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On Jan. 23, 1983, NBC premiered the action series The A-Team, which went on to run for five seasons at the network. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review, included in a TeleVisions column, is below:
Passing in Review: The A-Team (NBC, Sunday, 10-11 p.m.) There is only one answer. NBC Entertainment has a suicide complex. Why else would the network put on the kind of program which is certain to be lambasted by the Moral Majority (for its violence), the NAACP (for its stereotyped portrayal of a black), the American Veterans Committee (for its antimilitary implications), the National Council of Churches (for its treatment of religion), and, certainly not last or least, by the assorted members of the TV Critics Assn. And they can all feel free to carbon copy Universal Studios and executive producer/writer Stephen J. Cannell from whose laps The A-Team comes. If you think we’re exaggerating, it can only be because you were lucky enough to miss the opening episode, titled “Children of Jamestown.”
Few did miss the premiere, however, thanks to NBC program mining the show following the Super Bowl XVII clash. That was enough of a boost to generate a 26.4 rating and 39 share which placed it fourth out of 67 shows for the week. ABC, of course, didn’t help their cause by running as Team‘s competition the film Smokey and the Bandit — for the fifth time. That’s the video version of throwing in the towel. CBS ran a Trapper John, M.D. episode, which, essentially, is the same thing. Neither network has much to worry about, however. Not even Middle America could sip of The A-Team‘s nectar, and like the taste.
First, there’s a series title upon which both the network and producers seem unable to agree. The opening credits label the show The A-Team — with a hyphen. The commercial bumpers call the show The A Team — no hyphen. NBC’s ad in TV Guide Magazine has it spelled both ways within their halfpage ad (this, mind you, from the same network which actually put out a release announcing Super Bowl XVII/ — Roman numerals being the tricky things they are). Finally during the show, it’s spray-painted on a rooftop “A-TEAM.” If you think it’s a small detail, ask yourself how many other series tamper with their titles. Compared with the show itself, however, it’s petty cash. We are first asked to accept the presence of a quartet of G.I.’s who were sentenced to the stockade for a crime they didn’t commit. Needless to say, the four escape from captivity. And just as needless to add, they don’t run for cover. Not these guys. They stay together on the lam and, moreover, hire themselves out to the highest bidder as modern-day soldiers-of-fortune. All the better, we can only presume, to stay just one step ahead of the National Guard. Obvious, yes; smart, no.
Just what George Peppard is doing in a show like this is a question best left unanswered. At any rate, Peppard leads his “Team” which includes Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, Mr. T (of Rocky III fame, complete with his built-in snarl and indecipherable speech). They also have a newspaper-reporter side kick, Melinda Culea. They have names like Hannibal Smith, the Face and R.A. Baracus; and between them they don’t look like they could explode their way out of a tent, much less rescue a teenager brainwashed by a religious cult.
Having accomplished that feat, however, early on in the program without much effort, they brightly place her aboard a helicopter and watch as she flies off to safety — while they get captured and taken back for some formal religious reeducation (under the direction of John Saxon, of all people). By the hour’s end, they’ve escaped in a rain of automatic rifle fire. Next they physically forced their way into the farmhouse of a father and daughter who just happened to have on hand 1) an empty water heater, 2) an ox cart, 3) wire bedsprings, 4) a power drill and press, and 5) a year’s supply of acetylene and oxygen in tanks. In pure Mission Impossible style, they assemble a swivel-mounted flame-thrower; and go about barbecuing at least 30 extras. The remainder of the bad guys get theirs when helicopter pilot Schultz comes back to help his buddies and drops ignited sticks of dynamite without as much as a single “Watch out be low!” Director Christian I. Nyby Jr. deserves no small credit for making at least some of it look believable. For the record, Frank Lupo is the co-executive producer, Jo Swerling Jr. is the supervising producer and John Ashley and Patrick Hasburgh are listed as producers. The hemlock will be in the mail … Until tomorrow. — Richard Hack, originally published Feb. 3, 1983.
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