The A-Team

Some notes on the A-team, reprinted from a prior roundup: Speaking of breaking people out of mental institutions, The A-Team ran for 5 seasons and 98 episodes, premiering after the Super Bowl in 1983 and lasting until 1987. The show’s iconic opening narration best describes it:

Here’s the thing: the “crime they didn’t commit” thing is some bullshit. The backstory, finally revealed in season 4, is that the A-Team were special ops in Vietnam and had been ordered to rob the bank of Hanoi. In that old spy-genre cliche, their commanding officer was murdered and HQ burned, leaving no record of their orders. So they are court-martialed, escape from the aforementioned maximum security stockade to the aforementioned LA underground, and live as mercenaries. OK, but they actually did commit the crime. The A-Team were war criminals. I feel so lied to.

Going by memory, the bulk of each episode is taken up by some combination of a) breaking Murdock out of a mental hospital, 2) tricking Mr. T into drinking a glass of drugged milk to get him onto a plane, d) suave conman Templeton “Face” Peck spitting game, often successfully, at the only woman on that week’s show, or 5) developing an elaborate costume for Hannibal. I was never clear on how Murdock can be in a government mental institution while the entire team is lamming from…the government.

Hannibal in costume

One of the more interesting critical takes on The A-Team is that it represents the culmination of normalizing the Vietnam War in American culture. Following critical, trenchant works like The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now, The A-Team is unambiguous jingoistic wish-fulfillment: the brash, irascible good guys heroically fighting against murky, bureaucratic authority figures and winning the day. The violence is sanitized (actual death and serious injury are rare, despite the show’s predilection for gun play and car crashes), and so is the morality (and so is Murdock’s severe mental illness, for that matter). Incidentally, that review is from Mary Harron, who would go on to direct American Psycho, which is of note inasmuch as it uses incredibly unsanitized violence to satirize the normalization of greed and amorality in the very Reagan’s America where the A-Team operates.

Best A-Team episode titles: Mexican Slayride (wonderfully, this was the pilot), The Maltese Cow, Say it with Bullets, Chopping Spree, Lease with an Option to Die, Bullets and Bikinis, The Rabbit who ate Las Vegas, and Mission of Peace.


appeared in: processed trivia roundup