I have a lot of fond memories from the 1980s, many of them TV-based. I’ve mentioned it before, but “The A-Team” was one of those shows that I loved to watch. The weekly capers/rescues/breakouts — with their over-the-top mission plans (among other projects), makeshift weapons/tools, inevitable firefights and general mayhem — were simply great, “mindless” entertainment. Of course, adding to the madness was the fact that one team member was certifiably insane, and another was notoriously stubborn and had his own… peculiarities. What more could you want in an offbeat “family”/unit of soldiers-for-hire, righting wrongs against others while trying to avoid their own capture, having been “framed for a crime they didn’t commit”?
Former “Banacek” star George Peppard was great as the very clever, unconventional, cigar-aficionado Col. John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, the group’s leader and main strategist. Eccentric tough-guy Mr. T was at the height of his popularity (following Rocky III) and perfectly cast as the scowling mechanic, B.A. ‘Bad Attitude’ Baracus. Handsome con-man Templeton ‘Faceman’ Peck was charmingly portrayed by “Battlestar Galactica” alum, Dirk Benedict. Then, of course, there was “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock, gleefully played to perfection by the multi-talented Dwight Schultz — later known to genre fans as Star Trek’s Lt. Barclay and for his voluminous voice credits for animated TV shows and video games. Other recurring accomplices included reporters Amy Allen (Melinda Culea) and Tawnia Baker (Marla Heasley) and special-effects guy Frankie ‘Dishpan’ Santana (Eddie Velez).
Pursued by the ever-enjoyable Lance LeGault as the persistent maverick Col. Decker, as well as other military types (e.g., retired General Stockwell (Robert Vaughan), General Harlan ‘Bull’ Fulbright (Jack Ging), and Col. Lynch (William Lucking)), the team endured a lot, but they gave as good as they got and rarely was anyone seriously hurt. Like many such shows of ’80s TV (e.g., “Magnum, P.I.”, “Knight Rider”, “MacGyver”, “The Fall Guy”), they managed to keep a generally light and family-friendly tone to it all, despite the violence.
As I reported back in October, a reboot or “remake” of the A-Team series is now in development. (Get some of the details here.) My first reaction was a groan. But, I suppose it could work. A few changes will have to be made for a “contemporary take”, of course. For example, the team will probably be veterans of Iraq and/or Afghanistan rather than Vietnam. I imagine it will be a bit more realistic, possibly dark and gritty, as many such shows lean these days. I would be OK with this, as long as they also maintain the humor, comaraderie, and moral clarity of the original.
So, what did the 20th Century Fox news release say?
“The new A-Team revolves around a diverse team of American Special Forces operatives. Unlike the original all-male squad, the new team will include both male and female members. The group has been framed for a crime they didn’t commit…. It’s described as a fun episodic mission-of-the-week show that mixes big action-adventure sequences with compelling characters, inventive cons and lots of humor.”
That sounds a lot like the original, actually, which is a good sign. The fact that there will be female members may mean the team will be bigger in this incarnation. Or, maybe not. In fact, last I read, it had not been confirmed whether or not the original four, core members will be in it, let alone what gender. (Big mistake if they aren’t retained, preferably all or mostly male, IMHO.) But, my casting suggestions are, naturally, for the original four male cast-members. [Note: I will keep this a little briefer than usual, in order to fit them all in 2 posts.)
As usual, I think it best to keep the general look and personality of the characters roughly the same. So,… Hannibal would be the oldest (roughly early-50s to early-60s), maybe 6′ tall, give-or-take, and either white or black would work. He should be a charismatic leader, not too much of a hardass, good sense of humor but perhaps a little less oddball than Peppard’s version. The cigars are a must, as is the signature line, “I love it when a plan comes together!”
A few I considered but rejected for one reason or another: Ray Winstone (5’10”,b.1957), Robert John Burke (6′,b.1960), Mark Harmon (6′,b.1951), Richard Dean Anderson (6’1.5″,b.1950), Bill Paxton (6′,b.1955), Arnold Schwarzenegger (6’2″,b.1947), Aaron Eckhart (5’10.75″,b.1968). My final three?
Ray Stevenson (6’4″,b.1964) has played everything from mobster to Punisher to Cobra operative to Asgardian warrior, so he’s certainly no stranger to the genre. I can definitely see him as an on-the-run soldier-for-hire, trying to keep himself and his unit out of jail while playing hero(es). Andre Braugher (6′,b.1962), of course, should be familiar to genre fans, as well, and I have written about him before. He has had military roles, but he also plays characters with a certain sense of whimsy, which might be a good description for “Hannibal”, too.
If I had to choose, though, Adam Baldwin (6’4″,b.1962) is my favorite. We know him from his roles in “Firefly”, “Chuck”, and most recently “The Last Ship”. He tends to play tough and/or gruff types, usually military or federal agent, and he can often be seen appreciating a good cigar. Sounds like a great match to me!
I’ll keep the other three core members for next week. But, before finishing up, I wanted to propose a couple candidates for the Team’s arch-enemy (so to speak), Col. Roderick Decker. Filling LeGault’s shoes for this tough-as-nails, unpredictable, obsessed character ain’t easy, but I think I found a couple of worthies.
Genre fans know Stephen Lang (5’10.5″,b.1952) from things like Avatar and “Terra Nova”. In these and other productions, Lang has played formidable military and law-enforcement officers, so Decker seems right up his alley. Giancarlo Esposito (5’7.5″,b.1958) has been seen in “Once Upon a Time”, “Breaking Bad”, and Allegiance. He even has a deep voice like LeGault. But, it was his role as the resolute and vengeful Neville character in “Revolution” that convinced me he’d make a great Col. Decker.
To be continued in Part 2…