The A-Team: Mexican Slayride (2-hour pilot episode)

release year: 1983
genre: action/adventure TV pilot
viewing setting: home DVD, 6/8/04

synopsis: In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire...the A-Team.

impressions: This was the pilot episode of one of my favorite series of all time, finally released on DVD along with the rest of season 1. It was pretty much everything I remembered, a true product of the 1980s, from a time when you didn't show a lot of real violence and death on TV, and it was all in fun. It had plenty of action, gunplay, and chases - but its real strength was in the characters, their dialogue and banter, their utter flippancy in the face of death. In this two-hour pilot, the team is hired by a reporter to track down her missing co-worker, who vanished in Mexico after stirring up trouble with a local bandit. This episode does a good job of introducing the viewer to the various team members and the reporter (who joins them after this adventure.) Overall, it mixes drama, comedy, and action; in the unique style that came to be this show's trademark, not a single person gets killed despite all the flying bullets and crashing vehicles. And they even get to build something, combining a rickety old bus with a whole bunch of armor plating and a cannon. Gripes? Well, for someone who's supposed to be so tough, B.A. loses his first brawl, which was probably a bad decision by the writers; they could have at least had him beat someone up first.

the "hey, haven't I seen that guy somewhere else?" factor: During the barfight at 51:00, the gigantic Mexican is the same guy who unwisely threatened Charles Bronson in The Evil That Men Do.

something this movie has that no other movie has: the Aquamaniac!

acting: George Peppard is the leader, a master of disguise and tactics who laughs when threatened and says things like "you've gotta do these things with style." Mr. T (from Rocky 3) is the tough-as-nails mechanic who has a soft spot for kids. Dwight Schultz is the pilot, who acts completely insane (and may be.) Tim Dunigan (who lasted for this one episode only before being replaced by Dirk Benedict) is the con man, who can talk his way into anything and always procures things the team needs. Melinda Culea is the reporter who first turns to the team in desperation, but eventually finds that she likes the action. These are all great characters and are played to perfection by these actors, who really created the characters over the course of this series.

more information: A-Team FAQ

final word: good, clean fun from 1980s TV primetime

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