On This Day: ‘The A-Team’ Premieres on NBC in 1983

by Joe Rutland

If the words “I love it when a plan comes together” sound familiar, then you might have been around when “The A-Team” premiered on NBC.

This TV show about a crack tactical unit made up of some savvy and even shady characters took TV viewers by storm. Even the show’s cast was a bit eclectic in its makeup, starting with veteran actor George Peppard in the lead role of Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith.

Peppard, known for playing rather serious roles, believed in the show which was created by Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo.

“The A-Team” had incredible success for NBC in its first three seasons before its ratings collapsed in the fourth and fifth seasons. There are a total of 98 episodes of “The A-Team” running in syndication on TVs around the world.

‘The A-Team’ Put Together Eclectic Cast Of Characters

Besides Peppard, cast members who lasted all five of the show’s seasons included Dirk Benedict (Templeton “Faceman” Peck), Dwight Schultz (H.M. “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock), and Mr. T (B.A. Baracus). Additional cast members included Melinda Culea, Maria Heasley, Eddie Velez, and another veteran actor in Robert Vaughn.

Vaughn, also known for his serious acting abilities, had a hit series on NBC in the 1960s with “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” along with future “NCIS” star David McCallum.

“The A-Team” was an action-adventure show with lots of tough talk and violence. The team was made up of men who were part of a Special Forces Unit in Vietnam who all received court-martials, went to prison, and escaped.

They were on the lam, so to speak, and went into action against evil-doers.

Peppard, as “Hannibal,” was considered the man behind the team. He was the brains of the whole operation. Benedict, as “Peck,” entered into events as a “con man” who could get one over anybody. Schulz, as “Howlin’ Mad,” was a pilot who went insane after a crash in Vietnam.

If there was one breakout star from this show, then it was Mr. T as “B.A.” On “The A-Team,” “B.A.” was the strongman, the one who would use strength and grit to get people to behave.

Mr. T Finds His Career Rising On Film, In Wrestling Ring

Mr. T entered into a remarkable stretch of his career, starring as Clubber Lang in “Rocky III” with Sylvester Stallone. He also found time to take part in World Wrestling Federation’s “WrestleMania I,” where he teamed up with fellow “Rocky III” actor and pro wrestler Hulk Hogan. They squared off against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff in the card’s main event.

“The A-Team” has received its fair share of criticism not only during its initial NBC run but in syndication, too. Many take offense at its “cartoon violence,” where no one gets hurt despite guns blazing and cars crashing.

Its rough-and-tumble action energy got viewers at the beginning. Family sitcoms like “The Cosby Show” and “Growing Pains” began taking TV’s center stage. Action-adventure shows were becoming not too popular and viewers turned away from them in droves.

As much as the show has achieved an iconic state, so has its 1983 GMC van. The markings of a diagonal red stripe across the black-painted van, its red-and-black turbine wheels, and rooftop spoiler are recognizable by “The A-Team” show’s fans.

A look back at television from the early 1980s, though, would not be complete without recognizing “The A-Team.” The show got an audience back then and, thanks to reruns, remains in the mind and hearts of its fans.