"In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a
military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly
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,
one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the
With the release of a big-budget A-Team
movie right around
the corner (as I write this), Universal has decided to put out the
series of the original A-Team
in a nice big black van package that looks nice
on a shelf.
For those of you too young to remember, the A-Team was a hit
show from the 80's the coined the phrases "I love it when a plan comes
together" and the ubiquitous (at the time) "I pity the fool...." Filled with over the top cartoon violence and
a healthy dose of comedy, the show is a lot of fun but far removed from
For those who aren't familiar with the show, it's about a
military squad who served in Viet Nam.
As the US
was pulling out of that conflict, they were sent on a top secret raid
bank. Trying to cross the border with a
truck load of cash they were arrested, but their explanation that they
a secret mission couldn't be verified.
Their superior who sent them on the raid was killed and his
destroyed along with all of the records.
They were brought state-side for trial, but mysteriously escaped
sentence could be passed. Now they're on
the run from their own government, traveling the country helping out
need while staying one step ahead of the various agents who are out to
The A-Team is lead by Colonel John "Hannibal"
Smith (George Peppard), a master of disguise who and brains of the
outfit. He's the one who comes up with the
plans that have a slim chance of working, and then manages to pull it
off. He's supported by "Face" (Dirk
conman who can acquire just about anything from a private jet to armor
on short notice and with no money, "Howling Mad" Murdock (Dwight
Schultz) the pilot and semi-comic relief (he got his nickname because
totally crazy (in a funny way of course!
In the 80's crazy people were funny the same way drunks were
the 50's and 60's), and B.A. Baracus (Mr. T) the strong man of the team. (The BA stands for "Bad Attitude", not
"Bad Ass" this was network TV of course.)
Initially they're assisted by plucky reporter Amy Allen
(Melinda Culea). She gets them
information from her newspaper sources and, as she boasts in the pilot,
actually has access to a computer at work!
About half way through the second season she's replaced by
(Marla Heasley) who finishes out the season.
Over the course of the five seasons, there's little
variation to the basic plot. The A-Team
encounters someone regular, average person who needs their help going
against a powerful individual or group, they come up with some crazy
take down the baddie, something goes wrong, and finally they're force
a solution in which a lot of things go "boom" before the happy
The writers knew what their target audience wanted and made
sure to give it to them each week, which leads to the critique that has
almost universally leveled against the show:
It is very formulaic. Yeah, it
is. But so what? Most
shows are (how many times did Lucy try
to get into the act at Ricky's club on I
Love Lucy?) It's an enjoyable
formula though and like many of today's action shows (like Leverage
or Burn Notice,
two shows I enjoy) The A-Team is not
meant to be taken seriously. It's
escapist fun, and if you enjoy seen a group of guys cornered in an old
with only an acetylene welding rig, some high compression springs, a
lot of sheet
metal, four bowling balls and a jack hammer fight their way past the
that's waiting for them on the outside, this is the show for you. And honestly, who wouldn't enjoy that.
It's a little harder to suspend your disbelief when it comes
to the cartoon-like action scenes. There
are frequent machine gun fights, Murdoch will drop bombs on the enemy,
flying left and right, but it's very rare that anyone gets hurt (unless
integral to the plot.) It's almost
comical the way machine gun bullets will plow a path at the feet of the
(or the A-Team themselves) or how a jeep will run over a mine, flip in
and land with a 'thud' only to have the driver get out and run for
without a scratch on him. But the show
is escapist fun that the whole family can enjoy and that sort of thing
comes with a body count.
There isn't much continuity in the program, and even
subplots get dropped without mention when they've outworn their welcome. (BA's fear of flying and breaking Mad Dog out
of the psychiatric hospital are a couple of examples.)
The military officers who are hounding them
change on a regular basis without much explanation too.
They do keep up the 'fugitives from justice'
theme though, up until the last season.
In season five the creators were faced with falling ratings
season four had a larger share of weak episodes) so they tried to
formula a little to bring in new viewers, but not enough to alienate
that were still watching. In this season
the A-Team is captured and found guilty of killing their old commanding
(the one who sent them on the bank heist.)
Faced with execution, they agree to work under the command of
Hunt Stockwell (Robert Vaughn) who will give them dangerous, sometimes
suicidal, missions. If they do as he
says however, they'll all earn Presidential pardons and become free men. This season also sees the addition of Frankie
Santana (Eddie Velez), a special effects expert who becomes a member of
These changes didn't work that well. Having
the group work for the government took
some of the excitement out of the show, but worse was Frankie Santana
really fit in and came across as annoying.
That's not to say the season was bad, it wasn't.
It just wasn't as good as the years that
preceded it. There were still some
enjoyable episodes and this final outing is still worth watching. It's only 13 episodes long, so really a half
season, but the show ended at the right time.
It ran its course taken as a whole it's a really good series.
The packaging, like the show itself, is a bit over the top
which is cool. This complete series set
arrives in a cool A-Team van-style cardboard case.
Opening up the back reveals five single width
keepcases, each with a single season. One
of the nice things about this is that the cases inside the van are
their side, so that the van itself is slightly shorter than a regular
case. Smart thinking Universal - this
will fit on a DVD shelf with no problems.
I really like it.
Recorded in the 80's, the show is presented with a two
channel mono soundtrack. It's a shame
that there wasn't a 5.1 mix available for the show, since it really
benefited from one, especially during the action scenes.
As it is the program sounds fine, thought he
range is a bit limited. There's some
slight distortion in some of the louder scenes, especially in the
seasons, which I was surprised to hear. All five seasons have English SDH subtitles.
The full frame image is okay. Like the
audio, it's limited to the
technology available when it was made.
The picture isn't very sharp, and the colors are a bit on the
but nothing too drastic. There is a
little bit of print damage, a spot here and there, but it's very minor. On the digital side of things the show looks
pretty good. There's some minor
aliasing, but that's about it.
This collection ports over all of the bonus items from the
single-season sets, which isn't saying much.
There is a episode of Knight Rider with the season two set, and
A-Team episode' with season four: "Point
of No Return" which is from season 5 (and hence included twice in the
collection.) Season five has a nice
Rumors of Soldiers of Fortune, in
which series creator Stephen J. Cannell is interviewed about the
genesis of the
program and working with the cast. I was
a bit disappointed that there wasn't more extra included.
Who wouldn't enjoy a commentary track by the
surviving members of the team reminiscing about the show and its
popularity? I'd love something like
that, but alas there isn't one.
An iconic show from the 80's, The A-Team is still fun with
it's over the top cartoon violence and its unforgettable characters. It's an enjoyable way to spend a mindless 45
minutes. While the lack of solid extras
is a disappointing, the collectable packaging is cook and takes some of
sting out of that omission. Fans of the
show that already have the individual seasons don't need to upgrade,
people who haven't gotten around to adding this classic to their
set comes with a strong recommendation.