The A-Team is one of the most famous of the 1980s action series, running from 1983 to 1987. The plot can be summed up by the Opening Narration:
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. (Dun-Dun-Dun-Dunnn! Dun-dun-dun...)
The four members of the A-Team were:
Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith — leader of the team, a cunning master of disguise.
Captain H.M. "Howlin' Mad" Murdock — the resident pilot, who may or may not have been insane.
Lieutenant Templeton "Faceman" Peck — the "charmer" of the team.
Sergeant Bosco "B.A." ("Bad Attitude") Baracus — played by Mr. T, he was the team's strongman with a famous fear of flying.
Each episode would start with a bunch of innocent people being menaced by a bunch of people with guns, who want their land, water, taxi company etc.They would go talk to a man who they thought would get them in contact with the A-Team. Most of the time, it would turn out to be a member of the A-Team — Hannibal in disguise who had to make sure the people in question are not part of a trap to capture the team.They would go along to the location of the activity in their Cool Car, which in their case was actually a distinctive-looking custom van — an odd choice for a group who are supposed to be in hiding. There they would do a lot of A-Team Firing, beat up the baddies and often MacGyver up an armored vehicle over the course of an A-Team Montage.The show ran for five seasons, with several minor cast changes along the way; the show's eventual decline was attributed to the constantly-recycled and extremely formulaic plot. Attempts to win viewers back, by both changing the overall premise and having the A-Team overseen by a former antagonist, worked for only a short while.Logic and credibility were usually ignored for the series' trademark over-the-top explosions, but the show never took itself particularly seriously, anyway: most of Hannibal's disguises were paper-thin, the villains were usually mostly-inept and somewhat one-dimensional, and the weapons that the Team cobbled together from miscellaneous parts were invariably more effective than the machine guns that the episode's villains used.A big-screen version was released in June 2010, with Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley and Quinton Jackson as the team. The trailer can be seen on YouTube. Tropes go to the respective page.
The A-Team provides examples of the following tropes:
Acting for Two: George Peppard as Hannibal, and a mook Hannibal impersonates, in "Judgement Day".
Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Believe it or not, the series had a few of these. The most notable is the season 4 finale, involving their pursuer General Fullbright enlisting their help to go back to Vietnam to find his illegitimate daughter. The humor of the show is replaced by a somber mood, as the team reflects on their experiences in Vietnam.
In an episode with a science fiction con, a guy in a original Galactica Cylon suit walks past "Face". In the episode in question, it's actually Hannibal in the costume. The Actor Allusion was all Dirk Benedict's idea. While filming at Universal Studios for the second season episode "Steel", Dirk spotted a park employee dressed as a Cylon, and decided he wanted to film a little nod to his days as Starbuck. The director told him it was a dumb idea, but let him do it anyway. So, they had the Cylon-clad actor stroll nonchalantly across the frame while Face was all "don't I know you?" Fortunately for Dirk, the scene ended up being quite funny and they kept it in the credits up to season 5.
There was also George Peppard's allusion to his role as Banacek, where he played a similar role, by having Hannibal spout even more off kilter words of wisdom in "The Big Squeeze".
Another one for Peppard. In the Episode "The Rabbit Who Ate Las Vegas", Amy mentions that it's a shame Hannibal's being chased by the military as he is "a terrific actor" after Hannibal goes to great lengths explaining how he'll play his "character". A reference to Peppard's infamously stringent adherence to method acting, even when playing unchallenging roles.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the Season 2 premiere, "Diamonds 'n Dust", Murdock uses this to insult a South African store owner when he's pretending to be a English officer ("Col. Lexington") as he and Face try to "confiscate" some dynamite:
Murdock: No kippers, no herring-bone tweed, no Rolls Royce tire caps, no original pressings of "Hey Jude!!!" Face: (mouthing) "Hey Jude?"
Badass Crew: A prototype example. Maybe the first in primetime TV.
Bar Brawl: Multiple episodes, usually when the team is facing off against the villain of the week.
The Barnum: Face genuinely reveled in being a Con Man, and never showed signs of wanting to reform. He seemed to love the scheme just as much as the payoff.
Fridge Brilliance: Face, though not a coward by any stretch, often showed signs of not liking violence that much. He probably likes trying to con people so they can get away without a shootout or fistfight - not that he doesn't enjoy the con for its own sake, mind you.
Bavarian Fire Drill: Half the series is one long string of these after the other. From conning a plane for a nonexistent Texas millionaire to hitchhiking a landing on the pretense of a heart attack. In about five minutes.
Murdock: The tennis courts are night-lit, there's an extra putting green there, that's the front nine, and that's Faceman chasing someone into the rough.
Briefcase Full of Money: In "The Beast from the Belly of a Boeing", Hannibal and Face recieve some money for a hostage situation and Face comments that it sure would be tempting to just take the money and run. Hannibal talks him down, but is clearly tempted himself.
Building Is Welding: All the time. Sometimes taken to ridiculous extremes, such as when the team welds together a restaurant as part of their scheme to trick the villains.
Busman's Holiday: Running into armor busting robbers in "Incident at Crystal Lake".
California Doubling: Especially egregious when California doubled for South America, Africa, and/or Borneo.
Can't Get In Trouble For Nuthin'': In the episode "Pros and Cons" the team are trying to get arrested, but the local law enforcement fear that arresting tourists will bring in the FBI to investigate them. The team commit progressively worse and worse violations to try and get arrested, culminating in them crashing their car through the sheriff's office window.
Chair Reveal: Murdock's back is seen for about a minute behind Hannibal and Face in "Members Only" before he turns around. They are at a very upscale country club where Face is trying hard to become a member, and Murdock is there as a guest of his doctor.
Amy Amanda "Triple A" Allen, a newspaper reporter who assisted the team in the first season and part of the second. She was eventually sent to Jakarta "on assignment" when conflicts between Culea and the producers led to her departure (either by firing or her simply getting fed up at having no dialog).
The new character of Tia was set up at the very end of Season 4 to become this, but due to the actress's contractual obligations, she was never seen or mentioned again.
According to both Dirk Benedict and George Peppard, Triple A and her counterpart were there only because of studio demands, and the male leads felt that a female on the show slowed the action down too much.
Chick Magnet: Face can attract women even when he's trying to focus on someone else.
Cigar Fuse Lighting: In one episode the team jury-rig a flamethrower, but fail to jury-rig a pilot light. Instead the instructions are: throw the cigar in front of you, then open up.
Clear My Name: The premise of the fifth season, though it never came to be before the show was canceled.
This is also what forced the team into hiding. "The Crime They Didn't Commit" was eventually revealed to be a bank robbery in Hanoi, Vietnam, which they were in fact ordered to do, but the man who gave them the order was killed and all evidence of his orders destroyed.
In the fifth season premiere, they were cleared of the robbery when a former Vietnamese colonel testified in their court-martial that their commanding officer sent them to rob a bank in order for them to be captured by the North Vietnamese. Of course, by that time the A-Team was being tried for the murder of their commanding officer.
Clothing Damage: Played for laughs. To impersonate a gangster and infiltrate a meeting, the team kidnap him and send Murdock in with his clothes. The gangster escapes and blows Murdock's cover in the middle of the meeting, but stops people from shooting him so as to not damage his clothes.
Cloudcuckoolander: Murdock. It's never made entirely clear whether he's actually insane or just acting so he can keep living in the Veterans Administration Hospital. One way or the other, he's a textbook example of a Cloudcuckoolander, which B.A. absolutely hates.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: One episode has the team knocking out B.A. (again) so they can get on a plane. This time however they're in the middle of a mission, so they can't wait for him to calm down. Hannibal decides that the only way to solve the problem is to let B.A. take his revenge on them after the mission is over, which Face and Murdock are horrified about. B.A. is creepily cheerful throughout the rest of the episode, and the Team dreads what he'll do to them. Finally, when it's all over, B.A. prepares to punish them. He lines them all up and calls them out on their flaws and why they annoy him. B.A. also reveals that instead of flying back, he's chartered a boat. As part of their payment, the rest of the team has to help with the upkeep as well as repaint the whole thing. The team decides they would've preferred if he had just beaten them up.
Face's white Corvette with the big red stripe counts, too.
Corrupt Hick: To judge from this show, every small town in rural America is controlled by one of these. Or was till the A-Team passed through.
Could Have Been Messy: Every episode has a scene where the A-Team and their opponents exchange billions of rounds of gunfire. Nobody is ever shot. EVER.
Averted in the season four finale. Fullbright is fatally wounded by a Vietnamese general as the team makes their escape, and Hannibal retaliates by blowing up the shed he was in.
Well, there are the two times in which Murdock and Face get shot, but both times, only a single bullet is fired.
And in the first scene of the episode "Pros and Cons" (involving illegal prison fights), the warden strides up to the loser and points a gun at him - we don't see what happens next, but a rematch is unlikely.
Covert Distress Code: "Red Ball One" and "Bag is Leaking" mean "big trouble" and "one of the team took some lead" as explained to Amy by Murdock, who receives the code from the team.
Darker and Edgier: Season 4's "The Road to Hope" has the A-Team against well-organized mass murderers.
Destructive Saviour: Very much so. The millions of dollars worth of property damage the A-Team causes per episode would be enough for them to be considered criminals even if they weren't already wanted by the government.
Deus ex Machina: Of the Setting Appropriate variety in "Beverly Hills Assault". The bad guys realize the team's set up (arguably one of Hannibal's better plans otherwise), and recognize them, before they escape from gunpoint in a restaurant through a diversion.
Diegetic Switch: As the team decorates their own restaurant in an A-Team Montage in "The Big Squeeze", they bring in a piano, Faceman continues the background music on it, which starts again after he stops.
Even Evil Has Standards: In the two-parter "The Bend In The River". The river pirate El Cajón is fine with sinking boats, robbing the passengers, and selling them into slavery. But then he discovers that his "business partners" are actually Nazi diehards who are trying to rebuild the Third Reich, prompting him to pull an instant Heel-Face Turn.
The Chick: Amy in season 1 and part of season 2, then Tawnia in the rest of season 2. Also, Frankie Santana in season 5.
They follow the Always Sunny model much better, actually: Hannibal is The Brains, Face is The Looks, Murdock is The Wild Card, and BA is The Muscle. The Useless Chick was a variety of, well, useless chicks.
Flatline Plotline: The team is executed by firing squad at the start of the last season. It doesn't take.
The Fun in Funeral: Hannibal's faux funeral in "The Big Squeeze". Murdock at first believes it to be a wedding, and later plays "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" on the organ, complete with the upbeat ending normally heard at a ballgame.
Hero Antagonist: Colonel Lynch, Colonel Decker, and General Fullbright, along with their units. Though they oppose the A-Team they're not evil or corrupt - they're good soldiers who honestly believe that the A-Team are dangerous criminals who must be brought to justice (which is not an unreasonable belief).
High-Altitude Interrogation: In one episode, the team interrogate a mook by having BA hold him over a cliff above the carnivore pit at a zoo.
In the fifth season episode "The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair" the series paired Robert "Napoleon Solo" Vaughn (playing regular character General Hunt Stockwell) with former co-star David "Illya Kuryakin" McCallum.
The episode "The Spy who Mugged Me", with Murdock posing as a James Bond-like spy in a Monte Carlo casino.
Honest John'sDealership: One of these pops up in season 2's "Chopping Spree"; the owner runs a literal used car dealership. As part of the operation, Face goes there to work as one of the villain's salesmen. Suffice it to say, he does very very well.
Improbable Weapon User: The A-Team has welded together and used weapons ranging from soda cannons to cabbage guns. These are always more efficient than the machine guns their opponents typically use against them (or vice-versa, for that matter).
Instant Sedation: The team's most common method to get B.A. ready for air travel.
Irish Priest: Faceman is disguised as Father Sean O'Herlihy in "Lease with an Option to Die".
I Will Show You X: B.A. would often respond in this way to whatever nonsense Murdock was spouting. Some of them barely made sense, but Murdock didn't always give him much to work with, and B.A. doesn't like to mince words.
Also in "Steel", when Murdock and Face arrive at a construction scene, where Hannibal and B.A. are duking it out with some goons, Face casually takes off his coat, rolls his eyes, and remarks that this should be predictable by now.
Also lampshaded in one of the novelizations, when Hannibal notices how often the bad guys lock them in a room that has everything they need for them to escape.
Lunatic Loophole: Murdock occasionally ends up being the only member of the team to escape arrest.
MacGyvering: Generally once an episode, involving vehicles.
Metallicar Syndrome: Since their van had a custom paint job, the authorities should have spotted them a lot more often than they did. Face Lampshades this in the Season 2 episode "Steel" when Hannibal tells him to keep tailing the episode's villain in his Corvette, which was white with black trim and a bright red stripe along the sides. Face says that the villain will definitely be able to tell he's been following him.
Nitro Express: There was an episode where they were transporting dynamite - which is not normally volatile until/unless it has a blasting cap attached - but it was really really hot and as a result the sticks of dynamite were sweating nitroglycerin.
Nobody Can Die: Since it was classified as a children's shownote (not that that kept the censors in some countries, like the UK, from getting the scissors out), you have the ridiculous premise in which the A-Team amasses a massive arsenal of machine guns and weaponry, faces off against a similarly armed force, exchanges thousands of bullets — and everyone lives. It wasn't until the series 4 finale that a recurring character actually died on camera. Discussion of a death was permitted, and you see at least two people executed (with Gory Discretion Shot at the ready), at least in the first couple of seasons.
Averted in the Las Vegas episode, where we see the crime boss jump from a window and plummet to his death.
Related to this, in cases where death would be expected, such as car crashes, there is always a shot of the occupants getting out, aparently unharmed. Made ridiculous with particularly rough crashes, and an exploding helicopter.
No Communities Were Harmed: "Diamonds 'n' Dust" takes place in Zulabwe, Africa, standing in for Zimbabwe. It has a significant population of European descent, some speaking with a Commonwealth accent, some with an American one. Cities Bulawayo and Salisbury (the latter already renamed to Harare at the airing of the episode) were harmed through a mention in the episode.
No One Could Survive That: In one episode, a helicopter crashes against a cliff, explodes, falls down, explodes again... and then bad guys crawl out from it.
Novelization: There were ten books published in the 1980s; some (the first book (an adaptation of the pilot), When You Comin' Back, Range Rider?, The Bend In The River) were based on double-length episodes, others blended together two basically unrelated episodes (Small But Deadly Wars welded "A Small And Deadly War" and "Black Day At Bad Rock," Old Scores To Settle used "Recipe For Heavy Bread" and "The Only Church In Town," Bullets, Bikinis And Bells was based on "Bullets And Bikinis" and "The Bells Of St. Mary's"). Only one book was based on one standard-length episode (Death Vows, based on "Till Death Do Us Part") and only one wasn't based on an episode at all - Operation Desert Sun: The Untold Story, the sixth in the series and the last to be published in both the US and the UK (the rest were UK-only). For those keeping count, the other two were Ten Percent of Trouble ("Steel" and "The Maltese Cow") and Backwoods Menace ("Timber!" and "Children Of Jamestown").
Murdock did it so well that it was unclear whether or not he actually was so traumatized by Vietnam that he did go insane, he was always like this, or it was all an act to throw people off.
One episode had Murdock discharged by his doctor, claiming he was never insane. Without his particular character trait, Murdock essentially spends the episode moping but acting reasonable. When he goes back to the hospital to gather his things, he finds out the doctor had gone insane and was releasing patients because of it. Murdock quickly and happily goes back into the insanity ward.
And doing so while doing a ham Richard Burton impersonation to boot!
Obfuscating Stupidity: Murdock plays this to the hilt whenever possible; Hannibal and Face aren't averse to it either.
Omniglot: Murdock can speak several languages, claiming that one day he had a headache and could suddenly speak several Asian languages fluently. He also imitated various accents several times per episode.
Other things that tend to happen a lot are Face jumping off the top of a van onto a bad guy, and Hannibal punching someone out and then putting a cigar in his mouth.
The Other Darrin: In the feature-length pilot episode, Face was played by Tim Dunigan. The role was recast after the pilot as Tim Dunigan was much taller than the rest of the cast and the producers felt after the fact that he was simply too young to play a Vietnam veteran (as Dunigan noted, the war ended when he was still in high school). Since Frank Lupo and Stephen J. Cannell had written the role with Dirk Benedict in mind (NBC hadn't wanted him - or George Peppard - initially), Dunigan's miscasting may have been on purpose...
Police Are Useless: Multiple episodes established this quickly to explain why the client of the week needed to approach the A-Team instead of the cops to deal with the villain of the week. The cops were usually just being bought off by the villain in question, though sometimes the cops were the villains. On other occasions the small local police agencies were simply overwhelmed and outgunned by the criminal element. This ended in the final season due to the change in format.
Posthumous Character: Ray Brenner was a fifth member of the team in Vietnam whom the others remember in a heroic and respectful fashion. In a first season episode they risk capture to attend and take part in his funeral with full military honors. They quickly learn from his widow (guest star Joanna Kerns) that he died trying to free his small hometown from a local outlaw family. They promptly seek revenge and justice for their fallen comrade.
Product Placement: An odd case. The van was supplied by GMC, but the grille and emblems were then either blacked out, obscured by a brushguard or removed entirely making it indistinguishable from a Chevrolet.
Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: B.A. was the unusual protagonist example who'd let the mook get in a good punch or two before smiling, then defenestrating them. Inverted twice when B.A. met a giant Asian mook who could take his punches without flinching.
Revenge Before Reason: General Chow in season 2 episode 2 "Recipe For Heavy Bread." He's one half of a highly profitable heroin smuggling operation, but he's willing to jeopardize the whole thing to get revenge on a cook who helped four prisoners escape from his POW camp ten years ago.
Right Under Their Noses: Hannibal loves this. Notable examples include sneaking onto an army base in "Say it with Bullets", and Hannibal impersonating a police officer in "The Maltese Cow".
Shout-Out: "Howlin' Mad" was originally the nickname of World War II General Holland Smith of the United States Marines, although today Howlin' Mad Murdock is a lot more well known than Howlin' Mad Smith.
Tawnia for the rest of season two and the beginning of season three.
Special Guest: Later in the show's run, when ratings started to slip. Some appearances included Rick James, Boy George, and Hulk Hogan (in two episodes, nonetheless).
In "There Goes The Neighborhood," the rock star our heroes had to guard was set to be played by Cyndi Lauper, but it fell through.
Spell My Name with an S: Many people spell Tawnia's name as "Tanya", between the strange spelling of her name and the fact that even the show spelled it wrong in her first appearance.
Stay in the Kitchen: George Peppard worked to keep women off to keep it an "all-male" show. Though he was mostly cordial to the actresses, Marla Heasley spoke of feeling unwelcome on the set and in particular that Peppard told her on both her first and last episodes that nobody wanted her there except the network.
Stock Footage: Most notably in "The Beast From The Belly Of A Boeing" (when Murdock crashes the plane into the airport's terminal, the scene's borrowed from Airplane!).
Temporary Substitute: For a single episode in Season 3, Decker was replaced by Colonel Briggs, who was simply intended to be a one-off character when Decker's actor, Lance LeGault, had a scheduling conflict. Briggs even mimicked all of Decker's mannerisms.
Terrible Artist: Murdock is shown to be actually terrible while undercover as a painter in "Beverly Hills Assault".
Hannibal and Face can also fit this, to a slightly lesser degree.
Trojan Horse: The team uses one to sneak into an enemy base. The horse was a delivery truck full of whiskey, and the base was a convent which had been taken over by South American guerrillas, who had recently run out of booze.
Twenty One Gun Salute: One episode has the A-Team step in to give a funeral for one of their old military buddies who had tangled with the Villains of the Week. With Hannibal calling the orders, the other three fire their rifles several times in salute.
The Vietnam War: The A-Team of course, as well as Decker, having served in the war. The show is credited as being one of the first to portray it, and in a positive light to boot. "A Nice Place to Visit" had the A-Team attend the funeral of a soldier in their unit, with each character descending into hero worship over his actions in Vietnam before going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against his killers.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Murdock and B. A. actually care about each other a lot despite constantly insulting each other.
Murdock (while B. A. is knocked out): I'm worried about him, Hannibal. It's been almost a full day and we haven't insulted each other—I think I may go into withdrawal soon.
Walking the Earth: Because they're wanted by the military, though they typically stick to the Los Angeles area. They occasionally travel very far afield (most notably in a lot of season five, and in the season four premiere "Judgment Day").
Weird Trade Union: Murdock and B.A. represent the BBDWOGH (an almighty kitchen worker union) and the AOAMS (Association of Angry Mud Suckers) respectively in "The Big Squeeze".
What Kept You?: Face and Murdock are often captured or kidnapped, but pretty much always rescue themselves before the rest of the team arrives.
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: B. A.'s fear of flying. He ended up giving one exception in one of the later episodes, when he learned that his mother was attacked by thugs; even then, he still had to be sedated within several minutes of flying. In another episode, he decides the cause (getting them pardoned) is enough to go on a plane; he still ends up passing out, but it's ambiguous whether they drugged him anyway, or whether he just went comatose (which happened on an early episode where he ended up on a plane).
Wire Dilemma: Played straight in "Lease with an Option to Die".
Would Hit a Girl: In one episode the gang are rescuing a kidnapped woman from the compound of a militia. She resists them because she's fallen in love with one of her captors. Since they're in a shoot out, Hannibal just knocks her out (offscreen) before resuming the rescue.