During the Vietnam War, The A-Team, a crack commando unit in the U.S. Special Forces, was ordered to rob the Bank of Hanoi with the hope that this would lead to an end to the Vietnam War. The team pulled off the robbery, but when they returned their Commanding Officer was dead, and all his papers were destroyed in a fire. As such, there was no proof that they had committed their supposed crime under any sort of orders. The men were sentenced to prison and incarcerated at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, excepting Murdock, who was imprisoned in a mental institution. They promptly escaped, eventually setting up in Los Angeles, California, where they lived discreetly and worked as soldiers of fortune, all the while being hunted by both the military police and law enforcement. During their tenure as soldiers of fortune they traveled all over the United States, and occasionally to other countries, frequently Mexico or South America. Usually they and their exploits were reported upon favourably in the news media; generally they were portrayed as folk heroes on the level of a modern day Robin Hood. These news reports were often the way in which clients first learned of the team.
The A-Team was originally created by writers/producers Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo, after being pitched to them by NBC president Brandon Tartikoff. Though it was not anticipated to be a major hit, the show lasted for five seasons, between January 23rd, 1983 and March 8th, 1987. It starred George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Mr. T and Dwight Schultz as the titular team. The show was most popular, that is to say viewership was at its all-time highest, in the second and third seasons, with viewership dropping off in the fourth. This was attributed by producers to the strict formulaic nature of the show, and so for the fifth season the show was changed significantly to create a new A-Team that would hopefully shore up flagging interest in the series. This bid ultimately failed, however, and the show was cancelled 13 episodes into the fifth season.
Despite the later contemporary disinterest in the show, the A-Team maintains a dedicated fan base as well as a prominent place in popular culture to this day, and has a large cult following in the US and abroad due to heavy syndication of the series. At the height of the show's popularity, Marvel Comics produced a three-issue mini-series of A-Team comic books that were later released in the form of a trade paperback. This mini-series was written by Marie Severin, Jim Salicrup and Alan Kupperberg, and drawn by Marie Severin, Alan Kupperberg, Jim Mooney and Joe Giella. There were also Mr. T comics that played on his popularity following the series. An A-Team comic strip was produced in the United Kingdom and printed in Look-in. There have also been several books released that were based on episodes of The A-Team television series. They were published by Dell in the United States and by Target Books in the UK. The last four novelisations were published only in the UK, and the first six were credited to Charles Heath. Merchandise based on the show has been released, including items such as action figures of the team and their van, as well as t-shirts and various other items of clothing with images or catchphrases from the show printed on them.
A movie was released in June 2010, and received mixed reviews from critics. A-Team: Shotgun Wedding, a bi-weekly four issue series that detailed one of the missions the team went on after forming the team and escaping their imprisonment, was released in March 2010. Shotgun Wedding was written by director Joe Carnahan and Tom Waltz, and drawn by Stephen Mooney. A- Team: War Stories , a bi-weekly series of four standalone issues that each focused on the back story of one member of the team before they joined the team, was released April 2010. They were written by Chuck Dixon (who handled mainly Hannibal and Face) and Erik Burnham (who handled mainly Murdock and B.A.), and drawn by Hugo Petrus and Casey Maloney, along with various other artists.
The A-Team consists of four core team members, Vietnam veterans who fought together in the United States Army Special Forces. These are John "Hannibal" Smith, Templeton "Faceman" Peck, H.M. Murdock and B.A. Baracus. Hannibal is the team's leader, a master of disguise and an expert tactician. He always comes up with reckless plans, but his first concern is always for the welfare of his team. He is most often seen smoking a cigar, and is renowned for his unflappability. Face is the team's second in command and he also acts as a procurer of supplies, usually in his capacity as a con man. He is a suave ladies man, and his tastes run towards the more refined and expensive things in life. He usually wears suits or other fine clothing. Murdock is the team's pilot. He is probably insane, but very intelligent, and a very skilled pilot. He acts as the main source of comic relief on the show, along with the final member of the team. B.A. is the team's mechanic and strongman. He is a teetotaller and has pteromechanophobia, and of the group he is the least personable. He wears many heavy gold chains, earrings, rings and bracelets at all times, even on dangerous missions.
They also picked up a number of auxiliary members throughout the course of the series. Amy Allen was the first; a reporter, she stayed with the team through the first and part of the second season. She was replaced by Tawnia Baker, who was another reporter. Tawnia left the team at the end of the second season when she married one of their clients. In the fifth season a man named Frankie Santana joined the team as a special effects expert. He replaced another character, Tia, who was dropped from the show because her actress, Tia Carrere, was under contract to another show.
Major Story Arcs
Though the show generally operated on a villain-a-week premise, the team did have several recurring antagonists. These were members of the Military Police who were dedicated to finding and arresting the A-Team. During the first season they were pursued by the bumbling Colonel Lynch, who had apparently been pursuing the group for the past 10 years they had spent as fugitives. Colonel Lynch was replaced (though he did reappear briefly in an episode in season three) by Colonel Decker and his aide Captain Crane, who hunted the A-Team (with slightly more competence than Colonel Lynch) for the second, third and half of the fourth season. They were then replaced in the second half of the fourth season by General Harlan "Bull" Fullbright, who died at the end of that season.
During an average episode, the A-Team usually dealt with mobsters, drug dealers or smugglers, corrupt businessmen or otherwise unsavoury characters who used violence or the threat of it to oppress or abuse the A-Team's eventual customers. The plots of these antagonists frequently revolved around driving the victim out of their business or home, usually with the goal of some sort of monetary gain on the part of the aggressor. However, this formula was not always in place. In a particularly memorable two-part episode in the third season, the A-Team dealt with a South American river pirate who was working for some foreigners. Upon discovering that his employers were Nazis, he and the A-Team joined forces and defeated his erstwhile employers.
In Other Media
The show was primarily episodic in nature, and there was little forward or backward momentum throughout the series, with an extremely limited number of overarching themes or storylines. Usually, a civilian would be harassed, and would resolve to contact the team. The team would arrive wherever the opponent was. They would then threaten the opponent and, when this inevitably failed, come up with a plan to defeat them. They would usually briefly be defeated only to rebound and reformulate the plan, often by creating elaborate traps or armored vehicles out of spare parts during one of their signature montages. They would then defeat the opponent, usually while maximizing the humiliation and devastation dealt to the opponent. This pattern continued for the first four seasons, with the team assisting new clients every episode, with the very infrequent two-parter. Clients usually came to the team of their own volition, but occasionally the team would come across people in need of help, or would be forced to act by outside forces, such as the team or individual members being attacked. Every few episodes the MPs would catch up with the team, and they would be forced to deal with the episode's primary antagonist while simultaneously evading or distracting the police. More rarely the MPs would be the primary antagonists of the episode.
In the fifth and final season the team was captured by the military police, lead by General Hunt Stockwell, and offered the chance to perform a series of "suicide missions", with the promise that upon successful completion of these mission their names would be cleared and they would be allowed to return to civilian lives without threat of being arrested.
The show is renowned, and sometimes criticized, for being an unapologetically male-focused, testosterone-fueled show that utilized cartoonish, over-the-top violence that resulted in little to no actual injuries, despite the number of bullets fired or the size of the multiple explosions that littered every episode. The frequent violence never resulted in on-screen deaths, and victims of violence almost never bruised or bled. Despite the truly exceptional number of crashes on the show- car, plane or otherwise- passengers were always shown to escape almost completely unscathed. It has also occasionally been criticized, both by female cast members and members of the viewing public, as being a sexist show. There has been some disagreement as to whether the sexism was latent or overt, intentional or not.
A new A-Team movie was released in 2010, revitalizing the A-Team franchise and introducing the series to a new generation of fans. The film starred Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley and Quinton Jackson. It was produced by Stephen J. Cannell, and had cameos from Dwight Schultz, as a neurologist, and Dirk Benedict, in a post-credits scene.
This film acts as a prequel to the television series, showing how the four main characters first became a team when they met in Mexico. Eight years after the start of the film, the A-Team is a respected tactical unit fighting in the Iraq War. Hannibal is approached by the enigmatic CIA agent Lynch (a reference to the television series' Colonel Lynch), who tells him of U.S. Treasury plates being used by Iraqi insurgents to produce counterfeit American currency. Though General Morrison and DCIS Captain Sosa warn them not to, the A-Team makes a plan to steal the plates and almost 1 billion dollars in counterfeit currency. They are successful, but a private security firm, Black Forest, run by a man named Pike, raids and destroys the container, killing General Morrison in the process. Without the General's testimony to the legality of their actions, the A-Team is charged for their supposed crime and consigned to various prisons.
Lynch returns to Hannibal in prison and aids him in escaping incarceration after telling him that Pike intends to sell the plates. Hannibal agrees to retrieve them if he and his team are granted clean records. He goes on to rescue Faceman and B.A. from their prisons. B.A. reveals he has become a pacifist in prison, to the amusement of the other two. They go to Germany to free Murdock from a psychiatric institution with Sosa hot on their trails. They evade her and escape in a plane, but are shot down by drones. They somehow manage to parachute to safety in a tank, and make their way to Berlin, where they reclaim the plates and abduct one of the men working for Pike, who is revealed to be General Morrison. Lynch double crosses them and attempts to kill them, but they escape and contact Sosa, whose phones are tapped, to create a trap for Lynch. The trap succeeds and Lynch is taken into custody, but the team is again arrested, this time for escaping lawful imprisonment. They escape yet again to become soldiers of fortune.