peck and Bosco ‘B.A.’ Baracas are rumored to be acting as soldiers of fortune, helping people when no one else can. Determined, she visits the pilot that flew them on the mission they were arrested for, H.M. Murdock, currently being treated at a local VA hospital for anxiety, delusions, and intermittent memory loss. He leads her to a location to make contact with the team. The rest of the team are being pursued by Colonel Lynch, who catches up with them on a film lot, where Hannibal is acting in Aquamaniac 2 as the monster and there follows a car chase with B.A., Face and Hannibal (still in the monster suit) through a Hollywood lot.

After Hannibal checks Amy out disguised as a homeless man and then a Chinese laundromat owner (in what I can see as the worst ‘yellow-face’ make-up and stereotypical Chinese caricature I have ever seen on screen) he then gives instruction to his team by using coded phrases in a radio phone-in show. B.A. and Hannibal meet Amy, while Faceman breaks Murdock out and then cons his way into getting a gulf stream jet so when this 5 person team is all together can fly down to Mexico, narrowly escaping Lynch for the second time.

When the team arrives in Mexico and con a local hotel and film commission and then locate Manny Cortez. Once done, they start to plan. They crop dust the (up until this point unmentioned) marijuana fields. This forces the bad guys to attack the village of San Rio Blanco, but are soon shown the door by the A-Team. Unfortunately, the A-Team don’t know the whole story, since local guerrillas who have been financed by the gang are backing them up and take the team into custody. They escape and with the aid of the townspeople who are ready to be rid of those terrorising them after seeing the hope that the A-Team brought them, defeat the guerillas and free Al Massey.

On their way to the plane to return to the US, the team is blackmailed into allowing Amy on the team, or she’ll tell their story. Lynch is waiting for them, but a right cross and a locked boot later and it’s three escapes this episode alone.

Notes:

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.

Right there, that tells you everything you could possibly need to know about the show, the characters or in fact anything else. There are so many children of this era that remember this program, if not the episodes, then the characters, the music, and that opening narration. If you look at it as an action/adventure sort of show like MacGuyver, or the recent Lethal Weapon series then this kinda looks a bit less than. The less than realistic violence, the broad characters and so on. But after listening to an episode of the podcast Palace of Glittering Delights the host pointed out that it’s not an action adventure show, it’s a cartoon. Once you see it that way, it does look better. It’s not meant to be taken so seriously, so don’t.

With that in mind, there are still some nice character moments here. Dwight Schultz does his best Robin Williams impression, showing a man who isn’t as crazy as he appears, is certainly unstable. Tim Dunigan shows a melancholy fugitive side as he visits the priest that helped raise him, the priest knowing he is both a criminal as well as a good man, wronged by the government. B.A. is clearly a man who cares for his community and helps the local kids wherever and whenever he can, a grizzly bear outside and a teddy bear within. It’s only Hannibal, with his addiction to running the odds and his love of each part of his missions (including the frankly offensive disguises) is less than likeable, often playing the bad guy in whatever he is doing. This only decent human moment is when on the way to Mexico is asked why the A-Team doesn’t just get some cash and head for somewhere neutral, like Switzerland. “We’re not Swiss,” he comments. “We’re Americans, we might be having some trouble right now, but…” As you can see, there’s a lot to like about the characters and the show’s premise, which saw a bit of a relaunch as a film a few years ago. But the show itself is just a little bit uneven as an episode. We spend so much time in the first episode just getting the team to Mexico that the second part is rushed and you get the feeling some stuff is missing. There’s also the stilted action set pieces with the stunt double standing in for Peppard being at times laughable obvious, taking me out of the show more than once. But this isn’t high art, this isn’t blockbuster action, this is Saturday afternoon filler. That it does very well and when you try to appreciate it as such, the questions of where you get the guns, or why in tons of shots fired, no one ever gets shot, or even how such visually distinct people as B.A. and Hannibal ever hide anywhere, are simply irrelevant to your enjoyment. It’s just a cartoon, just with actors instead of animation, in the same way, that the Flintstones was a sit-com, that just happened to be animated.

Verdict:

Does it work?

As an action adventure show, not as such, but as a live action GI Joe, yeah.

Does it need fixing?

Yes, the charisma-challenged Tim Dunigan was quickly replaced by the highly entertaining Dirk Benedict and the team started getting around in the signature black GMC van with the diagonal red stripe and the 90-minute long story was gone and it was a leaner 45-minute story.

Does it stand up?

No, no, no it doesn’t. Like much from that era, it has dated very badly.

Did I want to watch the next one?

No, it really didn’t do much for me, nostalgia notwithstanding. My 7 year old son? Loved the s**t out of it.

Did I enjoy it?

Yes, it was ridiculous and above all fun, perfect Saturday afternoon telly.

Overall: 3 out of 5, conditionally.

Still I am glad I watched it again.

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Author:

Liverpool based family man and unrepentant geek, trying to understand what's going on in my own head, which is not always being a good place to be. Remember always, we live in a world of wonders.

One thought on “The A-Team: In which we learn that Hannibal liked dressing in Yellow Face (Done)

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