The A-Team: Season One
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 11 Hours and 17 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Audio: English – Monaural (2.0)
June 8th, 2004
"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 from 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."
The creation of über-producer Stephen J. Cannell (creator of Black Sheep Squadron, 21 Jump Street, Silk Stalkings, and The Greatest American Hero), The A-Team was one of the most popular television programs during the mid-1980s. Indeed, during its successful five-year run (1983-1987), it caused the networks to green-light more action/comedy television programs, in addition to inspiring scores of American youths (like me! ) to run through their backyards with friends, pretending to be B.A., or Face, or Murdock! Remaining popular to this day, the series’ episodes have been able to be enjoyed via reruns for years, and a feature film, presumably with new stars, has been rumored to be in development for some time.
As the series kicks off, we learn that the A-Team, in which the “A” stands for “Alpha” were formerly a special-ops unit who fought together during the Vietnam War. The members of this elite unit are: John “Hannibal” Smith (George Peppard), the team’s leader and resident master of disguise; Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Tim Dunigan and Dirk Benedict), a charming con artist; H.M. Murdock (Dwight Schultz), an crackerjack pilot who also happened to reside in a mental hospital; and Bosco “B.A.” Baracus (Mr. T), an infantry mechanic and all around bad-ass.
In the latter stages of the war, these commandos were instructed to raid the Bank of Hanoi. Unfortunately, things did not turn out as planned, and the boys were identified as being responsible for “robbing” the Bank of Hanoi. Subsequently, they were arrested, tried, and sent to prison for committing war crimes. Being as skilled as they are, however, the A-Team escapes their confinement in Fort Bragg, and spends the succeeding years on the lam, running from their military pursuers. To survive during their travels, the group serves as soldiers-of-fortune, helping victims with no one else to turn to seek justice - for a nominal charge of course!
After its debut, the show was a big hit for several seasons, until ratings plunged from 6th highest rated show in its third season to as low as 30th during the fourth year. In an effort to boost ratings during the fifth season, the A-Team was made to work for a mysterious General named Hunt Stockwell (Robert Vaughn), who rescued them from imprisonment and promised to restore their good names if they performed missions for him. Sadly, even after this tweak to the storyline, ratings for the show continued spiraling downward, with the show finishing in 61st place (for the half season of episodes that aired). Thus, the plug was pulled on The A-Team after 98 adventures.
In watching these again, I can’t tell you that The A-Team has aged particularly well, but most episodes are still moderately enjoyable, as well as being nostalgic. In terms of this DVD set, the first season’s episodes were among the series’ best (it was the show’s highest rated period), and it is interesting to see how the characters evolved over the course of the year. Considering what type of show this was, the performances from the “A-Team” actors were generally pretty charismatic and entertaining, except maybe the overacting of Dwight Schultz and the military officers that were pursuing the A-Team. Unfortunately, however, the fight scenes now seem way too phony and over-the-top, and the other special effects do not have the same impact they did back in the 1980s, when I was still young and impressionable!
The following is a brief description of the episodes that comprised the inaugural season of The A-Team:
--- “Mexican Slayride, Part One” – Air Date 1/23/1983
In the A-Team’s pilot episode, a newspaper reporter, tracks down and hires the “A-Team”, and ends up hiring them to rescue a colleague that has been taken prisoner by a band of Mexican outlaws. Early on, the A-Team also escapes some buffoonish military men on the Universal Studios back lot!
--- “Mexican Slayride, Part Two” – Air Date 1/23/1983
In the continuation of “Mexican Slayride”, the A-Team locates and rescues the kidnapped reporter they had been seeking, but are captured by a group of drug dealers that are being supported by a local force of rebels. In typical A-Team fashion, they must blast their way out of captivity!
NOTE: During episodes #1 and #2, “Face” is played by actor Tim Dunigan, who I was happy to see go. Nothing personal against Mr. Dunigan, but I found him to be much less likeable than Dirk Benedict (of Battlestar Galactica fame).
--- “Children of Jamestown” - Air Date 1/30/1983
While rescuing a young girl from a crazed cult leader, the A-Team is captured by the maniac’s followers. Shortly thereafter, they are set free, but only to serve as the prey of hunters engaging in a twisted safari. Is it just me, or did the members of the A-Team get captured more often than elite commandos should?
--- “Pros and Cons” - Air Date 2/8/1983
In “Pros and Cons”, the A-Team hears about of a prison where fight-to-the-death boxing matches are being held, with the winners receiving freedom (until they are hunted down and killed that is). After learning of this disturbing practice, the guys go undercover as prisoners, with B.A. as a mute boxer, no less, to expose the warden’s transgressions.
--- “A Small and Deadly War” – Air Date 2/15/1983
In “A Small and Deadly War”, Hannibal tries to outwit a rogue S.W.A.T. team that is committing murders-for-hire. The A-Team first becomes involved in the situation when a policeman named Maloney (Norman Allen) recruits them to expose the crooked cops and safeguard his family.
--- “Black Day at Bad Rock” – Air Date 2/22/1983
In this episode, the team arrives in the small town of Bad Rock, with a wounded B.A. in tow. When the team takes him to receive treatment, a suspicious physician notifies the sheriff, who fears B.A. may be part of a troublesome biker gang.
As a result of the doctor’s ensuing actions, Face and Hannibal are apprehended, but they quickly break free. However, during their brief stay in the pokey, they learn that a leader of the biker gang is being kept in the jail, and that his cohorts are just about to attempt to free him. To prevent this from happening, the A-Team offers to aid the sheriff in protecting the town – as long as they agree not to turn them in to the military, of course.
--- “The Rabbit Who Ate Las Vegas” – Air Date 3/1/1983
In this episode, the A-Team becomes mixed-up in a power struggle between mobsters, when two girls ask them to find their college professor who went to test a “perfect” gambling system in Las Vegas but never returned. Unfortunately, as they look for the professor, the A-Team becomes the focus of a murder investigation, and ends up having to flee the police, the mafia, and other mercenaries, all while trying to find the evidence they need to clear them of wrongdoing.
--- “The Out-of-Towners” - Air Date 3/15/1983
In “The Out-of-Towners”, the A-Team comes to the aid of a group of New York shopkeepers, who are being preyed upon on by “neighborhood protection” racketeers.
--- “Holiday In The Hills” 3/22/1983
In this installment of the show, the A-Team’s plane crashes in a remote, wooded area, and while trying to make their way out, they discover a man being burned at the stake by a group of rednecks. As you might expect, these mountain men are not too thrilled at having their party interrupted, and turn on the A-Team, who are forced to dig in and defend themselves near the crash site.
--- “West Coast Turnabound” – Air Date 4/5/1983
In “West Coast Turnaround”, the A-Team is retained to deliver produce to the market for a farmer who is slowly being forced out of business by a greedy rancher who will not allow the farmer’s goods to pass through to market.
--- “One More Time” – Air Date 4/12/1983
This episode, the United States government recruits the A-Team to rescue a general and his daughter from a band of guerillas in Borneo.
--- “Til Death Do Us Part” – Air Date 4/19/1983
In “Til Death Do Us Part”, the A-Team comes to the rescue of a woman who has inherited a large stake in a successful company. It seems that her late father’s business partner is trying to seize control of the company by making a reluctant bride out of the woman, so she enlists the A-Team to help her out of the situation.
--- “The Beast From the Belly of a Boeing” – 5/3/1983
In this episode, a team of hijackers seizes control of a commercial jetliner, and the A-Team becomes involved when the airport staff is told not to involve the authorities. Unfortunately, Hannibal’s foolproof plan to free the captive 747 requires some rethinking when the plane goes airborne, B.A. becomes catatonic, and Murdock gets temporarily blinded.
--- “A Nice Place to Visit” – Air Date 5/10/1983
While attending the funeral for a former colleague, the A-Team ends up aiding the local townsfolk, who are being terrorized by a murderous family.
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Each of the episodes from The A-Team’s inaugural season are offered by Universal Home Video in their original full-frame (1.33:1) aspect ratio, but unfortunately, they just don’t look too much better than average. To begin with, although there is no major print damage evident, a fair amount spots and scratches are visible throughout. Further, black level is somewhat inconsistent, so shadow detail is obscured a bit in some of the episodes, and bolder colors do not exhibit the vibrancy they should.
Characters’ flesh tones fare a little bit better, but overall the image just appears to be dingy and undefined. Minor amounts of edge enhancement and video noise were also visible at times. Granted, the fact that The A-Team is a 20-year-old television program probably had a lot to do with it, but whatever the reason, the episodes in this set look about average, as DVDs go. Then again, that still means they look much better than they do in cable reruns.
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
It is hard to believe, but the A-Team is now a 20-year-old show, and unfortunately it sounds that way. Specifically, the monaural (2.0) mix provided for each A-Team adventure has a rather narrow soundstage, with almost all of the audio information seeming to be emitted from the center of the soundstage. Frequency response is not very impressive either, particularly in the lower octaves, but the higher frequencies sound a little harsh at times as well.
Sound effects, especially gunfire, also tend to be somewhat anemic at times, and the score can be abrasive whenever it is competing for space against effects and dialogue, or during louder passages. On the other hand, dialogue is always easily discernable, but I also noticed a bit of distortion creeping in a couple of times when characters were yelling.
All in all, I suppose the soundtracks for these episodes are serviceable, and they definitely do not sound any worse than they do on broadcast television, but that is about it.
Nothing, Nada, Zip….for a show that was so popular (albeit for a few years)?!?! Where the are the extras? Hell, Universal even made a stunt show out of this series at their Southern California theme park!
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
In its day, the A-Team was a popular and exciting show! Though I still dig it, mostly for nostalgic reasons (I almost wanted to scramble around in my backyard, play-fighting again ), I can’t fight the feeling that the show hasn’t aged well, and that much better action adventure shows have come along in its wake.
If you are into the show, you already know the first season is one of the best, in terms of overall content. And when it comes to presentation, despite being a little below average, as far as A/V quality is concerned, these episodes have probably never looked or sounded better. Unfortunately, there are also NO added value materials included (not even a collectible booklet in my copy), which has to be considered a disappointment. But since the show is most likely what everyone that would consider buying this set is after, and it looks and sounds almost as good as one could hope for, I think it is still warrants the consideration of serious fans! More casual fans, a group that I now lump myself in with, may want to see if they can somehow borrow or rent this release before plunking down their hard earned cash.