Super Sunday: NBC’s “The A-Team”

"The A-Team" premiered on NBC on Jan. 23, 1983. (Photo by NBC)

On January 23, 1983, the world was introduced to a crack commando unit who was unjustly sentenced to prison for a crime they didn’t commit, but escaped and went to the Los Angeles underground.  Still wanted by the government, they survived as soldiers-of-fortune.  If you have a problem, if there is no one else to help you, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire The A-Team.

Created by Stephen J. Cannell, The A-Team followed the adventures of four Vietnam veterans: Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (George Peppard), the cigar-smoking leader/master-of-disguise who’s always on the jazz; Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Tim Dunigan in the pilot only and Dirk Benedict), the smooth-talking debonair con man/ladies’ man; Capt. H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock (Dwight Schultz), the wild and crazy pilot; Sgt. Bosco “B.A.” Baracus (Mr. T), the gold-wearing mechanic/enforcer/driver with the mohawk and heart of gold – and a fear of flying.  Together, they become mercenaries for justice: freelance Lone Rangers and modern-day Robin Hoods for the underdog, the helpless and oppressed while staying one step ahead of the relentless military police that continued to pursue them.

Described as The Magnificent Seven meets The Dirty DozenThe A-Team received mixed reviews, but viewers loved the action-comedy, and was the ratings blockbuster NBC needed at the time.  After two successful Sunday airings, The A-Team moved to Tuesdays, where it remained over the next five seasons.  Originally a Top 10 show, The A-Team‘s ratings began to fall in season four when the formula started to become stale.  In the final season, the show changed directions with not only an updated theme song, but finds the team finally captured and coerced into working as operatives for shadowy Gen. Hunt Stockwell (Robert Vaughn) in exchange for receiving full pardons.  The new formula didn’t work with loyal fans, and The A-Team was canceled in 1987 after 98 episodes.

Still, their legend continues to grow thanks to reruns in syndication and DVDs, and a 2010 big-screen adaptation with Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper; original stars Benedict and Schultz made cameos in the film.  The success of The A-Team led toshort-lived shows The Master (1984, NBC) and Outlaws (1986-87, CBS); both of them lasted only 13 episodes.  However, The A-Team paved the way for others that includes another Cannell series Renegade (1992-96, syndication; 1996-97, USA Network), The Pretender (1996-2000, NBC), Burn Notice (USA Network, 2007-13), Leverage (2008-12, TNT) and Leverage: Redemption (2021-present, IMDB TV), and Person of Interest (2011-16, CBS).

All five seasons of The A-Team are available on Peacock.

I love it when a plan comes together

–Video by NBC TV

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