Making its first appearance as a two-hour TV movie on January 23, 1983, the weekly, hour-long NBC series The A-Team was one of several tongue-in-cheek adventure programs produced by Stephen J. Cannell. George Peppard starred as Col. John "Hannibal" Smith, cigar-chomping leader of a team of soldiers performing daring undercover missions during the Vietnam War. One such mission obliged Smith's team to rob the Bank of Hanoi, but unfortunately they knocked over the bank four days after the war ended and had no way of proving that they were following orders. Arrested and thrown into a military prison, Smith and company managed to escape and thereafter devoted their lives not only to clearing their names but to performing acts of crime-fighting derring-do all over the world -- for a price, of course.
Each member of the A-Team has a peculiar speciality. Hannibal Smith is adept at clever disguises and is able to quick-think his way out of any jam. His huge, hulking, chain necklace-wearing black teammate Sgt. Boscoe "B.A." Baracus (Mr. T) -- the initials euphemistically stood for "Bad Attitude" -- is a mechanical expert who can fashion weapons out of all manner of everyday household appliances and who is afraid of absolutely nothing except for flying in an airplane (the other team members had to drug, hypnotize, or cold-cock B.A. to get him off the ground). The A-Team's ace pilot Capt. H.M. Murdock (Dwight Schultz) is known as "Howling Mad" not only because of his willingness to take huge risks, but also because he probably is a little off his chump, which is why the other team members have to break him out of a mental institution whenever he is needed. And handsome Lt. "Faceman" Templeton Peck is the team's requisite smooth talker, con artist, and jack of all trades. During the series' first season, the A-Team was assisted by sympathetic girl reporter Amy Allen (Melinda Culea); in later episodes, the requisite female team members included Tawnia Baker (Marla Heasley) and Carla (Judy Ledford).
No matter where their missions took them, the A-Team was doggedly pursued by the military authorities, represented at various junctures by Colonels Lynch (William Lucking) and Decker (Lance Le Gault). The series' format changed a bit during the final season with the A-Team members being afforded the opportunity to redeem themselves by retired General Hunt Stockwell (Robert Vaughn), who dispatched the team on covert government missions with the promise that their names would be cleared after they toted up enough brownie points. At this juncture, weasely special-effects expert "Dishpan" Frankie Sanchez (Eddie Velez) joined the team. Although it never cracked the top 20 ratings throughout its five-season run, The A-Team nevertheless enjoyed a large and enthusiastic following -- and was applauded by certain pressure groups for its overall lack of mayhem and murder (though there was plenty of action and explosions!). The series remained on NBC until June 14, 1987.