The Rear-View Mirror: The A-Team (1983)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

The A-Team

In 1984, when they visited The Netherlands, they were received like superstars. Dwight “Howling Mad Murdoch” Schultz, Dirk “Face” Benedict and Laurence “B.A. Baracus” Tureaud (a.k.a. Mr. T). The A-Team (Cue theme). They even met our Queen. George “Hannibal” Peppard was absent. According to Schultz and Benedict, because he considered himself too big of a star (he had, after all, been in the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s, opposite Audrey Hepburn).

It is difficult to imagine how this cartoon for grown-ups became a major hit for the network. Even then criticism in the US was harsh. In an era of St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues, The A-Team with its unapologetic machismo, sanitized violence, and overt sexism must have seemed silly, facile and offensive. But, as Dwight Schultz says, it was a funny show. The little guys are protected against the big guys. The heroes (however dubious they may seem) win the day. When comic-con in Utrecht, The Netherlands, rolled around in March 2018, hundreds of fans still flocked to see what was left of The (now aging) A-Team.

Nowadays the show has an air of dated innocence. The criticism that the show is ‘too violent’ seems almost ridiculous. If the bad-guys are in a wreck or explosion, a short take always reveals they are unhurt. No blood is spilt, no one ever dies. Even its (undeniable) sexism has a Pepé Le Pew cartoonishness to it. And every episode seems to have the same plot.

In other words, it has not aged particularly well. But despite that, it is fun to revisit the series. For the (over) acting, for the one-liners, and because it refuses to take itself seriously.

Granted, it is still a shock to see Hannibal come on screen in blackface (as one of his many disguises) or in yellowface as “Mr Lee”. But when he quips “black is beautiful” and B.A. retorts: “not on you!”, the series is just self-aware enough to wriggle itself into our hearts.

The Rear-View Mirror will return every Friday, looking further and further into the past. Fasten your seatbelts: it may just be a bumpy ride.

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