For anyone living under a rock who doesn't know who or what The A-Team is, the intro to each and every episode of the series more or less fills you in on what you need to know:
"Ten years ago, 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."
Cue instantly recognizable theme song!
Made up of Hannibal (the brains behind the operation, played by George Peppard), B. A. 'Bad Attitude' Baracus (the muscle, played by the always fashionable Mr. T), Face (the suave master of disguise as played by Dirk Benedict) and Captain H. M. 'Howling Mad' Murdoch (the comic relief/pilot played by Dwight Schultz), these soldiers of fortune had a talent for building tanks out of old cars and shoot lots of things but never actually killing anyone. When contacted, they'd rush onto the scene and save the day, making the world a safer place for the innocent all the while trying to avoid capture by the authorities, usually lead by Colonel Lynch (William Lucking), who still place them at the top of their most wanted list.
With their origins more or less explained to us in the first two seasons, the second season reeled viewers in by concentrating on action over storytelling and by laying on the gunfights and explosions as thick as possible while still managing to turn in some semblance of a plot each week. The acting and character development and the plot and continuity come second to shoot outs and car chases here, resulting in show that is as dumb as it is completely enjoyable in an eighties camp sort of way.
Highlight episodes from the third season include:
Bullets And Bikinis: In the season opener, two lovely young ladies named Sandy and Tina who run a beachfront hotel run afoul of some nefarious mobsters who are trying to buy them out. The girls refuse each and every offer until the thugs start to get rough with them, at which point they wisely bring in the A-Team to run the place for them until things cool down one way or another.
The Bend In The River: The only two part episode of the season follows the A-Team as they head into the brush to try and track down Tanya's missing fiance who was attacked by some wily pirates while looking for archeological artifacts in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. Richard Moll, best known as Bull from Night Court, shows up in this one.
Double Heat: When a mafia accountant gets stuck in a squabble between two crime syndicates, his daughter ends up being kidnapped to be used as a bargaining chip in the dispute. Rather than call in the cops and risk even further problems, he calls in the A-Team to save his kid and stop the war.
The Island: B.A.'s life was saved on the battlefield by a doctor who now needs the A-Team's help when a gang of criminals, lead by a man with an iron fist and no small amount of martial arts skills, takes over the twenty square mile island. Luckily for the A-Team, there's an old tank laying around that they can rebuild and use to stop the army of evil.
Showdown!: That dastardly Colonel Lynch is back on the scene and after the team supreme when he tracks down a team of men impersonating the A-Team at a wild west show. He figures that the real A-Team will show up and put a stop to them and he's right, but it's not going to be easy to catch them – it never is.
Sheriffs Of Rivertown: Robert Davi of Die-Hard and the two Maniac Cop sequels guest stars in this episode where the A-Team make their way to South America to restore order at a factory town that hinges on chaos after a rash of murders takes place.
Hot Styles: Face has a way with the ladies, we all know this, but sometimes he picks the wrong one. This seems to be the case when the A-Team has to rescue his current squeeze from the mob – she couldn't be more ungrateful for their help, and something is obviously amiss with her… but what? Markie Post shows up here as the flame.
Cup A' Joe: A couple of buddies run a small coffee shop that becomes the target of a the mob who want them to sell their business to them at a cut throat rate so that he can take advantage of the influx of traffic that will soon be there what with the new highway going in around the corner and all. The A-Team are called in to fight for the little guy.
The Big Squeeze: Featuring the immortal Wings Hauser in a cameo role, this time out the A-Team are asked to stop a merciless loan shark who is terrifying local restaurant owners with his threats and big muscle back up. The A-Team open up their own restaurant (they can do that you know) to try and lure him to them so that they can spring their trap and take him down.
Moving Targets: Watch for John Saxon of Enter The Dragon and Black Christmas in this one! A wealthy middle eastern man is pretty stoked that his daughter is going to be marrying a man he chose for her until she decides that's not exactly what she wants to do in life. Oddly enough, the A-Team come in to smooth things over for them.
The complete third season of The A-Team, which ran from September 19, 1984 through to May 14, 1985, is comprised in its entirety of the following episodes in the following order:
Bullets And Bikinis
Bend In The River (Parts One And Two)
Trouble On Wheels
Sheriffs Of Rivertown
The Bells Of St. Mary's
Cup A' Joe
The Big Squeeze
Knights Of The Road
Beverly Hills Assault
Incident At Crystal Lake
How does The A-Team hold up, twenty years after the fact? Well, not so well in some regards, but perfectly well in others. As an adult, it's obvious how poorly written and completely ridiculous the show is right from the start. There's nothing even close to realism and in this day and age of gritty crime drama like C.S.I. or even less realistic crime fighting fare like Alias it's easy to dismiss The A-Team as garbage. At the same time, as completely brainless fun, the series still works. Sure, after one or two episodes we can predict how the rest of them are going to end (here's a hint – they'll probably build a tank of some sort) and it's kind of baffling when you think about how easy it would have been for Lynch and company to catch them so many times over but there is a naïve charm to the material that does work in its favor as nothing more than fun entertainment.
The main characters are likeable and while the operate out of reach from law enforcement agencies, they chose their missions wisely and always end up fighting on the side of good. The violence is completely over the top and as gratuitous as you can get but no one ever gets hurt too bad and there's rarely a trace of actual bloodshed to be found. Maybe this desensitized viewers of the era but now it seems harmless and while the show at times caters to the lowest common denominator, it's still a fun ride if for no other reason than it features Mr. T in red sweat pants and camo jackets on a pretty regular basis.
Much like on the first two seasons of The A-Team, the picture quality on these episodes, all shown in their correct fullframe aspect ratio, is a mixed bag. The good – there is plenty of detail evident in the picture, and the colors look really nice. The picture is sharp and flesh tones look nice and natural. Sounds perfect, right? Well, there's a lot of edge enhancement on this release, and it does get a tad distracting in a couple of scenes. There are even a few spots where the image is almost wiggly because of it. This brings the overall viewing experience down a bit because of it. There's also a bit of print damage constantly rearing its head throughout the series, though none of it is overly severe.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track sounds pretty good. The screeching of the tires on that great old black van, the pitter patter of machine gun fire, the explosions, oh and the dialogue too, they all come together nicely without any hiss or distortion problems at all. There definitely could have been a bit more bass, but the original episodes sounded that way when they first aired so it's not that big a deal. Overall, these episodes all sound very solid. There is an English closed captioning option as well as optional Spanish and French subtitles.
Aside from a commercial that plays at the beginning of disc one that advertises other television series available on DVD from Universal Studios, this set is completely barebones (unless you consider menus an extra).
The A-Team: The Complete Third Season comes recommended not on the strength of the presentation or the extra features (of which there really aren't any) but because it's a fun time capsule for a lot of us who grew up with the show. If you don't figure the nostalgia factor will kick in for you, there are definitely better things to spend your money on but for eighties pop culture junkies this set packs a whole lot of enjoyment into three discs worth of love.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.