April has finally arrived, and today marks the first of 26 posts for the annual A-Z blog challenge. This year I’ll be reminiscing on television programmes from my childhood and related stories linked to them. (Read more about that here in my introduction.)
Although the titles of the posts will plagiarise a well known catchphrase from the great Sesame Street, the show itself will not feature under the letter S I’m afraid, though may well be mentioned elsewhere!
So today we start, as the alphabet inevitably does, with A.
And A is for…
The A Team.
“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 from 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.”
Cue the theme tune…!
My nine year old self had no idea what any of that really meant, but it didn’t matter, because when you have a kick ass theme tune following it, involving visuals of high octane explosions and army jeeps turning over, well what nine year old cares what the guff preceding it means?
Running between 1983 and 1987, I can’t quite fathom how The A team did become standard viewing in our house when I think back on it. I mean, the show is all centred around combat and references to war and underground crime. There are lethal weapons used (yet, importantly, no actual killing shown explicitly), it was noisy and brash – all the things my mum detested. Yet we (and by we I mean myself at around 8-9 years old and my younger sister and two younger brothers) were allowed to watch it. In fact my mum made more fuss about us watching Grange Hill than The A Team, if memory serves me correctly.
So bearing in mind our ages, (of my siblings more so than mine) it is strange how we were allowed to watch, and actually how it became something we all loved. It also became just one of many TV shows the four of us would re-enact and play out ( more of which shortly)!
Perhaps it was the humour in the characters which kept me engaged more than the plots (of which there weren’t many) or the ridiculous, gratuitous explosions, as I’ve never been one to especially be impressed by special effects. Perhaps child me was impressed by these things, but I’d say, knowing me, it was more the characters and they are what sticks in my mind more about the show. To me they all seemed very colourful and distinguished (if not a little trite!) in their own right, complete with their own catchphrases. I still find myself often saying: “I love it when a plan comes together,” or “I pity the fool”! (The second obviously said in my best B.A Baracus voice!)
I think my liking The A-Team at that age, also reveals something about me which I’ve known pretty much all my life. I am not a girl’s girl. I’d say I have far more in tune with my masculine side than my feminine one. Some may argue this is to do with upbringing and having three brothers, however I’m the oldest and my sister (second eldest) is much more feminine than I, so that argument doesn’t wash much. Some may say TV programmes like The A-Team – inherently patriarchal – are to blame, but TV shows like this, I believe, are just reflections of the times they were made in. The cast was very male led because these characters were men who had fought in Vietnam. I never used to question “Why aren’t there women in this?” (other than the love interest or the roles they placed in later to try and re-dress the balance for the sake of doing so.) I wouldn’t question it now about that programme either. Looking back now on programmes like The A-Team, I can see why they’d be considered sexist, but you know what? I was quite happy to look up to the men and be like them (I don’t mean running around with an AK47 or anything, just not to take any crap!) I don’t know if I even thought much about gender. When I watched The A Team I didn’t see men. I saw people. (And no, I’m not brainwashed by the patriarch. My mum was stronger and more kick-ass than most men in real life I’d ever came across during my childhood, so I would imagine I took my cue for who I was and who I am from her, as much if not more so than what TV could or would show me.)
As I said earlier, one of the things myself and my three siblings would do would be to play out the TV programmes we watched, taking on the roles of the characters. (My youngest brother wasn’t born until 1986, so he missed out on much of these shenanigans!) Anyhow, we were two boys, two girls and we wanted to play The A Team. Perfect in our eyes! Four of us. Four leading roles. There was no “oh no! But I’m a girl, I have to be a girl in this game.” There was a character to suit each of us. It so happened that I always played Hannibal. Simply because I was oldest and Hannibal was clearly the leader of The A Team! Also he got to dress up in many disguises which always appealed to me. I also liked his white safari jacket and leather gloves! I’m not sure how convincingly a nine/ten year old girl can pull off playing a greying 50-something man, but I didn’t think about it. Kids don’t of course. My sister then always played Face. This is maybe where we did stereotype slightly as Face was (or appeared to be) the ‘softest’ of The A Team, but also he was the most stylish and that mattered to my sister. Brother number 1 had taken on the role of B.A (in his eyes of course he saw himself as the toughest – ironically wanted to be a pilot, unlike B.A who had a fear of flying in the show -) and brother number 2 had no real choice in his role, only being about 5 at the time, to be ‘Howling Mad’ Murdoch. (Oh the irony of this later on in our lives has never escaped us!) Bearing all this in mind, it fell to my sister to be Templeton Peck aka ‘Face’, though I don’t think there was much argument between us on who would play who. It may even be, (though memory is shaky here) that our friend from two doors down would join us sometimes and we’d get her to be Amy (the female reporter who accompanied The A Team in series one and half of series two only). But I may be wrong on this ‘fact’. Fits nicely though, so if we didn’t we should have. I do know she used to play Jeannie in our re-enactments of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), in which I would play Jeff Randall (oldest, leader. Snore….!) and my sister the ghostly Marty Hopkirk! Haha! I say all this about stereotypes of course, but I just don’t think as children we especially thought it through that way. It’s not like my brother was a muscle-bound, gold-chain-clad, African-American man. The exact opposite in fact – yet surely that’s imagination and aspiration. You can be anything you want to be when play acting.
Anyway, we were perfectly happy playing out these roles in our make believe black and red van. It was something we just used to do. We didn’t have many toys or computer games and so we used TV as our inspiration to play. We would often act out the film Convoy too. All of us (regardless of gender) taking on roles as the male truckers. I, of course, being the eldest, claimed Rubber Duck (gosh what an insufferable oldest sister I must have been – claiming top spot for everything based on age alone!) with siblings taking on the other truckers in order as their trucks appeared in the Convoy pretty much. Gender or race never seemed to come into it. Just age order. These are the things which matter to kids. One doesn’t need to study child psychology. Just look back on what you did.
Another favourite for the letter A would have been the American sitcom A.L.F (short for Alien Life Form.) Remember that? Yes, I distinctly remember us kids putting on a word perfect performance of one episode of A.L.F for (I think) my Grandad’s seventieth birthday. (Lucky him!) I remember it vividly because I had completely covered my face in brown paint, the type in the block pallets you get from the ‘cheap and cheerful art stuff for kids’ section of the toy shop. I can still recall how tight it made my skin feel.
So what about you? What’s your favourite TV memory for the letter A, or how do you remember The A-Team? It’d be great to hear from you in the comments box. 🙂