Reviews: Airwolf

Black Helicopters during the height of the Cold War

The creator of this show, Donald P Bellisario, is today known for NCIS, but this is one of his cult earlier works- the story of a cool helicopter in The Eighties, possessing a brilliant Theme Tune.

The show itself is very domestic for a spy show- in fact, more often than not, events occur in the western United States, or Latin Land. This is due to money reasons ("Try to keep the action within the Continental U.S." is a direct statement from the Universe Bible). While Airwolf did travel into the USSR (as far in as Sverdlovsk- it's called Yekaterinburg these days), this was the exception rather than the norm.

On to the characters. Stringfellow Hawke is a tad too generic and, to be frank, Jan-Michael Vincent has problems rubbing two emotions together. Dominic Santini, played by Ernest Borgnine, is far more interesting and a far more likeable character. Caitlin (yes, Mr. Bellisario used the name before) is a fairly cheery person, although little stands out.

My favourite character has to be Michael Coldsmith-Briggs, Code Name Archangel. An intelligent, albeit very grey in terms of his methodology, character, he has a distinctive style about him. I based Dr. Anna Hamilton-Smith ("Memphis") in Covert-81 on him, which shows my liking for the character.

Plot-wise, things are greyer than might appear. The US in one story is happy to use a Nazi war criminal to sell their latest weapons to Iran, allowing to turn them off if needs arise. Considering the history of the Iran-Iraq war, this is a major Funny Aneurysm Moment. The black helicopter only tends to turn up near the end, but when it does things take off literally and metaphorically.

Unlike Mac Gyver or The A Team, the heroes are willing to use lethal violence for their goals. Since this is a show involving aerial combat, "I can see their parachutes" would ruin the tone. It, is however, largely Bloodless Carnage.

No discussion of this, sadly, is complete, without discussion of the Stock Footage, which does not stand up to scrutiny, especially if you're the kind of person who can tell the difference between a "Delta III" and a "Delta IV" (less pronounced missile compartment, by the way). Today, it wouldn't be stood for.

All in all, a very good and enjoyable show. Just remember Bellisarios Maxim when watching it and bear in mind the context.