Action, adventure and ex-soldiers trying to help people, on the run from the US military and work as soldiers of fortune – that was the premise of The A Team.
Created by popular TV producer Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo for NBC TV, the series was Cannell’s first after being fired by ABC TV for Brandon Tartikoff.
The series was inspired by previous shows and films like Mission: Impossible, The Magnificent Seven, Mad Max and The Dirty Dozen, and based on a reference to special teams during the Vietnam War.
Airing its first episode after the Superbowl in January 1983, the series starred George Peppard as Lt. Col Hannibal Smith, Dirk Benedict as Lt. Templeton “Face” Peck, Dwight Schultz as the pilot, Capt Howling Mad Murdock and the strongman/mechanic member of the team Sgt. First Class BA Baracus, played by Mr. T.
There was a token woman – Amy Allen, a reporter, played by Melinda Culea in the first season and Marla Heasley as Tawnia Baker in the second season.
The team would have to routinely avoid the military police and each episode showcased their talents, as they fought, flew and conned their way out of situations, usually with a lot of gunfire and explosions, but with rarely any severe injuries or showing any deaths on-screen.
Peck would routinely use his charm on women to acquire things and people, especially Murdock, who was a resident of a mental hospital, while Baracus was unusually strong and a crack mechanic but refused to fly and would have to be knocked out before being transported, usually tricked by Hannibal, who was a master of disguise.
The first three seasons were successful with the series, especially scoring high with male viewers. The cult devotion to Mr. T also helped the show, which had spun off plenty of merchandise, and used the infamous lines “I love it when a plan comes together” and “pity the fool!” from the characters to become integral to current pop culture.
After four seasons the series lost viewers and 1987 was cancelled by NBC TV. The series was heavily syndicated in North America and around the world, making it a successful series of the 1980s and a memorable contributor to pop culture for its comic style and unique characters.