Crash. Bang. Whoosh. Wallop. Beep. Bzzzzzz. Comics. Tv shows. What do they have in common? I’m not talking about ha ha ha stand up comics mind you, but actual paper related stuff fluff that stands on its own. Truly. I’m talking about action with a unique merging of humour and deception without the heavily sexualized plot lines and moreso fun and playful masculinity. I’m here today to discuss the merits of a team of rag scallions that are close to my beating heart. I’m here for the A-team.
“In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promply escaped from a maximum security stockage 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’…like Doctor Who, in my youth, time was spent listening to the starting, whirring vintage tunes of Paul Hardcastle made music to the opening visuals of men who felt like men who could solve problems and so begins a list regarding why I think the A-Team is one of a kind.
- The A-Team’s premise was of a team of people who solved problems. This statements appeal is twofold. One- to a child it appealed to the ever alltruistic good guy underdog notion where a band of little guys who were demonised by the ‘bad guys’ and try to get one over the bad guys by helping people anyway. Two- It was the whole rush of feeling a part of something, being a final member of the team, but instead watching from afar and so participating in their rollercoaster rides of emotion. And they solved problems away from the backdrop of a coorporitized world!
2. It seemed to characterise the American dream- not so the hiding underground part for illegal activities, but the smiles of the actors all the time in addition to beating people up and getting into disguises. There were things being blown up (safely) with huge amounts of dynamite, like a righteous fireworks display, fast sports cars with cuban havana cigars and carnival festivities. A whole lot of dress up which wound itself into the main activity of the show(disguises). It felt surreal and wholly satisfying at the same time. The surrealism I guess in part relates to watching from afar. Life felt like an event and less of a daily chore.
3. The characters themselves were funny. They didn’t need to make too much sense in a way. Perhaps that was because I was 12 years old at the time, but the story line was simple- always the same overarching story about a group of guys who escaped from prison to help people with bad guys (those that imprisoned them) after them, seeking to help people. You were always wondering when and who specifically would catch them, why they were on the run. This would be explained in due course and my appetite for action was always quenched with each episode and each case they took on in a sub plot so that weighed further behind in my mind.
4 There was no gratuitous sex involved. As a 12 year old, I didn’t need the ever constant western sexualised image in my mind thrown at me from underground tube posters and/or street posters thrown at me to be aware of my imperfections. This happens to be true today as well in the form of other tv shows banded around- the Game of Thrones and others being prime examples. There were however little behaviours which hinted towards a world where sex was talked about, faceman (Dirk Benedicts) constant rendezvous with women.
5 Mad Murdock. This character was strange. At first I didn’t understand what seemed like huge overacting, but soon I realised (I recognise the truth more so now because I have studied the period of history in both school and personal time) a hint of the truth. He was mad. Why? Because he had shell shock. His relationship with BA Baracus was always taunting and cheeky. BA couldn’t fly- he was scared of flyi
ng. Murdock was coincidentally a pilot who played around with sock puppets. The seriousness of his role as a pilot starkly contrasted with who he was as a character which grated BA who recognised that his (BA’s ) life and that of the other team members would always be somehow dependent on the ‘fool’ of a character that was Murdock. This gives way to my favourite saying, ‘I pity the fool’. Murdock always had to be rescued from a psychiatric hospital as well, with one or more of the other three A-team members in disguise to dupe the nurses there. One of my favorite scenes has to be the ‘Trashbag scene’ with facemen wearing a pair of glasses and a tache to go in to retrieve him. Murdock just shouts at the top of his voice for trashbags, the nurses are concerned and Faceman does his thing serially schmoozing and convincing the nurses of his credentials (quite similar to Doctor Who and the psychic paper- but these two shows were done at pretty much the same time- I do love them both) and discussing Murdocks needs. It wasn’t intended to be scary, definitely humorous since it was publicly aired before watershed, but through its ridiculousness it highlighted the importance of mental illness both in a historical context such as shell shock and a societal culture context, which we find to confront ourselves with today. Mental illness finds itself surrounding us as a topic in the modern world today so the character of Murdock presents itself as a window, a glimpse into the ether of space and time that we can open and try and get to grips with.6. Dress up. Disguises. Acting has always been about being someone else. This show combined character dialogue with the need to be different people. It truly signified Shakespeare’s tuneful words, ‘All the word’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.’. These actors were actors within a role within a role within multiple roles going by Shakespeares metaphorical allegory. My favourite disguises have to be Murdocks guises. Namely red indian, priest, mafia gangster and chef. I can’t for the life of me remember the episodes but I like the energy of the character and the total commitment the actor had in each of these roles. BA was always clunky and restricted, he didn’t dress up too much, he enjoyed his gold chains too much- think repo inventory man, technician always doing the repairs for the team of the van and making newer inventions to help them beat the bad guys. Faceman’s disguises were always distinguished law man, doctor, psychologist, middle business man. Always the slick one with a trick up his sleeve and a sports car down the road.
7. Bad guys. Colonel Decker was unnerving. Very strict and everything that I dislike about being human. Restricted, therefore imposing. A life characterised by routine painting lines around people who were born free, hell raisers seeking simply to not give two hoots about what they were and not allowed to do. Limits they realised were always in our minds and not exact models of reality. Maybe that’s why murdocks character appealed to the audience. We’ve all lost our minds. Or are losing them. His MPs strove to be as obedient to him as possible, unfaltering and unquestioning. It was like North Korea. Unlike the A-team’s model of social interaction which represented individual, western freedoms and the freedom to question authority. There were always skirmishes between characters because of this very reason. Finally, however, Hannibal smith always subtly led recognising the weaknesses of other characters and utilizing strengths. Underhanded villain? No. In pursuit of victory, things had to be done effectively.
8. A-Team van. The A-team van was fast, clunky and truly an American hero in our midst. It did everything Americans were meant to do- crash into things, through church windows and scream past cheeseburger munching pedestrians high on Justin Bieber albums. Bieber didn’t exist then. My ears found solace. Europe- the final countdown then. Or Rick Astley, Never going to give you up. Or Wham- wake me up before you go go. It was there to save the day in time of crisis and made me always scream at the TV, ‘I want one’. To this day, I still don’t have one. Kind of like the Tardis and a Dalek suit. Still don’t have these things. What has the world come to.
9.Guns. I live in the UK. Have done all my life. A 12 year old needed a gun. With the use of heavy gun violence in The A-Team it made me feel like all men had one. To be a man was to smell the fire of a gun and sleep with it every single day until you fire your trigger finger goes trigger happy. I wanted to grow up- still do (minus the gun perhaps due to ‘growing up’ – jheeze I hate the badge of being ‘mature’, serious and semi constipated throughout the entirety of life.). Scratch the gratuitousness I mentioned earlier. Ah wait. There’s no sex here. Just unadulterated rattatat tat of a machine gun firing way at the tyres of a van belonging to the bad guys. This was before the military trial of the A-team in court in Season 5, court martial. Shudder. Good things had to come to an end.
And good things have to come to an end here. But have they? The movie was out a few years ago (with a cameo from Dwight Schultz- Mad Murdock, although BA had no role and in my mind, it wasn’t too great) and in recent news, there are talks of a new A-Team series in the mix, this time with a mixed gender cast thrown in. What’re your thoughts on this bit of news? Are you nervous, excited, all of the above? Which actors do you think are fit to play the main characters? Message me, let’s have a discussion. Cheerio my dear readers. Friends, thank you for lending me your ears. You have been most attentive. Oh I do love it when a plan comes together.