"Air America" is an absolute gem for fans of unintentionally cheesy entertainment. The series aired from 1998-1999 in syndication, but one would swear while watching that they've been transported back to the 80's, as "Air America" often resembles a hilarious, Z-grade "A-Team"/"Magnum P.I."-style action series. The show is (quite) loosely based on the Robert Downey, Jr./Mel Gibson 1990 picture of the same name, and stars none other than Lorenzo Lamas as former CIA agent Rio Arnett, who runs "Air America", an undercover operation that has him and a partner - Wiley Ferrell (played by Scott Plank) - posing as ordinarily pilots by day, transporting people and goods. However, when there's trouble, the two agents fly off in search of counterfeiters, smugglers and other assorted baddies. There's also an uneasy romance for Rio in the owner of the local hotel, Alison Stratton (played by Diana Barton), who doesn't care much for Rio, but can't help but secretly fall for him. Lamas' own wife (Shauna Sand-Lamas) has a bit part as the hotel's waitress.
The series certainly isn't of high quality in many regards, but it plays it well enough to be mindless fun. As for what doesn't work, the action sequences are particularly weak, with some funny visual effects and fight sequences that look like the rehearsal was filmed (people approaching each other slowly as if they're going through the choreography of the scene for the first time, punches that don't look like they're connecting, punches that come from off-screen in the middle of the fight and editing choices that occasionally make the fight scenes feel even more pieced together than they already are.)
The acting isn't really any better, but at least Lamas and most of the rest of the cast don't play the material entirely seriously. The scripts that the cast has to work with remain generic action/drama offerings with some classically clunky one-liners. Despite the fact that the plots are basic fare, the show gives us a narration that spells out what's currently going on in the episode. You also have to love the computer screen-style opening credits that offer up the "secret files" that explain who the show's main characters are.
Overall, this is by no means a series that's done well, but it's cheesy in a way that manages to lift it up to the level of mindless, silly fun for those in the mood for a corny hunk of action/drama cheddar.
Note: the series only lasted one season, but 4 of the 26 episodes were not shown.Those four episodes - the 2-part opening episodes and two finale episodes - have been included here for all the "Air America" fans, although these episodes have been grouped together towards the end of the 6-DVD set.
1. 1- 1 Betrayal
2. 1- 2 Safe Passage
3. 1- 3 3 Oct 98 Lost City
4. 1- 4 10 Oct 98 Hostage Situation
5. 1- 5 17 Oct 98 Crosshairs
6. 1- 6 24 Oct 98 Abduction
7. 1- 7 31 Oct 98 Seller's Market
8. 1- 8 7 Nov 98 Rebound
9. 1- 9 14 Nov 98 The Hit
10. 1-10 21 Nov 98 High Noon in Costa Perdida
11. 1-11 28 Nov 98 Till Death
12. 1-12 5 Dec 98 Fever
13. 1-13 16 Jan 99 The Witness
14. 1-14 23 Jan 99 Old Gold
15. 1-15 30 Jan 99 Fear of Flying
16. 1-16 6 Feb 99 Engraved Danger
17. 1-17 13 Feb 99 Catch-23
18. 1-18 20 Feb 99 Eye of the Storm
19. 1-19 27 Feb 99 The Court Martial of Rio Arnett
20. 1-20 27 Mar 99 The Rescue
21. 1-21 1 May 99 Blown Away
22. 1-22 8 May 99 Heartbreak Hotel
23. 1-23 15 May 99 Red Sub
24. 1-24 22 May 99 American Gulag
25. 1-25 The Cure
26. 1-26 The Miracle
VIDEO: "Air America" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The series already appears dated in its general look and this transfer doesn't exactly help matters. Sharpness and detail are generally average, as the picture occasionally had some soft moments, but mostly looked decently crisp.
While definition was passable, the picture offen suffered from a series of issues, including a lot of grain, some dirt and occasional minor marks/debris on the elements. Some light edge enhancement and a few minor traces of pixelation are also occasionally spotted. Colors appeared bright and warm, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The stereo soundtrack sounds perfectly adequate, with acceptable clarity, but with little power behind the sound effects. Overall, the audio delivers about what one would reasonably expect from the material.
EXTRAS: If you count the bonus episodes as extras, then those are included here. Otherwise, there's no supplements offered.
Final Thoughts: "Air America" offers sub-par acting, action, effects and writing, but there's still some mindless amusement and laughs to be had from the series for lovers of bad TV. The DVD set offers so-so video and audio quality, along with no supplements. It's also quite pricey at $49.99. Fans of this kind of schlock TV may want to try a rental, but I'd otherwise recommend skipping it.