A detailed look at the series, from it's concept through to it's eventual cancellation and beyond.
Page article created Tuesday 22nd July 2008
Last update Monday 18th January 2010
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Roots And Conception
In 1982, NBC entertainment executive Brandon Tartikoff called Stephen J. Cannell and writing partner Frank Lupo in for a meeting about a proposed new action adventure series. Cannell had already had some television hits, most notably 'The Rockford Files' (1974-1980), and had an idea of a show he'd like to develop (something that would ultimately become 'Stingray' (1986)), but Tartikoff had a different concept for a series. Something he called 'The A-Team'. He gave Cannell and Lupo the assignment of developing a new show with the brief of "a cross between 'The Dirty Dozen' (1967) and 'The Magnificent Seven' (1960, a remake of 'The Seven Samurai' (1954))". He also guided them that it should have "vague elements of the 'Mad Max' movies".
Tartikoff gave Cannell and Lupo free reign over how to develop the premise, with just one guideline - "That Mr. T drives the truck". Mr. T had risen to stardom playing boxer James 'Clubber' Lang in 'Rocky III' released earlier that year, and now television was looking for a vehicle for him to appear in.
For some time, Cannell had been fascinated by the advertisements placed in the back of gun magazines of mercenaries for hire. It was with this notion that he went about fleshing out the show's concept. Of course, a prime-time, family viewing television series couldn't be about bloodthirsty mercenaries for hire, so Cannell and Lupo added the twist that the soldiers of fortune in question had been forced to become mercenaries due to being wrongly accused of a crime - robbing the Bank of Hanoi without orders - near the end of the Vietnam war, and now were outlaws, based in the Los Angeles underworld, hiring themselves out to help people in need whilst they searched for a way to clear their name. Thus, 'The A-Team' was born.
Casting And Characters
Mr. T was already in place at the request of Tartikoff, but the other members of the team still needed to be cast. (As Mr. T has since said, he was the only member of the team that didn't audition).
Name-wise, Cannell played with a character name he had used in a late, sixth season episode of his previous hit, 'The Rockford Files', 'The Hawaiian Headache'. That story featured a character by the name of Colonel John "Howling Mad" Smith - a name which Cannell developed into Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith and Captain "Howling Mad" Murdock, for 'The A-Team'.
It is a surprise to many fans when they learn that the role of the team's devil-may-care leader, Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, was not initially written with George Peppard in mind. In fact, at one point, Cannell and Lupo considered James Coburn for the role. Peppard had starred in several big movies in the 1960s, most notably 'Breakfast At Tiffany's' (1961), before moving into television. He had earned himself a reputation in as a bit of a Hollywood "bad boy", and was an alcoholic for much of the 1970s.
The role of newspaper journalist Amy Allen, who joins the team after hiring them in the Pilot, was given to actress Melinda Culea, who had previously appeared in a couple of unsold TV pilots. The role of Amy was her first co-starring role to actually be televised. Much of the literature and merchandise (see below) used Amy's nickname "Triple-A". In fact, in the series itself, this name was very seldom used; after Hannibal comments that her full name (Amy Amanda Allen) is Triple-A at the end of the Pilot, the only other notable instance of it featuring in an actual episode of sorts was in the first season episode 'The Out-Of-Towners', when a store that the team set up to lure a protection racket is called 'Triple-A T.V. Repair'.
Playing shell shocked pilot Captain "Howling Mad" Murdock was Dwight Schultz, who had previously mostly done theatre work. Although he had had a few guest spots on various shows, the role of Murdock was his first big TV role. Schultz had originally turned down the role (despite being almost broke at the time), but was eventually persuaded to take the part.
There was only one role left - that of con-man Lieutenant Templeton "The Faceman" Peck. From the off, Cannell and Lupo had wanted Dirk Benedict, after seeing him in the (in many ways similar) role of Starbuck in the short-lived original version of 'Battlestar Galactica' (1978). But the executives at NBC insisted on a different actor for the role. After much debating, the part went to another actor, Tim Dunigan.
Mr. T himself was given the role of muscular, short tempered mechanic Sergeant Bosco "B.A." ("Bad Attitude") Baracus. In 'The Rockford Files', Isaac Hayes had played several guest appearances as tough mannered ex-con Gandolf Fitch, and - particularly in the third season episode 'Just Another Polish Wedding' (1977) (a backdoor pilot for a series based around Fitch that did not sell) - the character at times seems to be in some ways a prototype for that of B.A.
(Note: in recent years, many sources have given B.A.'s middle name as Albert, in keeping with his B.A. initials. Despite this information being adopted by many sources, it is nothing but pure fan-invented speculation, as B.A.'s middle name - if he even had one - was never given in the series.)
Cast as the recurring Colonel Lynch, who ran the Military prison that the team had escaped from, and was now hell-bent on recapturing them, was William Lucking, a television veteran who had had many guest star roles throughout the 1970s and early '80s. (Lynch went on to only actually appear in two stories, the Pilot and 'One More Time').
The memorable theme for the series was composed by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter, two veteran composers who had often worked together since the early 1970s, and who were behind many popular television themes, including 'The Rockford Files', 'Magnum, p.i.' (replacing the early theme by Ian Freebairn-Smith with their more recognised one, from the mid-first season onwards), 'Hardcastle and McCormick' and 'Riptide'; and who had had a long collaboration with Cannell.
The Pilot went into production in Autumn 1982, being partly filmed in Mexico, where the team head to rescue Amy's kidnapped colleague from bandits.
Other than that, the Pilot was a hit with test screenings, and follow-up episodes were quickly commissioned.
The character of Murdock had at one staged been intended to be written out, appearing on a semi-regular basis at most. The executives felt that the character was too over-the-top and that audiences wouldn't take to him. However, test screening audiences loved the character, and he was effectively "written back in" to the early episodes. (This is particularly noticeable in a couple of cases, notably 'Children of Jamestown', the first episode broadcast after the Pilot, where the character is noticeably absent for much of the story).
The Pilot was broadcast on Sunday 23rd January 1983, followed by 'Children of Jamestown' (the third episode produced after the Pilot) in the coveted spot after the Super Bowl, on Sunday 30th January, a slot that saw it win %26.4 of the viewing audience that evening, placing it fourth in the Top 10 rated shows. After that, the series moved to it's regular home of 8 p.m. Tuesdays on NBC, as a mid-season replacement. The public loved the series. Initially, only the Pilot and a couple of follow-up episodes had been commissioned, but the show proved to be such a hit that the cast had to be recalled from their various individual projects and a full half season of 12 episodes were produced.
With the regular series, B.A. was given his distinctive black & metallic grey (often mistaken for being all black) GMC van, with red stripe running around it. In a show that relied on many locations and settings, this gave the series one regular 'set' each week.
For the standard hour-long episodes, it took seven full days to film each story, usually shooting for up to seventeen hours each day. Although the team travelled around America, and the world, in their adventures, most location scenes were shot near Magic Mountain, Valencia in California. Interior scenes were mostly filmed in a warehouse off the Santa Monica freeway in downtown Los Angeles.
Each episode of the initial half season had a different scenario each of which was a staple of action movies - a religious cult in 'Children Of Jamestown', a prison in 'Pros And Cons', corrupt Police officers in 'A Small And Deadly War', a biker gang in 'Black Day At Bad Rock', hillbillies in 'Holiday In The Hills', a hi-jacked plane in 'The Beast From The Belly Of A Boeing', and so on.
The series was felt to find its footing immediately, with many first season episodes considered classics of the series by many fans.
Filming-wise, George Peppard was very fond of ad-libbing during scenes; however, this often threw the other actors. After a polite but persuasive word from the producers, the ad-libbing was dropped.
Initially, there was an outcry from some parties that a series could revolve around a gang of gun-slinging mercenaries. But once the series aired, and it was seen that the team were in fact the clean-cut good guys, and that everything was done very tongue-in-cheek, most of these concerns faded away.
The season was a ratings hit, and the public lapped it up. Critics initially hated it, but even many of them came to appreciate the show for what it was - essentially a series of living comic book adventures- and came to warm to it. A re-run of the episode 'The Out-Of-Towners' drew in the series' highest ever US audience, and even by the end of the end of the initial half-season, an array of well-selling merchandise quickly began to appear.
Second Season and Cast Changes
The series was quickly re-commissioned for a second season, with 22 episodes (including one feature-length adventure, "When You Comin' Back, Range Rider?", in which the team head to Arizona to tackle horse rustlers, which also exists in two-part format). By this point, the lead actors were huge stars - none more so than the flamboyant Mr. T; the merchandise tie-ins took off phenomenally, and the episodes pulled in very high ratings. The series had become a hit in particular with children, and much of the merchandise was geared towards younger fans.
Also in the second season, replacing Colonel Lynch, who had been ousted by the Military after he continual slip ups trying to capture the team (the last episode where he was actively seen to still be in pursuit of the team was 'The Only Church In Town', though he did not actually appear on-screen), was Lance LeGault as Colonel Roderick Decker, who was nearly always accompanied by his aide, Captain Crane (Carl Franklin). Introduced in the aforementioned feature-length "When You Comin' Back, Range Rider?" (#1207) (although #1202 'The White Ballot' was the first episode that LeGault and Franklin filmed), Decker was tougher than the slightly bumbling Colonel Lynch, and posed much more of a threat to the team.
As well as The A-Team van, another vehicle was added to the line-up from this season, Face's Corvette, which was white and had a red stripe running around it to match B.A.'s van. First seen in the episode 'The Taxicab Wars', it would make occasional appearances thereafter.
But despite the success, all was not well behind the scenes. After Amy was introduced as a feisty, adventurous character in the Pilot, Melinda Culea was becoming increasingly frustrated in what she saw has her character having very little to do, and often little dialogue in many episodes. In particular, she is reported to have pushed for her character to take parts in the team's frequent fights with bad guys. (In "When You Comin' Back, Range Rider?", Amy learns archery, firing dynamite-tipped arrows at the villains. Many fans wondered why this new skill wasn't continued in subsequent episodes). The upset was not helped by the fact that George Peppard was continually letting his feelings be known to producers that he felt the series didn't need a female co-star. The other stars were reportedly unhappy by what they saw as Culea "coming on set whining each day - and we don't need that".
Also with the second season, Culea sported a shorter hair cut and a different wardrobe, which producers felt to be too "tomboyish".
Culea's agent was reportedly told to tell her to "shape up or get out".
Things came to a head when Culea received an episode script and found that Amy did not feature (possibly #1211, 'Semi-Friendly Persuasion' although there are some contradictions to when this episode was actually produced; the episode in question may have been #1214, 'Steel'). There are varying accounts of the outcome: some say that Culea simply had enough and quit; the other (seemingly more common) version says that she was finally fired from the series. The last episode that Culea filmed was 'The Taxicab Wars' (though she is last seen on-screen in 'The White Ballot').
The team had three episodes as a foursome - 'Steel', 'The Maltese Cow' and 'In Plane Sight' (although the aforementioned Amy-present 'The White Ballot' was broadcast after 'Steel'), before a replacement character for Amy was introduced. Marla Heasley was cast as Tawnia Baker, said to be a colleague of Amy's. (Stephen J. Cannell, who also has a daughter named Tawnia, had previously used the name Tawnia Baker in the first regular 'Rockford Files' episode after the Pilot, 'The Kirkoff Case' (1974)).
Heasley - who had previously had a small role as a different character, Cherise, earlier in the season in 'Bad Time On The Border', was introduced as Tawnia in the episode 'The Battle Of Bel-Air' (although 'Pure-Dee Poison' was the first episode that she filmed). Peppard was still insistent that the series didn't need a female co-star - on her first day, his first words to her were to scold her for being a minute late on set. After she had been through make-up, he is said to have politely introduced himself to Heasley, and went on to tell her that he didn't think the team needed a female member, and that she was only there due of the producers' insistence. Heasley has also since commented that she was told the reason Culea was dropped from the series was because she was "too tomboyish". She also did her best to make light of comments from Culea that "all you need to do is show up and look good".
Maybe as a sign of the producers realising that Tawnia might not last long on the series, Heasley was never added to the opening credits, instead receiving 'Also Starring' credit after the in-episode title; and the character did not feature at all in one episode, 'Harder Than It Looks' ('Semi-Friendly Persuasion', filmed before Tawnia was introduced, was also aired during her stint on the show).
Aside from the female changes, there was also another problem on set - George Peppard and Mr. T didn't exactly get along. Peppard had been signed understanding that he was to be the star of the show, but it was Mr. T who proved phenomenally popular, especially with the series' legions of younger fans, which didn't go down with Peppard. Although they both said publically that they 'respected' one another as actors, their work ethics were very different, and sometimes began to cause problems on set.
Cast differences aside, the second season went on to match the huge success of the first. There were still some parties who complained about the level of violence, whereas others 'got' that the show was almost like a living cartoon, where people seldom got seriously hurt, and was almost a spoof of other, more genuinely rough-and-tumble movies and TV series.
Some critics felt that the series was too generic and by the numbers, with episodes following very much the same formula each week. Cannell has himself admitted that "We pretty much told the same story every week. But it was how we told it each week that changed".
The merchandising continued to soar, and by the end of the season countless products with the 'A-Team' stamp were available in toy and collectors stores, book shops and supermarkets.
By the time the third season came along, the series, both in terms of popularity and merchandising, was at its height. 24 episodes were ordered (including the feature-length / two-part 'The Bend In The River'), the highest number of episodes ordered for a single season of the show's run.
Maybe a sign of the producers bowing to Peppard's insistence, or maybe simply feeling that a female co-star was no longer needed, Tawnia was written out in the feature-length 'The Bend In The River' (shown second in the season, but possibly originally designed to be shown as the opener, as Tawnia is already gone in the first broadcast episode 'Bullets And Bikinis'; presumably the shuffle was due to scheduling constraints). Unlike Amy, who suddenly disappeared with Melinda Culea's abrupt departure, Tawnia was written out of the series, being married off to her archaeologist fiancée who the team rescue from river pirates in the Amazon.
This left the team back as an all-male foursome again, a format that would remain until the fifth season revamp (see later section).
Seemingly, Lance LeGault wasn't available for several third season episodes, possibly due to filming 'Magnum, p.i.', where he had the recurring role of Colonel "Buck" Greene. Thus, in the episode 'Fire', a new Military adversary was suddenly introduced - Colonel Briggs, played by Charles Napier. (Napier had previously played a bad guy in the second season episode 'Labor Pains'). Some literature suggested Briggs to be a new recurring character, and indeed some sources to this day credit him as such, but it turned out to be the only time that the character ever appeared or was mentioned in the series. On hindsight, he appears to be a simple temporary Decker replacement - he has much of the same mannerisms and even similar appearance to LeGault's Decker.
LeGault was seemingly unavailable again for 'Showdown!', which this time saw the return of Bill Lucking as original pursuer Colonel Lynch, who had been given "one last shot at capturing The A-Team" by the Army.
Decker returned with the episode 'The Island', with no mention of sudden replacement Briggs or Decker's subsequent return.
The concerns about formulaic storylines which had began in the second season continued. Indeed, many of the stories did seem to follow a generic pattern, with the team taking up a different 'job' with appropriate setting each week (i.e. hoteliers in 'Bullets And Bikinis', firemen in 'Fire', lumberjacks in 'Timber!', rodeo performers in 'Showdown!', lawmen in 'Sheriffs Of Rivertown', highway diner workers in 'Cup A' Joe', game wardens in 'Skins', repair mechanics in 'Knights Of The Road' et al, each with the obligatory bad guys of the piece). But that didn't prevent the season from serving up a number of fan favourite episodes (such as 'Breakout!', and 'Bounty', the latter of which also featured Dwight Schultz's real-life wife Wendy Fulton), and again, ratings were mostly very high.
By this time, the tie-in merchandise was at it's height, with action figures (including a very rare one of Amy that ceased production when Melinda Culea left), models of B.A.'s van and Face's Corvette, stickers, annuals and storybooks, story cassettes, clothing, and just about anything else imaginable sold to the eager young market. There was even an 'A-Team' ice lolly - cola flavoured and in the shape of B.A.!
Fourth Season and Gradual Decline In Popularity
With the all-male foursome continuing, a fourth season was commissioned with 22 episodes (again, with one feature-length / two-part story). This time, the feature-length outing, 'Judgement Day' was scheduled to kick off the season. This adventure, like the Pilot, was partly filmed in Mexico, but which on this occasion doubled for Italy. The latter half of the story, set aboard a luxury cruise, was filmed on a liner headed to Spain. However, during filming of this section of the story, Mr. T became very unhappy with the filming conditions. As a result, B.A. appears irregularly through the second half of the story, mostly seen in interior shots, the majority of which were filmed on a sound stage back on the usual filming ground.
After criticisms growing over the previous season about increasingly formulaic and 'by-the-numbers' stories, coming from both critics and more hard-core fans, the writers this season attempted to offer up more diverse and varied tales that were less formulaic. But something had changed. After it's huge start, some now felt that the series had began to go a bit stale. Whilst more hard-core viewers still loyally watched, more casual viewers now started to drift away. The episode 'Body Slam', featuring wrestler Hulk Hogan playing himself as an old friend of B.A.'s, was the lowest rated episode of the show's original run on NBC. Episodes by now also had more of a 'production line' feel to them, often lacking the more polished feel of earlier instalments.
Also in the bid to try and win back dipping ratings, many episodes included Special Guest Stars, including 1950s & '60s jazz singer, later actress Della Reese as B.A.'s mother in 'Lease With An Option To Die', soul singers Isaac Hayes and Rick James in 'The Heart Of Rock N' Roll', aforementioned Hulk Hogan in 'Body Slam' and 'The Trouble With Harry', American Football player William Perry also in 'The Trouble With Harry', 'Wheel of Fortune' hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White in the episode of the same name, and - perhaps most famously - Boy George of Culture Club in the episode 'Cowboy George'.
Behind the scenes, the rift between George Peppard and Mr. T was by now deepened. Further irking Peppard, according to Mr. T, was that T was getting paid more than the supposed 'star' Peppard. Certainly in popularity and merchandising terms, Mr. T was the main face identified with the series. It is rumoured that at one point, Mr. T was demanding top billing on-screen, but which never happened, with Peppard continuing to receive top billing.
With Peppard and Mr. T both having their own 'eccentricities' and their working relationship breaking down (Dirk Benedict has recounted how on occasion he would be sat in the middle of Peppard and T and have to relay messages from one to the other, with the pair refusing to speak), stories often leaked to the press about the 'uncomfortable' working conditions. Cannell has commented that "(towards the end) ...it wasn't the happiest set that I've ever been on, but it wasn't the most unhappy set".
Although the team might at casual glance to still appear equally on-screen, to cover for Peppard and T's differences and demands during filming, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz were given more to do.
After Lance LeGault appeared as Decker in the first half of the season (including two occasions, 'The Road To Hope' and 'Body Slam' without otherwise ever-present aide, Captain Crane), a new Military nemesis was brought in - Jack Ging as General Harlan "Bull" Fulbright. Introduced in #1418 'Mind Games' (although #1411, 'The A-Team Is Coming The A-Team Is Coming' was the first one he filmed) Ging, who had played different villains in the first season episode 'A Small And Deadly War' and the second season's 'Bad Time On The Border', had worked with George Peppard on various productions previously, and was brought in partly to try and smooth the working relationship between Peppard and Mr. T over.
Ging had previously played Police Lt. Ted Quinlan in another of Stephen J. Cannell & Frank Lupo's popular series, 'Riptide' (1984-86) (which originally aired on NBC directly after 'The A-Team' on Tuesday nights). He was killed off at the end of the third season episode 'Requiem For Icarus' - coincidentally, by Carl Franklin, a.k.a. Captain Crane - to free him up to play Fulbright in 'The A-Team'.
During the fourth season, Mr. T was several times said to be quitting the show. His replacement was much touted to be (the aforementioned) William "The Refrigerator" Perry, who made a cameo late in the season in 'The Trouble With Harry'. As it turned out, Mr. T remained until the end of the show's run.
By the final episode of the season, 'The Sound Of Thunder', it was unknown if the series would be renewed or not (Murdock's t-shirt hints that it may be the final episode, reading 'Everything Comes To An End'). In that episode, Fulbright finally managed to corner the team; but instead of turning them in, convinces them to accompany him to Vietnam to search for the child he never knew previously that he had. At the climax he is shot dead - a true rarity in the series, where people are seldom seriously hurt - and the team returned to the U.S. with his daughter Tia (Tia Carrere), now a fugitive from her own country.
Assuming that the series was to renewed for a fifth season, Tia was to have become a new regular member of the team - once again adding a female to the ranks, although this time a seemingly more active one, adding some ethnicity and skilled in martial arts. However, both due to contract disputes and the complete series revamp (see following section), it turned out to be the only time the character was seen, never to be referred to again.
Final Season Revamp and End Of Production
As mentioned in the previous section, the fourth season had seen a significant drop in ratings, and it was uncertain at the end of the season whether the series would be renewed or not. To convince NBC executives to commission a fifth season, a radical revamp was devised.
The season opened with a three-part story, comprising of 'Dishpan Man', 'Trial By Fire' and 'Firing Line', which brought in the new circumstances of The A-Team's escapades. These three episodes were later released on videocassette as a feature film in the U.K. and some countries, under the title 'The Court Martial', a name that fans continue to use when referring to the complete trilogy. Although the previous feature-length episodes also exist in two-part format for syndication, 'The Court Martial' trilogy was the only story of the series originally designed to specifically be a multi-parter.
TV and movie veteran Robert Vaughn was brought in as retired General Hunt Stockwell, a mysterious Government operative, who 'persuades' the indisposed Hannibal to lead the team to Barcelona to free a hi-jacket plane - onboard which was the one man who could clear the team of their accused war crimes. Accompanying them is special effects expert "Dishpan" Frankie Santana (Eddie Velez), who it transpires is unwillingly working for Stockwell. However, Curtis betrays the team and they are finally captured and put on trial. After much twisting and turning, and awaiting execution after being charged with murder, the team and Frankie (now a wanted man himself after helping the team escape execution) reluctantly agree to Stockwell's terms, to work on an unspecified number of missions for him, in return for him shielding them from the authorities and working towards getting them a pardon. They go to live in a luxurious home in Langley, Virginia, where they are constantly evading Stockwell's security measures.
Murdock is suddenly said to have been released from the V.A. Hospital and lives nearby, and in a running theme, is seen to have a different new job in many episodes of the season. The exact circumstances of his sudden release were never made clear - it was possible that Stockwell had engineered his release, or that he had just finally escaped from the hospital for good.
Maybe a sign of the previous failed female team members, this new recruit, Frankie, was male. He also added Hispanic blood to the series. However, reaction from audiences towards the character were mixed.
Like Amy's nickname "Triple-A" in the early episodes, Frankie's nickname of "Dishpan" - given in much of the fifth season literature - was very seldom used in the series itself. Besides the opening episode being titled "Dishpan Man", the name was very little used.
Stockwell had an assistant, Carla, played by Judith Ledford. It was only a small role and Carla had little more to do than explaining the details of the current mission to the team. She was not seen as much later in the season, and last appeared in the episode 'Point Of No Return'.
With the revamp also saw the most radical reworking on the theme tune, now given a much more synthesised feel. The in episode musical scores, while still retaining the basic 'A-Team' feel, were also of a noticeably different style, again making use of synthesisers.
Although the revamp rejuvenated the adventure aspect slightly, it wasn't felt to fully catch on. The series by now was seen by many as being tired, and lacking the excitement of when the team were on the run from the Military. Cannell has said that he "wasn't nuts about (the show) after they started working for the Government", but "it kept the series on air for an extra year".
Ratings in some cases were slightly up on the previous season, but the show never returned to it's former glory, and the revamp wasn't popular with many fans.
The episode 'Family Reunion' was an attempt to boost ratings. In the story, Face - said to be an orphan throughout the series - meets a man (a retired criminal whom Stockwell assigns the team to reunite with his estranged daughter) who may or may not be his father. Two outcomes were filmed, and before the final, resolving act was broadcast, viewers could phone in to vote on the ending. The winning version was one in which Face learnt that the man was indeed his father. This version is the one that would also be shown on all re-runs and overseas airings (the alternative, unused ending was - as far as is known - never aired at all, and may no longer exist).
After big beginnings, the series went out rather quietly. The final, half season, was intended to round off broadcast-wise with 'The Grey Team', filmed second from last. During this story, in an almost throwaway scene, Hannibal - after being mislead by Stockwell one time too many - tells him that their agreement is terminated and that the team will not work for him any more. The episode rounds off with Hannibal, Face, Murdock and B.A. contemplating their future, and coming to the conclusion that they were continue doing what they do best - catching bad guys. Murdock's t-shirt once again gives away the end looming, with 'Fini' printed on it.
However, 'The Grey Team', despite being designed as the closing episode, was not the final episode to be filmed. That befell to 'Without Reservations', originally intended to air as the penultimate story (in this instance, Murdock's t-shirt reads 'Almost Fini'). The story was re-worked from the first season 'Starsky & Hutch' episode 'Shootout' (1975), the only example of a story being directly reworked for the series. But the axe seemingly fell on the series quicker and more abruptly than expected, leaving the episode too short to air. To fill the missing running time, the entire pre-opening credits section of the story was made up of footage from the first season episode 'Holiday In The Hills', with a new fifth season-style musical score, and a shot of Frankie taken from 'The Crystal Skull' inserted to try and make it look as if he were present in the sequence. The episode was finally ready for broadcast as part of the fifth season re-run, and shown on 8th March 1987 (although it still carries a 1986 copyright). As this was the last first-run episode to be broadcast, a great many sources list the series as running from 1983-87, even though production had ceased in Fall 1986.
Life After The Series
Almost ever since the series finished being run on NBC, it has enjoyed a healthy life in syndication in the U.S. Like a great many shows, syndication episodes are edited down to make way for today's increased commercials run-time (episodes originally ran at around 48 minutes, whereas syndicated versions typically run at around 42 minutes).
Around the world, including the United Kingdom (see separate section), the series was still run from some years after it finished production in the U.S., still having a great legion of fans and still spawning many merchandise tie-ins.
In the early 1990s, an update TV movie was planned, dealing with the team's fate and, it is rumoured, them finally receiving their pardon. But with the (relatively sudden) death of George Peppard in May 1994, these plans were scrapped.
Cannell, who is also an occasional actor (appearing as antagonist Donald "Dutch" Dixon in his 1990s series 'Renegade' (1992-97) 'Magnum, p.i' (the seventh season's 'A.A.P.I' (1986)) and the 1998 "CHiPs" reunion movie, "CHiPs '99", among others) also played a TV executive Jackson Burley in the fifth season 'Diagnosis: Murder' episode 'Must Kill TV' (1997). The character returned for the sixth season feature-length / two-part 'Trash TV' (1999). In these stories (which included faces from a number of popular 1980s television series), Cannell can be seen to wear one of Murdock's famous pilot jacket, with the sleeves cut off. There are also several in-jokes to 'The A-Team'.
The series remained popular after it had gone off air, helped along by syndicated re-runs and other countries still regularly showing episodes. It's popularity could be seen to have dropped slightly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as a result of the series being so huge and effectively blowing itself out. However, in the latter 1990s and the turn of the millennium, the show has seen somewhat of a resurge in popularity, helped along greatly by the event of the internet, which has seen a number of fan sites and forums based around the series. The 2000s saw the series released on DVD (along with a great many other shows of the era), and some new merchandise (some official, some unofficial) springing up in collectors shops, on-line stores, and on auction site e-bay. This has been helped in part by the 'retro' craze of the 2000s, but more than that, fans have warmed to the series in what is now a more serious and Politically Correct era. Even some critics, who originally derided the series, have now come to appreciate it's "comic-book appeal" more.
In 2006, British comedian and presenter Justin Lee Collins 'reunited' surviving cast members in Channel 4's 'Bring Back... The A-Team', part of his occasional 'Bring Back...' series. Interviewed and reunited were Dwight Schultz, Dirk Benedict, Marla Heasley, Jack Ging, and Stephen J. Cannell. He also managed to interview the elusive Mr. T; and William Lucking and Lance LeGault also attended the reunion although no interviews were shown with them. Melinda Culea was occasionally mentioned but did not appear; it is not known if she was approached or not. The fifth season revamp and cast additions of Robert Vaughn and Eddie Velez, were not referred to.
Clips from the series often feature in 'Top 10' / 'Top 50' etc. programmes as produced in the U.S., the U.K., and many other countries, often voted for by viewers, another sign of the series' renewed appeal.
Ever since the mid-1990s, there has been plan and continual rumour of a big screen 'A-Team' movie. Many scripts have been submitted and turned down, and the movie has had an on-off status for over a decade now. At time of writing, the movie is scheduled for release in 2009, but again is subject to change, and although there have been many rumours, the cast are yet to be announced. Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz and Mr. T are expected to make cameo appearances. To fit in with the time frame, the A-Team are expected to now be soldiers of fortune from the Iraq war.
Whatever may happen next, 'The A-Team' stands as one of the most iconic and most popular television series of the past 30 years.
This article has been put together following years of original research (and viewing!). While it is intended as a comprehensive overview the series for other fans, please ask me before replicating it, in part or whole, elsewhere.
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'The A-Team' was created by Frank Lupo & Stephen J. Cannell,
Copyright 1982-86, Universal / Stephen J. Cannell Productions
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