February 15, 2006

DVD Review: The A-Team - Season Three

There is nothing like the action television of the 80's. From Knight Rider to Magnum PI, from Macgyver to The A-Team, where else could you turn to see bullets never hit anybody, car wrecks don't hurt anyone, and where, from week to week could you see the most ingenius plans put in motion to thwart an even wider array of bad guys?

The A-Team wasn't my action show of choice, I leaned more towards the sci-fi trappings of Knight Rider and the nice guy attitudes of Macgyver. Of course, as a young and impressionable child, I was rarely allowed in front of the television long enough to watch the A-Team, or who knows what possible frenzied fan attitude could have built up inside of me.

Today's subject is the third season of said action series, which originally aired during the 1984-85 season. This is the first of the series I have seen since their original run, some 20 years ago. Being as it is, my memory of the series is spotty at best, so watching this, was like viewing it within a bubble with little frame of reference to the seasons around it.

The series, like many shows of the era, was all about the high concept. It sacrificed long running in depth stories, in favor of the stand alone episode. Occasionally, they would toss in an episode with recurring characters to show the passage of time, but by and large, it stuck to its formula, and it worked.

Typically, each episode would open with some random group of people getting in trouble. This season includes a beach front hotel owner, a small fire company, independent loggers, and a singing group, among others. That reveal is followed by their attempt to locate the elusive team, which usually has Hannibal Smith in some sort of wacky disguise. We proceed to the team moving in and doing some re-con work to find out just what needs to be done, followed by them working together to put together some sort of contraption on their way to winning the day.

That is a rather blunt sequence of events, but it is rather accurate. The charms of the series lay in the combination of personalities making up the team. Hannibal, portrayed by George Peppard, is the slyly humorous mastermind of the proceedings. Templeton "Face" Peck, Battlestar Galactica's Dirk Benedict, is a master of disguise and ever the fashion plate, with a girl in every port. BA Baracus, aka Mr. T, is an expert in munitions and a mechanic, not to mention being the muscle of the group. Finally we have Howlin' Mad Murdoch, Dwight Schultz, as the resident lunatic, and my favorite member of the team. Together they are possibly the toughest group of hombres you'd ever want to tangle with, and this season proves just how tough they can be.

There are some recurring thematic elements. They include BA's fear of flying, and the variety of methods used to get him where they need to go. There is the occasional need to break Murdoch out of the psych ward, so that he can participate in the escapades. Then there are the MP's led by a man named Decker, who were out to get the four men. They were, after all, fugitives having been convicted and imprisoned for a crime they didn't commit. An imprisonment they quickly escaped and lived taking these dangerous jobs to protect the innocent.

Watching these episodes was a lot of fun. The series may feel campy and rather dated, but the pure entertainment it provides is genuine. Each episode brings new gadgets and costumes, another bad guy to be defeated. This is a nostalgic trip through the 1980's.

Audio. Presented in 2.0 mono, the audio sounds decent enough. It may be a little flat, but that has to do more with the source than anything else. Something to note, apparently, two songs were replaced due to, I would guess, rights issues. I am not sure which two, but the note is in small letters on the back of the box alerting us of the fact.

Video. We get the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It has that washed out look that seems to go with shows of the era, but it looks quite good. This has got to be the best the show has looked since its original broadcast, probably even better.

Extras. None, you get all 25 episodes and nothing else. Some old commercials, or interview footage, perhaps unused footage from the set, or bloopers, or anything really, would have been nice.

Bottomline. This show is a blast. An explosion of entertainment landing all over your television screen. The excitement builds when that music hits, if there is one thing that goes along with those shows of the 80's are some of the most memorable ever created. Fun acting, big stunts, and, I'll say it again, fun all combine to give us some memorable television.

Recommended. *** / *****


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