Centered on the exploits of a Vietnam commando unit imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit (if you grew up in the ’80s, you should be able to recite the opening narration verbatim), “The A-Team” hooked viewers via its appealing ensemble: George Peppard as the military mastermind Hannibal, Dirk Benedict as the wily Face, Dwight Schultz as the legally insane pilot “Howling Mad” Murdock and Mr. T as the surly enforcer B.A. Baracus. But creators Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo were hot to capitalize on (mostly male) Americans’ chest-puffing, gun-crazy overreaction to the bloody humbling of the Vietnam War.
Tartikoff knew there was a huge market for “The A-Team,” but he was up against network censors who couldn’t let much more than a paper cut make it to air. The guns and explosions were fine, but it had to be, uh, good clean warfare.
His solution was the stuff of oddball television history.
I had the pleasure of interviewing “Leprechaun” director Mark Jones for /Film recently, and, prior to creating an unlikely horror franchise, he was a part of “The A-Team” writing collective that, from 1983 to 1987, had to deliver bloodless gunplay to viewers every Tuesday night in Prime Time. How did they pull that off?