Five reasons to love the A-Team

On the run and righting wrongs: Faceman, Hannibal, Murdock and B.A.
Picture: NBC
On the run and righting wrongs: Faceman, Hannibal, Murdock and B.A.

Back in the 80s, when you had a problem, these were the guys you hoped would turn up.

Hannibal, Faceman, Murdock and Bosco "B.A" Baracas - a lively bunch of renegades who could be called upon to dispense justice whenever armed bullies trampled on the helpless.

They are the A-Team and they turn 30 today.

Like Knight Rider, which made its debut five months earlier, The A-Team set the template for the family friendly action shows that dominated the TV schedules during the 80s.

Its influence on TV and popular culture cannot be overstated.

The show may have been about four Vietnam vets on the run but it was never about the dark side of life (America wasn't ready to go there just yet). Although the show pandered to boyish fascination with machine guns and all things military, villains didn't die violent deaths, they were arrested, and henchmen always managed to walk away from car crashes unscathed, if a little dazed.

Yes, it was formulaic, and yes, it was cheesy and cartoonish, but it was also great TV.  
Here are five reasons to love the show.

1. "Maybe you can hire...The A-Team"

Maybe the producers didn't trust the audience to get the set-up, but The A-Team's opening narration is a classic, up there with Star Trek's "Space, the final frontier". From the start you know these guys are on the run and not to be messed with. The military drum, the Nam footage and narrator John Ashley's insistent delivery all built up to a machine gun blasting the titles onto the screen. Mike Post's classic theme did the rest, grabbing viewers by the collar and throwing them head-first into the action.

2. Pity the fools

The A-Team was conceived as a vehicle for Mr T, a mouthy celeb bodyguard who found fame as Sylvester Stallone's opponent in Rocky III. It's no surprise then that the milk-loving, Mohawk-sporting, chain-loving, fool-pitying' hulk got all the best lines. Here are 15 of the best:

- Shut up fool, you ain't no fish!

- This is a ten on B.A. scale. Ten being total pain!

- I'm gonna split your personality, permanently!

- I'm gonna use your body as a car bumper!

- Little Lefty, meet BIG Lefty!

- This is my talking fist. His name is Knock-out. Do you want to hear Knock-out speak?

- I don't like Irish proverbs!

- This is dirt, fool, which I'm gonna stuff in your face if you don't shut up.

- A bunch of fools worshipping the King Fool of all time!

- I have no time for the jibber jabber!

- You don't shut up, Murdock, I'm gonna ring your gong for good.

- Looks like Hannibal is on the jazz again.

- (Holding an axe) This is my union card!

- I think maybe I wanna meet this dude, and maybe help him with his bridgework. Like bustin' up his mouth.

- You messed up bad. Now I have to mess you up. It's the law.

3. The Van

Knight Rider had a talking car and Airwolf a high-tech helicopter. The A-Team's ride wasn't as sexy or as sophisticated, and definitely not as well-armed, but it was every bit as iconic. The black and grey GMC Vandura van with distinctive red stripe and spoiler was every boy's dream set of wheels during the show's run. With B.A. in the driver's seat, it could match any car and perform the kind of road stunts Evel Knievel would be proud of.  

4. The team

There are those who've dismiss the show as simply Mr T and three other guys but the secret of the A-Team's success was that it was a team effort.

Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith (George Peppard)

The cigar-chomping master of disguise was the brains of the outfit and the team leader. He loved it when a plan came together. Fun fact: Peppard refused to talk to Mr T by the show's fifth season because he was jealous of all the attention Mr T was getting. Producers had to hire his close friend Robert Vaughn as a regular cast member just to get the season made.

Lieutenant Templeton "Faceman" Peck (Dirk Benedict)

Faceman was second in command and the show's resident Romeo. He used his good looks to win over the ladies, wheedle out info and charm his way out of tight spots. Fun fact: Benedict also played Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica.

Sergeant Bosco "B.A." Baracus (Mr T)

The A-Team's mechanical expert and tough guy with a heart of gold. He loved milk and his van and hated flying and fools. Bizarrely, for a man on the run, he had a very distinctive look. Fun fact: Mr T's real name is Laurence Tureaud.

Captain H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock (Dwight Schultz)

An ace pilot and an ace crazy man (he talked to an invisible dog named Billy), Murdock was the perfect foil for B.A. Without a doubt, the King of Fools. Fun fact: He gave his invisible dog to the people of Holland.

Two female reporters, Amy Allen and Tawnia Baker, also helped the team in the show's first two seasons but they were rarely part of the action and felt like a feeble attempt by the network to counter any charges the A-Team was a boy's club. Peppard, himself, felt woman had no right to be on the show, according to this interview in 1986:

"Whenever the studio slips an actress on to the team, she becomes a distraction. She always slows down the action. She's someone who's only there for the glamour shots. Everything stops for the sexy smiles - and I can't see why that's necessary on The A-Team."

5. Pity the stuntmen

An anatomy of an A-Team fight.

At some point towards the end of the show, the villain (usually a corrupt land developer) and his army of hired goons would capture the A-Team and instead of killing them there and then would inexplicably decide to lock them up to take out later.

Big mistake, because the lead goon would always pick a makeshift prison that just happened to have lying around the requisite materials for a break-out and some sort of tank.

The A-Team would burst out the moment the goons turned up to kill them and family friendly violence would ensue.

The bad guys would fire their automatic weapons - and miss every time.

A vehicle would flip over and the occupants would get out dazed and unhurt.

The guns would be cast aside and B.A. would unleash his fists of fury.

Face and/or Murdock would somehow find high ground and dive onto a group of bad guys.

Hannibal would take out the lead villain, usually with a single punch.

Fight over, villains locked up, the oppressed masses saved. Cue cheesy joke and roll credits.