"In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped 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": You Either Loved It or Hated It

"The problem is that the people who created the show had no idea
what it was. They didn't understand what the show was because it
became something other than what they intended. The network hated
us; the people in authority were like the military in the show,
trying to control us. We took control of it. We made it
much funnier than it was, and we made it much more
politically incorrect than it was intended to be. All the liberals
in Hollywood hated it; they hated the cigars, the guns,
the bravado and the fact we always thought we were right."

- Dirk Benedict

"The A-Team" has been a guilty pleasure for the two generations of viewers who have embraced the series. It never attempted to be "Masterpiece Theater", but 'cotton candy for the brain', with the best episodes replaying the same scenario over and over (Underdog gets mauled by Big Bad Villain and his Baddies...calls in Our Heroes, who end up defending the Underdog on a 'deferred payment' plan...Our Heroes Stomp the Baddies, then get themselves captured...in true "MacGyver"-like fashion, they use the materials at hand, creating homemade lethal, yet non-fatal weapons in insanely short order...the Baddies are Crushed, and Our Heroes split, seconds before the Authorities arrive to arrest them).

"The A-Team are...the worst shots in the world."

- George Peppard

"In five years, we never killed anybody."

- Dwight Schultz

What made the series so entertaining was never the 'ritual' of the plots, however; it was because of the chemistry of the stars. Hannibal (the Leader), B.A. (the Muscle/Mechanic), Face (the Con Man), and Murdock (the Nut) were all very likable guys, and seemed to enjoy every moment together...and fans of the series have always 'picked up' on that camaraderie.

Col. John "Hannibal" Smith

Lt. Templeton "Faceman" Peck

Capt. H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock

Sgt. "B.A." Baracus


The brainchild of Stephen Cannell and Frank Lupo (based on a suggestion by NBC's Brandon Tartikoff for a "Mad Max"/"Dirty Dozen"-style series), the network loved the finished concept of the show, and gave the series a prime 'starting' point, airing the pilot episode after a Super Bowl, guaranteeing great initial ratings. Featuring Tim Dunigan as 'Face' (as NBC didn't want Dirk Benedict in the series, initially; Cannell and Lupo, who did, would prevail, after the wildly successful pilot was aired), the show benefited enormously from the presence of 30-year-old ex-bouncer/bodyguard Mr. T ("Shut up, fool!"), whose ROCKY 3 portrayal as 'Clubber Lang' had made him an overnight sensation.

With a truly unique 'image', massive strength, and a growling, antisocial 'attitude' masking a soft heart, Mr. T quickly won a large fan following, particularly among children, and generated the kind of positive 'buzz' the show needed to become a hit..

Another 'plus' was George Peppard's return to weekly television; after an early meteoric rise to movie stardom ("Breakfast at Tiffany", "How the West Was Won", "The Carpetbaggers"), a combination of alcoholism and abusive behavior had short-circuited his career, until he re-emerged in television's "Banecek", about a brilliant insurance investigator, which became a very successful NBC series...until he walked off the show. Cannell, who had been one of the writers of "Banecek", understood the ex-alcoholic Peppard's occasional mood swings, and offered the 54-year-old star a large salary and a lot of creative control in the new series, resulting in one of the happier periods in Peppard's tragic life.

"George Peppard was very old-fashioned and proper, with lots of stories.
I liked him. But he was...difficult...on the set, as he'd take a script and cross out all his lines
...and since half our lines were reactions to his, it wasn't easy."

- Dirk Benedict

"I wasn't onstage projecting to the back row. I was acting for
the lens, which was right in front of me. I learned a lot
from that job."

- Dwight Schultz

A major discovery for "The A-Team" was Dwight Schultz, 35, as 'Howling Mad Murdock', the most eccentric member of the team. A remarkably versatile stage actor, Schultz was adept at accents, physical comedy, and rapid-fire one-liners, and his frequent confrontations with Mr. T were funny without ever being demeaning. Peppard took a liking to his wildly inventive co-star, and the warmth between the pair could be seen in nearly every episode, as well as between Peppard and Mr. T (who was genuinely kind, and very funny).

With the arrival of Dirk Benedict, 37, the sexy, break-out star of the short-lived "Battlestar Galactica" series (who brought a large female fanbase, along with his likable cockiness and wry humor as 'Faceman'), Peppard had all the elements he felt were necessary to make "The A-Team" successful...

...which didn't bode well for the one female regular, beautiful 28-year-old Melinda Culea, as ace investigative reporter 'Amy Allen'. Although she gave the show a more balanced slant, and was excellent in her supporting role, she complained constantly that her character didn't receive enough attention (even when reminded that the series was built around four Vietnam vets) and about the size of her paycheck (which was considerably less than her male co-stars). Peppard always considered her as a 'fifth wheel', although, according to the other cast members and crew, he was never less than kind to her, on the set...but when she was virtually 'written out' of much of the first half of Season Two, and eventually dropped, it was generally assumed that George Peppard had used his leverage to oust her, which he denied ("Well you know, nobody likes to rock the boat in television and...Stephen Cannell who was the owner and co-creator of the series was prepared to replace the people"), but which Cannell would admit, in later interviews, was true ("I think George was wrong, but it was his decision").

A new female character was introduced for the last few episodes of Season Two, played by 25-year-old actress Marla Heasley, but her character would remain less active, and would have a story 'arc' that would have her leave the series early into Season Three, in 1985.

In-Person Mr. T. Autograph, 2001
"I pity the fool who goes out tryin' a' take over da world,
then runs home cryin' to his momma!"

"It takes a smart guy to play dumb."

-Mr. T

Each of the four 'Team' members had their own quirky idiosyncrasies, which were as much fun to watch as their 'missions'; Hannibal, in addition to his ability to concoct farfetched schemes at a moment's notice (as B.A. would moan, "Uh-oh, Hannibal's on the jazz again...") loved show business, and proudly displayed his acting prowess, whether encased in a 'monster' suit on a movie set, or testing potential clients in a variety of make-ups (lighting his ever-present cigar); Face dreamed of wealth and 'The Good Life', and was always scamming his way into swank clubs and condos; Murdock invented a variety of imaginary friends (the best-known being Billy, the Invisible Dog), and would spend entire episodes trying to get B.A. to 'see' them; and B.A. had a sheer terror of flying, requiring clever tricks to knock him out so he could be loaded into airplanes on missions. Great fun, and elements that lifted "The A-Team" above the other action/adventure series of the eighties.

"I enjoyed it immensely. By nature I'm terribly serious, so as
an actor I tend to want to be silly. It was a comedic show,
almost like a cartoon. We just had to hang on to enough
reality to make it possible for adults to watch it. The
actors I worked with, especially Mr T and Dwight Schultz were
very funny people. It was pretty much four years of laughter."

- Dirk Benedict

Unfortunately, a television show with a single concept, no matter how enjoyable the cast, can't run indefinitely, and by the fourth season, "The A-Team" had pretty well exhausted all the variations that writers could imagine, and ratings plummeted. Entertainment figures (Hulk Hogan, Boy George and the Culture Club, Isaac Hayes, Rick James, "Wheel of Fortune" hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White) guest-starred in weak efforts to attract viewers, and an episode introducing a beautiful, martial arts-trained Vietnamese girl (Tia Carrere) as a potential new cast member barely raised a ripple (the idea would be dropped). NBC demanded Cannell make major changes to the series.

"Cannell and Lupo were both writers, and wrote great scripts,
but later on, they weren't writing them, others were...
The first seasons were the best..."

- Dwight Schultz

"I had a nice time with the cast, particularly Mr T who was a certified maniac.
Clinically insane, I think you'd call him."

- Robert Vaughn

Bowing to network pressure, the fifth season began by having the A-Team finally captured and court-martialed. Escaping with the aid of new regular Frankie Santana (Eddie Velez), the team soon found themselves 'prisoners' of a secret government agency run by Gen. Hunt Stockwell (Robert Vaughn), who offered them full pardons if they would take on a number of assignments "too risky" for the U.S. intelligence community to handle (a wretched old chestnut of a plot device that was already ancient when it was used in "Alias Smith and Jones" and "It Takes a Thief"). Most episodes sank to formulaic "Mission Impossible" clones, with George Peppard's authority lost to new boss/'puppetmaster' Vaughn, and the 'blue-collar' charm of the earlier seasons sadly absent. Not surprisingly, the most memorable of the fifth season episodes was 'gimmick'-driven, as Robert Vaughn's former co-star from "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.", David McCallum, guested, as Stockwell's ex-partner, now a villain working for the Chinese, complete with many 'U.N.C.L.E.' references...nostalgic, perhaps, but as an "A-Team" episode???

Ratings continued to nosedive, and "The A-Team" was canceled, after just 13 episodes had aired. While loyal fans mourned, few were surprised.

Quick-sketch of Mr. T signing autographs,
signed by Mr. T!

My A-Team Caricature...


"The show became an out-of-control freight train that would never stop..."

- George Peppard

What HAS been a surprise is the worldwide 'cult' status the series has achieved in the years since it left the air. George Peppard, who admitted he was relieved to see the series end, would, sadly, not survive to enjoy the grudging respect the series has finally been granted, as well as a long-overdue recognition of his amazing comeback, after overcoming alcoholism and his psychological demons (dying in 1994, at 65, from pneumonia, following treatment for lung cancer). For Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, and Mr. T, the still-growing popularity of "The A-Team" has been a source of pride and amazement (Schultz, who went on to have a recurring role as 'Lt. Barclay', in "Star Trek: The Next Generation", and STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, was stunned, when attending his first "Star Trek" Convention, that the attendees preferred to reminisce about "The A-Team", rather than "Star Trek"!).

In fact, the series was still so popular that a major motion picture, with Stephen Cannell producing, and starring Oscar nominee Liam Neeson as Hannibal, and Bradley Cooper as Face (with cameos by Benedict and Schultz...Mr. T declined to appear, feeling the film was too graphically violent), hit the nation's theaters in 2010...although reviews were mixed (you can't beat the original chemistry), it still brought in respectable, if not blockbuster totals (in a season oversaturated with action films). For Cannell, who passed away October 1, 2010, it was a satisfying coda to a thirty-year involvement.

Not bad for a 'single concept' series!

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