The A-Team was one of the most popular shows of the 1980s, airing from 1983-1987.
Featuring four military soldiers on the run from U.S. Army for a crime they did not commit, they survived, as the intro says, as “soldiers of fortune.”
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Often, they would help out the average Joe for free against thugs and criminals, endearing themselves to the public and TV audience.
The show’s heavy emphasis on “cartoonish violence” connected with kids and not so much with some parents who deemed it as mindless trash. Fortunately, the show didn’t take itself too seriously, adding big heaps of comedic bits to most episodes.
Mr. T, previously known for his work on the movie Rocky III, exploded into popularity as B.A. Baracus, Dwight Schulz as “Howling Mad” Murdoch, Dirk Benedict as Face and George Peppard as Hannibal, the leader. Journalist Amy Amanda Allen played by Melinda Culea was joined later in the first season.
A movie was made in 2010, featuring Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as B.A. Baracus.
This writer was part of the show’s demographic and can attest to the popularity of the show first hand. Kids had A-Team lunchboxes, and the van was very popular in terms of the show’s merchandising.
How popular was Mr. T? He was one of the few badasses who could get away with wearing a pink top. Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart of the WWE Hall-of-Fame tag team The Hart Foundation were the only other exceptions of the era. In fact, T headlined the WWE’s first ever WrestleMania event with Hulk Hogan against Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff in 1985.
Mr. T came to my town in Brampton, Ontario for an autograph session at the local Toys ‘R’ US store in late 1984. The lineup for him circled around the entire mall at least twice and at least several people deep.
This writer was one of the lucky kids to get an autographed picture and moment with him as many were turned away and had to settle for drive-by sighting of him atop a vehicle that was driven around the mall.
In short, Mr. T was larger than life to most kids – of any age.
But’s let take a look at a scene from Pros and Cons, Season 1, Episode 4.
Shows like The A-Team, much like it’s cartoon equivalent, G.I. Joe, rarely strayed from the weekly formula. In this episode, the gang tries to rescue a jailed friend. In the scene, the warden sets up a prison boxing fight between B.A. and the local champ. played by the late former heavyweight boxing champion Ken Norton.
The choreography is fairly basic compared to today’s standards and yet there’s something charismatic about Mr. T that allows us to suspend the disbelief of the fight. The 1970s had The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.
There was something for everyone. Face was popular with the ladies, Hannibal was the street smart leader who had a thing for clever disguises, Murdoch was the funny and crazy guy who pushed B.A.’s buttons and Amy was the journalist who played it as straight as she could.
The 1980s had The A-Team.