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HTF Review: The A-Team - Season Two

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#1 of 2 OFFLINE   Jason Perez

Jason Perez

    Second Unit



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Posted April 18 2005 - 02:40 AM

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The A-Team: Season Two





Studio: Universal
Year: 1983-1984
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 18 Hours and 28 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Captions: English
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Audio: English – Monaural (2.0)




Release Date:
April 12th, 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! Posted Image ) 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 featuring new stars, has been rumored to be in development for some time.

When the series kicked off, we learned 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. They were also accompanied on missions by newspaper reporters - Amy Allen (Melinda Culea) and Tawnia Baker (Maria Heasley), during portions of Seasons 1 and 2.

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! Posted Image

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 bottoming out in 61st place (for the half season of episodes that aired). At this point, the plug was pulled on The A-Team after 98 adventures.

As was the case with the first season DVD release, in revisiting the show again, I can’t tell you that The A-Team has aged particularly well, but most episodes are still moderately enjoyable, not to mention nostalgic and unintentionally funny. In terms of this DVD set, the second season’s episodes were nearly as good as the first season’s (fortunately the team had not gotten mixed up with Stockwell yet), with some of the highlights being “The Taxicab Wars” and “The Maltese Cow”. It was also interesting to see how the characters evolved from the first season to the second.

With that in mind, when you consider what type of show this was, the performances from the “A-Team” actors are generally pretty charismatic and entertaining, with the exception of Dwight Schultz’s overacting and the phoned-in performances characterizing the military officers that were constantly 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! That being said, though the action sequences are not nearly as exciting as they were when I was 9-years-old, the show still serves as good light entertainment.

The following is a brief description of the 22 episodes that comprised the second season of The A-Team:


DISC ONE (Side A):

--- “Diamonds ‘n’ Dust” – Air Date 9/20/1983
As the second season kicks off, the A-Team heads to Zimbabwe to assist a young woman that recently inherited a diamond mine after her father was killed while attempting to transport explosives to his mine. After the boys begin to pick up where the woman’s father left off, and get the mine back into operation, they encounter an obstacle, in the form of a local who has their own design on the mine.


--- “Recipe for Heavy Bread” – Air Date 9/27/1983
In this episode, a man that aided the A-Team during their stay in a Vietnamese P.O.W. camp finds himself in trouble, so the team comes to his rescue. In doing so, they become entangled in a drug-smuggling ring that involves the former commander of the P.O.W. camp and a former prisoner who is now in cahoots with him.


--- “The Only Church In Town” - Air Date 10/11/1983
In “The Only Church In Town”, Face is convinced that a former girlfriend is in danger, and he urges the rest of the A-Team to accompany him to Ecuador to check up on her. As you might expect (the episode would have been boring otherwise), Face’s hunch turned out to be right on the money, as his ex is being held against her will inside of a church.


DISC ONE (Side B):


--- “Bad Time On The Border” - Air Date 10/18/1983
This time out, Hannibal goes undercover as an illegal alien to track down a sick woman who was left behind by alien smugglers, and to put an end to the people-smuggling operation.


--- “When You Comin’ Back, Range Rider? (Parts One & Two)” – Air Date 10/25/1983
This double episode (season two’s only such episode) finds the A-Team trying to corral a landowner that is threatening kill some horses that are owned by a Native American.


--- “The Taxicab Wars” – Air Date 11/1/1983
This installment, arguably the best from season two, tells the tale of a small cab company that retains the A-Team to halt the violent effort of a larger competitor to drive them out of business.


DISC TWO (Side A):


--- “Labor Pains” – Air Date 11/8/1983
In “Labor Pains”, the A-Team comes to the aid of some migrant workers that are being forced to work in horrible, slave-like conditions. To combat their mistreatment, the team helps the workers organize, even as the landowner and his goons use all of their means, including violence, to thwart their efforts.


--- “There’s Always A Catch” - Air Date 11/15/1983
As this episode begins, we see the A-Team coming to the aid of a group of fisherman being plagued by an extortion scheme. Unfortunately, the members of the A-Team find themselves in trouble when the military catches up with them, and even apprehends Hannibal, Face, and B.A. Facing a dire situation, can Murdock and Amy Allen rise to the occasion and save the rest of the team?


--- “Water, Water Everywhere” – Air Date 11/22/1983
In this installment, three disabled ex-Vietnam veterans are attempting to renovate a hotel in the desert, but a greedy land developer who cuts off their water for failing to pay his exorbitant protection fees shatters their hopes. Of course, the A-Team steps in to help out, by re-connecting the water supply, and generally making the oppressive landowner’s life miserable.


--- “Steel” – Air Date 11/29/1983
In “Steel”, the A-Team looks into suspicious activity at a construction site, namely a mobster trying to force a construction firm out of business for fear that they may discover some of his darkest secrets.


DISC TWO (Side B):


--- “The White Ballot” – Air Date 12/6/1983
This episode features Face replacing a candidate who died mysteriously while campaigning for the sheriff’s office against a corrupt incumbent. Unfortunately, Face’s involvement in the race has the unintended consequence of letting the military know where the team is, after his photograph is published in a newspaper.

Note: Amy Allen (Melinda Culea) is no longer part of the A-Team, as of this episode. Her friend, Tawnia Baker (Maria Heasley) would later appear in a fairly similar role, beginning in “The Battle of Bel-Air”, although the character was short lived.


--- “The Maltese Cow” – Air Date 12/13/1983
This outstanding episode features the A-Team coming to the defense of a restaurant owner that helped them in Vietnam. Apparently, their old friend is being pressured by a Chinese tong, which is attempting to help smuggle in a drug dealer from overseas.


--- “In Plane Sight” – 1/3/1984
“In Plane Sight”, chronicles the story of a pilot, wrongfully arrested by Guatemalan authorities for smuggling cocaine. Since his family knows a Colombian drug kingpin set up the man, they contact the A-Team, and plead for Hannibal and company to head to South America to prove man’s innocence.


--- “The Battle of Bel-Air” – Air Date 1/10/1984
This episode introduces Tawnia Baker (Maria Heasley), who warns the A-Team of an ambush being planned by their military pursuers. Unfortunately, her good deed does not go unpunished; for a security firm that she was writing a newspaper article on abducts Tawnia.


DISC THREE (Side A):


--- “Say It With Bullets” – Air Date 1/17/1984
In “Say It With Bullets”, a female army officer hires the A-Team to look into the death of her brother, who appears to have been murdered by arms traffickers. Unfortunately for the A-Team, she later betrays them by alerting the military of their whereabouts.


--- “Pure-Dee Poison” – Air Date 1/31/1984
This time out, the A-Team helps a minister put a stop to a moonshine operation that is making an extremely potent brew for local watering holes.


--- “It’s a Desert Out There” – Air Date 2/7/1984
This installment is another of my personal favorites from season two, and it features a gang of thugs employing highly sophisticated tactics to hold up busloads of tourists. Once the A-Team is involved, and begins analyzing their heists, they fear the gang is getting ready to carry out a robbery that is much larger in scope.


--- “Chopping Spree” – Air Date 2/14/1984
“Chopping Spree” see the A-Team uses Face’s slick ‘Vette as the bait they need to bust up a group of car thieves. Unfortunately for the thieves, they make the mistake of stealing B.A.’s trademarked van, which brings all of his fury down upon them!


DISC THREE (Side B):


--- “Harder Than It Looks” – Air Date 2/21/1984
In this interesting episode, the A-Team is hired by a wealthy businessman to rescue his daughter, who was abducted by the GLA, a known terrorist organization. The ensuing rescue mission seems to be much easier than the team had expected, but a monkey wrench is thrown into the works when the girl makes the startling revelation that her boyfriend was one of her captors.


--- “Deadly Maneuvers” – Air Date 2/28/1984
Revenge is the theme when criminals that the A-Team busted in the past hire a crew of mercenaries to capture the members of the team, one-by-one.


--- “Semi-Friendly Persuasion” – Air Date 5/8/1984
The A-Team faces an especially challenging mission when their clients, a group of pacifists known as The Brotherhood of Man, forbid them to use violence against the bigots attempting to drive their entire group off of its land.


--- “Curtain Call” – Air Date 5/15/1984
Maybe the writers were just out of ideas this week, but this episode features the A-Team reminiscing (via flashbacks) about an injured Murdock’s contributions to the team, as they look for a doctor and try to avoid the military, which is hot on their trail.







SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Each of the episodes from The A-Team’s second season are presented by Universal in their original full-frame (1.33:1) aspect ratio, and they look exactly like the first season’s episodes did – a little better than average. Once again, there is no major print damage evident, but a fair amount spots and scratches are still visible throughout.

Black level is also slightly inconsistent, so shadow detail is obscured a bit in some of the episodes, and bolder colors do not exhibit the vibrancy they should. Characters’ skin tones fare a little bit better, but overall the image appears to be slightly 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 its appearance, but whatever the reason, the episodes in this set look about average, as DVD releases go. Then again, that still means they look much better than they do in cable reruns, which are usually almost un-watchable.





WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
As was the case with Season One, a monaural (2.0) mix is provided for each A-Team adventure, and each 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, and unfortunately, the higher frequencies can 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, and 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 actors’ voices were raised.

On the whole, the soundtracks for this group of A-Team episodes gets the job done, but they do so in an unspectacular fashion. They do sound a little better than what you would find on broadcast television, but don’t expect much more.





EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!


In an obviously cross-promotional move, the complete Knight Rider episode entitled “Brother’s Keeper” is included on Disc One.

While this is not a bad extra, for the second time, there are no value added materials that celebrate the A-Team! Again, I have to wonder where the extras are, and find it very hard to fathom that Mr. T, Dwight Schultz, and Dirk Benedict are so busy that they could not find time or be convinced to participate in the creation of some value-added materials for this set. I would say I am holding out hope that we will see something on Season Three, but I think I would just be setting myself up for another disappointment.


Promotional Materials
The set contains promotional “trailers” for the following upcoming DVD releases:
Magnum P.I. – The Complete Second Season, Knight Rider – The Complete Second Season, The A-Team: Season Two, Miami Vice: Season One, and Meet the Fockers, as well as previews of a couple of videogames.



SCORE CARD

(on a five-point scale)
Episodes: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
Video: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
Audio: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
Extras: Posted Image Posted Image
Overall: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image



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 Posted Image ), 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 second season is one of the better ones, 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 that are specific to the show, which has to be considered a disappointment, especially for those who bought Season One, and were hoping that extras were being saved for later seasons.

However, since the show’s episodes are really the primary consideration for those contemplating buying this set, I must say that while there is room for improvement, they look and sound better than I have ever seen them on broadcast television. As such, I think Season Two of The A-Team definitely 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, so they can be sure it will be worth the investment.


Stay tuned…
Padawan Learner in the Mystical Art of Home Theater!

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#2 of 2 OFFLINE   RogerH

RogerH

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Posted April 18 2005 - 03:10 AM

I have to get this this soon.