11 December 2002 | Victor Field
Formula, but in a good way. (And read on for some myths to be exploded.)
Some '80s shows that were hits at the time really don't hold up well today, but some very definitely do. "Moonlighting" was one of them, and so was this creation of Frank Lupo and Stephen J. Cannell. (Lupo later came to a parting of the ways with Cannell and inflicted "Werewolf" and "Something Is Out There" on the world. Blub.)
Like most of the people commenting on "The A-Team," I used to watch it as a kid (well, a teenager really). It had likeable heroes, comedy, action, top music (unlike most TV producers, Cannell billed Mike Post and Pete Carpenter in the main titles with the stars) ... the lot. The plots weren't exactly loaded with endless twists, but that was part of the fun - who else looked forward to the week's DIY montage where the quartet built that week's weapons? (As Hannibal pointed out in one of the novelisations, it's amazing how the bad guys always locked them up with precisely what they needed to escape.)
And contrary to popular belief, our heroes did get hurt from time to time (the clip show episode "Curtain Call" used Murdock being shot as an excuse for his comrades to hold a remembrance of episodes past; in "The Battle Of Bel Air" the helicopter containing the A-Team crashed at the end of the climax, injuring everyone EXCEPT B.A. Baracus); occasionally episodes started with someone actually getting murdered (the man in the exploding car in "Skins," one of the battling convicts in "Pros & Cons"). The show didn't dwell on it, true, but it was there.
This remains Cannell's most successful show as an independent producer, and demonstrates how he's more adaptable than the more critically acceptable Steven Bochco (this is not to put down Bochco, but can you imagine the man with the would-be violinist for a dad coming up with shows as wildly different as "The Greatest American Hero," "Top of the Hill" and "Wiseguy"?). It was fun in the 1980s, and it's fun now. Which is a lot more than can be said for "The Professionals."