"In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. They 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."
Hold the phone, folks. With The A-Team- Season Five, The Final Season all of that changes. Those long familiar words are no longer broadcast at the beginning of each episode, and with good reason. When the ratings for season four fell dramatically, the show changed their format in the 1986-1987 season in an attempt to regain its audience. The result? After years on the lam from authorities, the A-Team is finally apprehended and given a choice between prison- effectively execution- or working with a covert government operation led by one General Hunt Stockwell (Robert Vaughn) taking on secret op missions, with the carrot of a full pardon dangled in front of them somewhere down the road.
Here is a synopsis of the Season Five episodes-
Dishpan Man (Part 1 of 3)- In this rousing season premiere, The A-Team takes heroics to new heights when they attempt to rescue the passengers of a hijacked airplane but end up wearing handcuffs.
Trial By Fire (Part 2 of 3)- The story continues as Hannibal, Face and B.A, facing a military trial for murder, must choose between proving their own innocence and protecting Murdock from bogus charges.
Firing Line (Part 3 of 3)- The conclusion to the three part story; Murdock and soon to be team member Frankie race against the clock in search of an escape plan for their friends who are awaiting execution.
Quarterback Sneak- Liberty is the name of the game when The A-Team arranges an exhibition football match in East Berlin as a ruse to help a biochemist and his wife escape to freedom.
The Theory Of Revolution- Hannibal disappears while tracking stolen plutonium, and in their race to find him, Face, B.A., and Murdock battle a double agent.
The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair- Fear takes flight when General Stockwell orders the confiscation of a Russian jet and then disappears. Of note here is guest star David McCallum, Vaughn's old co-star from their 60's "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." series. series.
Alive At Five- It's a tough job for The A-Team when a beautiful undercover reporter learns of a plot to murder the future president of the National Brotherhood of Labor Unions.
Family Reunion- The A-Team receives orders to reunite a daughter withe her father, a fugitive criminal who has recently completed a controversial memoir.
Point Of No Return- General Stockwell sends the team to the tiny island of San Marcos, where they try to assist American intelligence agents who have been taken prisoner by a ruthless dictator.
The Crystal Skull- Appearances can be deceiving when the A-Team winds up on an island where the natives declare Murdock a god and corrupt monks are exploiting diamond miners.
The Spy Who Mugged Me- Murdock goes undercover as a secret agent in an assignment to locate a cold-blooded terrorist and stop an assassination plot.
The Grey Team- The A-Team takes on the KGB, who are in pursuit of a young girl who has hidden top secret documents about the Strategic Defense initiative- also known as Star Wars.
Without Reservations- Murdock learns that the restaurant business can be murder when his job waiting tables leads to the discovery of an assassination plot.
Season Five- The Final Season gets off to a rather rousing start; in a period where two and three episode television plotlines were becoming common, the show used that method with which to more or less revamp the vehicle, doing so in several prominent ways. The boys are at long last captured- though in a rather mundane way considering all their happowing escapes in episodes past- by the mysterious General Stockwell, and finally brought to trial for that "crime they didn't commit" we had been hearing about in the opening of each show for the prior four seasons. Suddenly the fellas weren't running from the law anymore; they were working for the government rather than being hunted down by it. On more than one occasion the show rather amusingly brings up media applications in regards to the A-Team; in a show-within-a-show manner, we see reporters howling about the fact that "the famous A-Team" has been apprehended. The boys are urban legends, renowned celebrities, even in their fictional world. Its actually a grim beginning/ending that plays out here, one in which the squad is "executed" then hustled off to a rather posh resort that is to serve as their prison (Watergate convictions, anyone?) with babes, cookouts, and volleyball on the lawn until overseer and commander in chief Stockwell comes barreling in to give them hot potato mission after mission the government can't be openly involved in. The A-Team has become Bond-ian, folks. Is it any wonder we have The Man From U.N.C.L.E. playing CEO? Bringing in Robert Vaughn was inspired casting, and in my opinion a bit of a coup for the series.
The series also introduced a new "member", one Frankie Santana (Eddie Velez), who at the outset was working with Stockwell under considerable duress. Frankie's role with the squad is to be the demolitions/explosives expert, thought why the A-Team, renowned for blowing stuff up across the world week after week would need such an addition is beyond me. He's a bit of a jack of all trades character-wise. A little nutty at times ala' Murdock, with the good looks to get the girls that indomitable pretty boy Face doesn't scoop up, my guess is that the main reason for adding him to the cast was an attempt to widen their ethnic audience, taking a shot at appealing to potential Latino/Spanish viewers. While I've read some disparaging things about the inclusion of Santana from A-Team fans ( and in fact was myself a bit plussed at his inclusion in the days the show was running prime time) he kind of grows on you. I don't have a problem with Frankie- he's a bit of an everyman who suddenly finds himself among the elite, renowned A-Team and holds his own rather well.
The problem is, another member seems to do more harm than good; Frankie takes a good amount of air time away from the other members, and there are only so many minutes to go around each week; I presume this is in part to give the audience a feel for his character, as we had already had four seasons to get acquainted with the rest of the boys, but having built an audience with them did we necessarily need to see them take a bit of a backseat to the rookie? The cast also seems somehow homogenized in comparison to seasons past- Murdock isn't quite so outlandish and crazy, Face doesn't project as being so suave and charming as he was, and B.A. isn't the seething, scowling brute force we saw in seasons of yore. Only Hannibal comes across as being the arrogant, crafty old commander he had always been, but that may be because Peppard (who's sadly looking particularly paunchy in these final episodes) insisted on a good deal of on-screen exposure each week. Word always was that Peppard was a hard actor to work with, but that doesn't seem to be the cause of the A-Team's meltdown.
Ultimately, the producers went to the trouble of renovating everything to give The A-Team a new life, but the writing couldn't sustain it. After four seasons, the writers simply don't seem to know where else to go once they've gotten past that uber-opening 3 part revamping. While the weekly bits of banter between the team and Vaughn are well worth watching, the missions aren't as much fun as they used to be. The series was already notorious for several familiar bits being used again and again, and even plotlines that gave the viewer a feeling of deja vu on more than one occasion, but here there seemed to be too many additional flaws working against the show to breeze by that, regardless of the reimagining the series had been afforded.The result is, the show is still fun, but this old wine in a new bottle has stopped aging well- the concoction comes across as flat rather than sparkling.
At 13 episodes clocking at at 10 hours and 22 minutes, the set is comprised of three single-sided discs in slim cases and housed in a cardboard sleeve.
Aspect ratio here is 1.33:1 full frame. All things considered, the picture quality is pretty darn good. I see little in the way of dirt or print damage, colors are well rendered and sharpness, while not razor sharp, is adequate.
The only audio track here is English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono; it's an unexciting track, but there is sufficient dynamics to keep the viewer satisfied.
"Rumors of Soldiers of Fortune" interview featurette with creator Stephen J. Cannell- series creator Cannell shares stories about creating the series and iconic characters, behind-the-scenes- moments and working with the remarkable cast.
This is the A-Team's final go-round, folks. That there were only 13 episodes produced indicates that the show was in a grave state by the time season five began filming. Many longtime fans didn't care for the concept of The A-Team working for the government, but I'm one of the viewers who thought it was in the shows best interest to evolve. Unfortunately, it couldn't find it's footing having done so. Still, being a fan of both the show and the fact that Cannell and company took a stab making the series fresh up to the end, I recommend it.