Near the end of the Vietnam war an elite commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they did not commit. Escaping from a maximum-security stockade and going underground, they operated as soldiers of fortune while running from the Army M.P. and trying to prove their innocence. The A-Team ran on NBC from 1983 to 1987.
Lt. Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (George Peppard). Lt.. Tempton “Face” Peck (Dirk Bendedict) & Sgt. Bosco Albert “B.A.” Baracus (Mr. T) were told by their commanding officer, Col. Morrison, to rob the Hanoi bank because he believed it would help to end the war. They do so, but when they get back to H.Q. the Col. is dead, the place is burned down & no one believes they were under orders. The team's pilot Capt. H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock (Dwight Schultz) wasn’t involved in the heist, but is willing to help them while they’re on the lam in between stays in V.A. psychiatric wards. Pursued at first by Col. Lynch (William Lucking), then by Col. Decker (Lance DeGault) and finally by Gen. Fulbright (Jack Ging). The A-Team gets help from newspaper reporter Amy Alan (Melinda Culea) & after she accepts an overseas assignment, fellow reporter Tawnia Baker (Marla Heasley) gets in on the action.
Reuse of the same basic plots (There are bad guys. B.A. refuses to fly, Murdock is doing something crazy, Face cons someone, Hannibal has a plan.) with the same predictable outcome (The A-Team saves the day with a weapon or a vehicle made out of random bits & pieces. Sometimes with the Army M.P. right on their heels.) contributed to a ratings drop by the fourth season.
A fifth season premise change had Smith, Peck & Baracus getting captured and Murdock arranging to have their deaths faked in front of a firing squad with the help of special effects man Frankie “Dishpan” Santana (Eddie Velez). A mysterious CIA operative Gen. Stockwell (Robert Vaughn) finds them & offers to get them pardons, if they complete a series of suicide missions for him. They agree and get into a series of Mission Impossible style situations. Ratings continued to slip and there were only 13 episodes in the fifth & final season.
George Peppard and Mr T did not get along. Peppard was a movie actor, but Mr. T became the star of the show. Things got worse when he found out Mr. T got paid more than he did.
After seeing Mr. T in Rocky III NBC president Brandon Tartikoff pitched the idea for the series to producer Steven J.Cannell as a combo of The Dirty Dozen, Mad Max, Mission Impossible, The Magnificent Seven & Hill Street Blues with Mr. T driving the car.
Dirk Bendedict has said that George Peppard refused to talk to Mr. T & he was the messenger between them. Peppard referred to Mr. T as the man with the gold.
Lt. Col John Smith gets the nickname Hannibal from his unexpected plans. Much like the Carthaginian general Hannibal who attempted to attack ancient Rome by taking 40 elephants across the Alps.
George Peppard resented Melinda Culea and Marla Heasley and told them so. He felt a female character was unnecessary in such a male-driven show.
A-Team is the nickname coined for the U.S. Special Forces’ Operational Detachments Alpha (ODA) during the Vietnam War.
Where can you watch it?
The A-Team is currently streaming on The Roku Channel, Peacock, & Peacock Premium. You can buy it from Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu & Amazon Video. All seasons are on Region 1, 2 & 3 DVD. Some episodes are on YouTube.
It can sometimes be found on COZI TV, Me TV, or RTN and the like which can be picked up with an antenna for over-the-air signals. Some cable line-ups will have one or two of these channels. Pluto TV may have it as well.
Sources: Wikipedia, IMDB, Just Watch, YouTube 1, 2 3