The A-Team has to be in the top 5 favourite TV shows of any 80s kid! This larger-than-life action adventure series followed the exploits of soldiers Hannibal, Faceman, B.A. Baracus and Murdock as they constantly tried to help out those in need, whilst on the run from the military police.
It was a huge favourite of millions back in the 80s, but you might not have known the following facts about the show…
20. A different actor originally played Faceman
The A-Team gave us one of the most iconic ensemble casts ever to grace the small screen. We had George Peppard as ‘Hannibal’ Smith, Mr T as B.A. Baracus and Dwight Schultz as ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock. Finally, there was Dirk Benedict as the smooth ‘Faceman’ – but Benedict wasn’t always part of the equation. When they shot the pilot episode, the role of Faceman was taken by another actor, Tim Dunigan (who later took the title role in infamous sci-fi series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future).
It was decided fairly quickly that Dunigan looked too young to be playing a Vietnam veteran (he was under 30 years old), so Dirk Benedict was hired to replace him. Benedict already had some history with action-based small screen entertainment, thanks to his role as Starbuck in the beloved but short-lived Battlestar Galactica.
19. B.A. Baracus never actually says “I pity the fool”
Ask anyone to do an impression of Mr T as B.A. Baracus, and they’re bound to say either “I ain’t gettin’ on no plane!” or “I pity the fool!” However, while B.A. did indeed say the former line plenty of times, he never actually said “I pity the fool.” This common misconception is down to the fact that Mr T did say the line in his breakthrough movie: 1982’s Rocky III.
In Sylvester Stallone‘s blockbuster sequel, Mr T’s boxer Clubber Lang tells an interviewer, “I don’t hate (Rocky) Balboa – but I pity the fool!” As B.A.’s persona is so closely associated with Mr T himself, it’s easy to see how audiences get a little mixed up. In any case, B.A. certainly referred to a great many people as “fools” and “suckers” on The A-Team, even if he never expressed pity for them.
18. Hannibal said “I love it when a plan comes together” many times
While Mr T might not have ever actually said “I pity the fool” on The A-Team, another of the lines most closely associated with the show popped up a lot. That line is, of course, the catchphrase of George Peppard’s Hannibal: “I love it when a plan comes together.” This line was closely associated with the character from the very beginning, with Peppard first uttering it in the very first episode of The A-Team Exactly how many times Peppard said the line throughout the show’s 98 episodes, we’re not 100% sure – but it was definitely upwards of 20, as the video below demonstrates.
As you can also see from this supercut video, Dirk Benedict and Mr T also uttered the line on occasion, as well as some of the show’s guest stars. Years later, Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper would also use the catchphrase in the 2010 movie adaptation of The A-Team. Numerous other movies and TV shows have paid homage to The A-Team by using the iconic catchphrase, including 90s British sitcom Spaced.
17. Murdock’s first name is never revealed
As the wild and unpredictable Murdock, Dwight Schultz provided The A-Team with comic relief. However, Murdock also remained one of the most mysterious A-Team characters – because we never learn his first name. We’re told that Hannibal’s real first name is John, Faceman’s real name is Templeton Peck, and B.A. stands for Boscoe Albert. When it comes to Murdock, all we know is that his initials are H.M. – hence the ‘Howling Mad’ nickname.
After The A-Team, Schultz’s best known work was his occasional recurring role as the bumbling Lt. Barclay on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager. Schultz has also clocked up a great many TV guest appearances on voice actor roles in many cartoons and video games.
16. Melinda Culea’s Amy was written out in the second series due to a feud with George Peppard
Perhaps the most frequently forgotten cast member in The A-Team is Melinda Culea, who appeared as a series regular in the first season. Culea portrayed Amy Amanda Allen (AKA ‘Triple-A’), a reporter investigating the A-Team’s exploits who becomes their ally. Amy appeared in 24 episodes over the show’s first two seasons, but then left to be briefly replaced by Marla Heasley as Tawnia, another reporter character. Accounts vary as to whether Culea jumped, or was pushed – but it’s widely believed that George Peppard had her fired, as the two did not get along.
It is also said that Culea expressed frustration with her role in the show, and was pushing for Amy to be more integral to the action. Culea went on to work extensively in TV, but her last screen credit was in 2001, and she now works as an author and artist.
15. Mr. T and George Peppard didn’t get on at all
It seems that Melinda Culea wasn’t the only co-star that The A-Team’s top-billed star George Peppard had a problem with. When The A-Team first took to the airwaves, Peppard was by far the biggest star in the ensemble. With a film and TV career dating back to the 50s, Peppard’s most notable roles included Breakfast at Tiffany’s and How the West Was Won. However, Peppard was angered by the popularity of Mr T, who quickly became the most prominent figure in the show – and wound up commanding a higher salary than Peppard, which only further enraged the more seasoned actor.
Peppard, for his part, reportedly claimed in an interview with Terry Wogan that Mr T had demanded the firing of a number of the show’s crew members, which Peppard said he didn’t take kindly to. Whatever the truth of the matter was, it was known that the actors were never on good terms and would frequently refuse to address one another on set.
14. The theme tune was the work of one of the 80s’ busiest composers
A huge part of The A-Team’s lasting mass appeal is its unforgettably rousing opening theme music. In a decade with no shortage of memorable theme tunes, The A-Team music is still impossible to get out of your head all these years later. It was the work of Mike Post, who was one of the most in-demand composers of the 80s with some other notable theme tunes to his name. Other hit 80s shows for which Post provided memorable theme tunes include Magnum, PI, LA Law, Hill Street Blues, Hunter, The Greatest American Hero and Quantum Leap.
Nor did Post rest on his laurels in the 90s, providing the theme tunes for Law and Order, NYPD Blue, Murder One and Martial Law, amongst others. Post has also worked extensively in rock music, performing in a number of groups and producing the 1997 Van Halen album, Van Halen III.
13. George Peppard and Mr T were the only real military veterans in the cast
While Hannibal actor Peppard and B.A. actor Mr T might not have got along off camera, the two men did have something in common. They were the only members of the core ensemble on The A-Team to have actually served in the military. Peppard served in the United States Marine Corps from 1946 to 1948, reaching the rank of Corporal.
Mr T, meanwhile, joined the Army (under his real name Lawrence Tureaud) after being expelled from University. During that time, he served in the Military Police. Neither Murdock actor Dwight Schultz nor Faceman actor Dirk Benedict ever served in the military. The only other A-Team regular to have served was Eddie Velez, a USAF veteran who appeared as Frankie “Dishpan Man” Santana in season five.
12. Only one character actually died onscreen in the whole series
The A-Team was the subject of both widespread controversy, and ridicule over its portrayal of violence. It was controversial for so heavily emphasising gun violence in a show that was aimed at families – but also derided because of how unrealistic that violence was. It’s one of the first things everyone remembers about The A-Team: although they had huge shoot-outs in every episode, no one was ever actually shot. However, that isn’t 100% accurate – as there is at least one instance in which a character in The A-Team was killed onscreen.
This came in the season 4 episode The Sound of Thunder, with the death of General Fulbright, played by actor Jack Ging. Fulbright had been a recurring character in The A-Team, appearing in eight episodes dating back to the first season, and was killed fighting side-by-side with our heroes.
11. Two episodes were originally shown in the wrong order
As hard as this might be to imagine now, by the end of its run The A-Team was not considered a major priority by its network NBC. It had been massively popular at first, ranking as one of the top 10 most watched shows in the US for its first three seasons. However, there was a significant viewing drop-off in its fourth and fifth seasons – and by the series finale, it seemed like everyone had lost interest. Such was the apathy surrounding the show by the end that the final episode – wittily entitled The Grey Team – was accidentally shown second-to-last.
Subsequently, the very last episode aired in the show’s initial run was Without Reservations – which was the first episode in a two-parter for which The Grey Team provided the conclusion! This must have been confusing for viewers at the time, but happily the episodes were shown in the correct order in reruns.
10. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s Robert Vaughn joined the cast for the final season
Did you remember that Robert Vaughn, famed for playing suave spy Napoleon Solo in 60s TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., was briefly a regular on The A-Team? Vaughn was added to the cast in the show’s fifth season as Hunt Stockwell, a shady authority figure who manipulates The A-Team into working for him under the promise of getting them an official pardon for their crimes. Stockwell was a recurring antagonist, and his addition demonstrated how the show runners were trying to take a more dramatic approach in the hopes of revitalising the ailing series. It was also no coincidence that they cast Vaughn (above, bottom right) who was a real-life friend of Peppard: the actors had previously co-starred in 1980’s Battle Beyond the Stars.
Hopes were high that bringing Vaughn in as a regular would help ease the on-set tension between Peppard and Mr T. Sadly, The A-Team was not saved by the addition of Vaughn; the actor would appear in 13 episodes before the show was finally axed.
9. People often misremember the colour scheme of the van
Just as vital as the cast, there was another key character in The A-Team that viewers loved to see every week: the legendary GMC van. In a decade that wasn’t lacking in ultra-cool vehicles on TV and in the movies, the van from The A-Team was among the most beloved vehicles of them all. However, the van is commonly remembered as being pure black, with a red stripe detail – but this wasn’t actually the case.
The van was not simply black and red, but rather black, red and grey, with the grey section coming just above the red stripe. This misconception has probably been perpetuated by the popular toys modelled on the iconic vehicle. These toy vans tended to be just black and red, hence many mistakenly assume that was how it looked on the show.
8. Mr T’s gold jewellery was extremely heavy
As well as his musclebound physique and distinctive haircut, Mr T’s B.A. Baracus was famed for his jewellery. The actor wore a huge amount of gold including rings, bracelets, and most memorably a vast amount of chains around his neck. This gold usually weighed in somewhere between 15 and 18kg – which might, in part, explain how Mr T stayed so buff! The gold was very much part of Mr T’s look outside of the show, and remained his trademark for many years.
However, Mr T decided to ditch the bulk of his gold in 2005, after volunteering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The actor explained, “when I saw other people lose their lives and lose their land and property… I felt that it would be a sin before God for me to continue wearing my gold. I felt it would be insensitive and disrespectful to the people who lost everything.”
7. Special guest stars on the show included Boy George and Hulk Hogan
Towards the end of the show’s run, the producers of The A-Team could be accused of getting a bit desperate to grab ratings. This would certainly explain why the fourth season features special guest appearances from a few 80s superstars. First off, we have not one but two episodes featuring WWF superstar Hulk Hogan, the biggest name in wrestling at the time.
Hogan played himself in the 1986 episodes Body Slam and The Trouble With Harry, and might have become a series regular if his wrestling schedule had left enough room for him to appear. On top of that, there was also a guest appearance from English pop music sensation Boy George of Culture Club, who played himself in an episode amusingly entitled Cowboy George. Finally, notorious Superfreak singer Rick James (later parodied by comedian Dave Chappelle) also appeared as himself in The Heart of Rock’n’Roll.
6. Mr T almost left the show in season four
As hard as it is to imagine, there was a time when the producers of The A-Team were considering going on without Mr T. Just before the fourth season (which, as we’ve established, was when things started going downhill for the show), the B.A. actor suffered a personal loss. Whilst shooting the season premiere aboard a cruise ship, it seems Mr T’s emotions got the better of him. Reportedly angered by a faulty air conditioner in his room, Mr T demanded a helicopter to fly him back home, even though they hadn’t finished shooting the episode.
Not long thereafter he called the show’s producers with a list of demands (likely those same demands Peppard made reference to). They weren’t happy with this, and came very close to firing Mr T. Happily for A-Team fans, they were able to iron things out and reach a compromise, and production continued on season four with Mr T on board.
5. The ‘crime they didn’t commit’ was stealing gold
The A-Team’s memorable opening narration immediately filled in viewers with all we needed to know about the show and its central characters. Namely, we learned that they were “a crack commando unit… sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit.” Following this, our heroes “promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune.”
However, one detail that many viewers may not recall is exactly what crime the quartet was falsely accused of. The answer? Stealing gold bullion from the Bank of Hanoi during the military conflict in Vietnam. While our heroes did indeed do this, they were doing so as part of a covert mission – but when their commanding officer was killed, they were unable to prove they did it under orders.
4. The term ‘A-Team’ is actually used by the US military
It’s widely acknowledged that The A-Team didn’t exactly present the most true-to-life portrayal of warfare. Even so, in its conception the show did take inspiration from certain real elements of the US military. The show’s title The A-Team is derived from a term which the American Armed Forces genuinely use.
While many younger viewers might have guessed the A stands for ‘action,’ in fact the term means Alpha Team. It refers to the Special Forces units, how go in first (hence ‘alpha’) to engage with the enemy, before the Bravo Team comes in for support. Fittingly, this term first came into use during the war in Vietnam, the conflict in which the show’s heroes became a unit.
3. A series of A-Team books and comics were published
The A-Team’s popularity resulted in a wealth of tie-in merchandising, including various reading materials. The first A-Team novel, simply entitled The A-Team, was published in 1984, directly adapting two episodes of the first season. That book’s author, Charles Heath, would return to write a further five A-Team novels, and four more were written by other authors. The show was also the basis for a three-issue comic book mini-series published by the legendary Marvel.
These were released separately at first, but were later republished in a single volume as The A-Team Story Book. There were also a number of A-Team children’s story books and ‘choose your own adventure’-style game books, and in more recent years comic publishers IDW published two mini-series in conjunction with 2010 movie.
2. Mr T didn’t like the 2010 film version at all
After spending well over a decade in development hell, a big budget movie based on The A-Team made it to screens in 2010. Directed and co-written by Joe Carnahan, the film cast Liam Neeson as Hannibal, Bradley Cooper as Faceman, Sharlto Copley as Murdock and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson as B.A. Dwight Schultz and Dirk Benedict made cameo appearances in the movie, but their fellow surviving cast mate Mr T was conspicuous by his absence.
Mr T explained later that he was not a fan of the harder-edged approach which the movie took to the material. The original BA complained, “People die in the film and there’s plenty of sex but when we did it, no one got hurt and it was all played for fun and family entertainment.” Benedict would later express regret over agreeing to cameo in the movie, lamenting afterwards, “It is three seconds. It’s kind of insulting.”
1. It’s still got a devoted following
More than 30 years after its cancellation, The A-Team continues to inspire a devoted fanbase; and it seems to be the TV show people most closely associate with the 1980s. When we polled readers of Eighties Kids to name the decade’s best TV show, The A-Team easily came out on top. Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz have long been regulars at fan conventions around the world
Like a lot of properties with such a fervent following, A-Team fans often get a bit creative in expressing their love for the show. For example, one particularly devoted A-Team fan has replicated the show’s iconic opening titles sequence using nothing but Lego bricks – and as you can see above, it’s absolutely brilliant. There’s also a wealth of A-Team-inspired artwork and fan fiction out there. Anyone exploring that territory, though, should be warned that these stories sometimes go to places the show never did (i.e. intimate dalliances between the central quartet).