A-Team

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Contents


Introduction

A-Team fandom began shortly after the series premiered on the NBC television network on January 23, 1983. An immediate hit with the viewing public, the series had primarily a fanzine and newsletter-based fandom throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, producing a moderate--though not extensive--amount of fan-fiction and other types of fanworks. Despite the popularity of the show with the general public, its reception within media fandom has always been lukewarm at best. Though it had clear potential for many popular genres of fan-writing and an appealing cast of characters, many felt the show was too "cartoonish" and not serious enough in nature. Still, A-Team stories appeared in both single-fandom and many multi-fandom fanzines during this time, and the show was discussed in various letterzines specific to action-adventure television and the work of co-producer Stephen J. Cannell.

The series aired for 5 seasons on NBC (although the first and last were only half-seasons), ending in 1987 after a run of 98 episodes. It was popular both in the United States where it originated as well as around the world, developing large followings in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, and Germany in particular.

The A-Team began appearing in television syndication in the 1990s, which lead to a second wave of the fandom which has continued to some extent through today. On-line A-Team fandom began in 1994 with the launch of the On The Jazz Newsletter, followed soon by the first A-Team fansites on the web and full-featured mailing lists. From that point forward a second wave of A-Team fanzines were produced by several United States publishers including Sockii Press, though eventually the primary medium for sharing fan-fiction became the internet through various mailing lists and archives. The fandom remains primarily mailing list-based today, with very limited activity on LiveJournal and other forums.

Repeated rumors and talk of an A-Team feature film have kept an interest in the series and fandom going well into the 2000s. Actors Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz continue to make convention appearances, largely in Europe but occasionally in the United States as well.

The Show

The story

As per the series' weekly introduction, "In 1972 a crack commando team was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they did not 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."

Despite the serious tone of these opening words, the A-Team was a largely humorous, light-hearted action series, typical of the genre for the early 1980s. The show was also routinely criticized for being one of the most violent on television, although it was a rather cartoon-style action where cars routinely flipped over, buildings were blown up, and yet no one (except on occasion the team members themselves) got hurt.

The characters

The A-Team cast in 1983.

The four main members of The A-Team were:

  • Hannibal Smith. The colonel and leader of the team, John "Hannibal" Smith (portrayed by George Peppard was known for his insane plans which somehow always worked, even if not exactly as planned.
  • Templeton Peck, aka the "Faceman". Portrayed by Dirk Benedict, he was a conman who generally got what he wanted because of his good looks.
  • B.A. Baracus, otherwise known as "Bad Additude". Portrayed by Mr. T, he was a large, very strong former sergeant and mechanical genius. He also had a terrible fear of flying.
  • H.M. Murdock. Captain "Howlin' Mad" Murdock, played by Dwight Schultz, was the team's pilot. He was also crazy and committed to the V.A. Hospital, requiring the team to break him out every time they needed him for a mission.

During the course of the series, the team were for periods of time assisted by:

  • Amy Allen, played by Melinda Culea, was a reporter who hired the team to find a colleague once and then decided she wanted to join them, in order to record the team's exploits. She eventually left when "reassigned" to a foreign office by her newspaper, and was replaced by her co-worker,
  • Tawnia Baker, played by Marla Heasley

The team was also pursued by a changing list of military police, including:

In the 5th season, the team became "employed" (or more appropriately blackmailed) by General Hunt Stockwell (Robert Vaughn), a mysterious figure who seems to have ties to covert operations. He promises the team he can grant them a government pardon if they complete enough missions for him. During this time, Frankie Santana (Eddie Velez) also joins the team, after being involved in helping them escape from a military firing squad and becoming a wanted man himself.

Terminology

Below is a list of terms and their definitions that are used in this fan fiction community. This section needs more information.

Timeline

Includes data on total stories posted to FanFiction.Net on December 28, 2006 and January 3, 2006, total of new stories added during those periods, number of LiveJournal communities and users with the fandom as an interest, number of news stories on Google, number of episodes on television in a two week period.

Below is a partial timeline of the A-Team fan fiction community.

1983

  • The A-Team premiered with the episode Mexican Slayride on January 23, 1983. It aired in the highly coveted post-Superbowl timeslot amidst a great deal of promotion featuring cast member Mr. T and was an immediate ratings success. A mid-season replacement, the first season continued through May 10, 1983 for a run of 13 episodes many today consider the show's finest. Most of these episodes were penned by series co-creators Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo, and the writing is what is cited as making these episodes superior to much of what would follow in later seasons.

1984 to 1988

1984

  • In April of 1984, cast members Mr. T, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz went on a publicity tour of Holland, where they were treated with such fan frenzy that some compared it to The Beatles first visit to America.[1]
  • The third season of The A-Team premiered on September 18, 1984 with Bullets and Bikinis. Tawnia was written out of the series in the following week's two-hour episode, The Bend in the River and for the next two seasons, the composition of the team remained unchanged. The series' ratings dipped slightly, but still finished #6 overall for the season.[2] That said, episodes for this season remained highly formulaic, with only Bounty becoming a fan favorite (and number 1 in the ratings) due to the guest appearance of Dwight Schultz's wife, Wendy Fulton.

1985

  • The fourth season of The A-Team premiered on September 24, 1985 with the two hour episode Judgment Day. The episode aired after considerable rumors and gossip of unrest between stars Mr. T and George Peppard. Ratings for the series rapidly declined despite numerous "stunt" guest appearances including Rick James, Hulk Hogan and Boy George, as well as what some at least considered better writing and more varied storylines than the previous year.

1986

  • After four years, NBC moved The A-Team from Tuesday nights at 8pm EST to Friday nights at the same time for the fifth season. On September 26, 1986 Dishpan Man was the first new episode aired. The series was massively "retooled" as well, with new characters added, having the team relocated to Virginia from Los Angeles, and now working for a covert operative for the government in order to "earn" their pardons. The changes did little to boost the ratings, and the series was canceled in November 1986, airing only 13 episodes for the season where it finished 53rd in the ratings.[3]

1986

1994

  • On October 9, 1994 the first issue of the A-Team On The Jazz Newsletter was published by sockii. Originally intended to connect fans and share information, it would later contain some fan fiction, including out of print fanzine stories approved for internet distribution. The newsletter would continue until 1997 by which time discussion would move to a mailing list of the same name. Later on this mailing list would split into separate discussion and fan fiction mailing lists. (There was also a mailed newsletter called On The Jazz in the 1980s which predated this and was a completely different publication. Although, a few of the authors who contributed to On The Jazz were republished in this.)

1995

Cover art for Plans Scams and Vans #1, released in 1995.
  • On June 18, 1995, the first A-Team website was opened by sockii containing an episode guide, fanzine information, and other trivia related to the show. Later on the site would expand to include an image gallery and an archive for fan fiction previously printed in fanzines.
  • Also in this year, Sockii Press published the first issue of Plans Scams and Vans, beginning a second wave of A-Team fanzines. The PSV series of 'zines would run for 6 issues, featuring strictly gen and light het content.
  • Interest in writing and sharing A-Team fiction on-line was beginning to grow as well.

1996

  • The first rumors of an A-Team movie started to appear in 1996. A script was leaked to some in the fandom, but it did not meet with great enthusiasm due to the dark, violent tone and changes in characterization. Production on this version of a movie never seemed to go beyond this early script draft.
  • In November of 1996, sockii received the following email from Marla Heasley, who had portrayed Tawnia Baker on The A-Team:[4]
Hi,

I did not realize that there was so much elaborate effort in keeping the A-Team alive. I am glad to see it. I just happened to be browsing the web and found you.

It was a fun show to work on. The cast and crew were wonderful to work with. I have many lasting fond memories.

Keep up the good work.
Marla Heasley (Tawnia Baker)

This was the first recorded incident of the on-line fandom interacting with those involved in the production of the series. Marla would later provide a more detailed interview for sockii for the On The Jazz Newsletter, published the following year.[5]

1997

  • In January of 1997, The A-Team Fan Society reopened for membership. This was an unofficial fanclub based out of Germany which published a German/English-language fanzine entitled Baracus News. Sonja Horstmann was the new maintainer of the club.[6]
  • A-Team's Nighthawk Commandos website launched on May 15, 1997. It hosted A-Team fiction as well as information about the show and the Murdock fans who called themselves the "Nighthawk Commandos".[7]
  • A-Team slash fiction began to appear on-line in 1997. In contrast to the earlier, 'zine-based slash fandom, Face/Murdock quickly became the most popular pairing although Hannibal/Face was still written and preferred by some. There were occasional minor kerfluffles between the supporters of these two pairings. While often couched in arguments over which made "more sense" canonically.
  • More intense and extreme hurt/comfort, angst and torture-fic was becoming more common in the fiction being written by this time (both in gen and slash writing), sometimes causing debate and kerfluffles as well.

1999

  • The Virtual Asylum mailing list was formed on January 23, 1999 [8] This was a high-volume mailing list for A-Team fan-fiction, discussion and role-play which was formed largely as a reaction against complaints about some members who were accused of "spamming" the onthejazz fiction and discussion lists. The Virtual Asylum members were mainly those who had come to A-Team fandom on-line in more recent times, not out of the 'zine culture and fandom model which sockii had used for onthejazz. At about the same time, the Virtual Asylum Archives moved from archivist Sabrina to Pax and is still in existence at AteamFanFic.org[9] but accepts A-Team fan fiction from beyond the VA. As of November 27, 2007 the Virtual Asylum had 731 members. This did not change very much in the following years, growing only to 767 members by June 2009.

2000

2003

  • In 2003, an A-Team convention, "Action Replay", was planned to take place March 1, 2003 - March 2, 2003 at the Bournemouth International Centre in England, but was canceled only three weeks before the event because one of the sponsors backed out and a last-minute search for a new sponsor proved fruitless.[14] Many fans were very upset as they had booked travel from all across the world to attend the event. Some still made the trip as they were unable to change their travel plans and held a small private event instead.[15]

2004

2005

2006

A screencapture from "Bring Back The A-Team", which aired in 2006.

2008

2009

Kerfluffles

Kerfluffles in A-Team fandom have generally occurred over issues in fan-writing, and slash has often been at the center of the debate. Either fans of the two most popular slash pairings, Hannibal/Face and Face/Murdock have been at odds over their preferences, or non-slash fen and slash fen have exchanged heated debates over the subject of slash itself and whether it can be supported at all by A-Team canon.

Other issues have come up in A-Team fan-fiction communities, such as the prevalence of getem and hurt/comfort fiction, often featuring Templeton Peck and sometimes taken to what people consider highly unreasonable/impossible extents. There has also been some occasional tension between slash writers and some who embrace smarm and extreme hurt/comfort. The slash writers have on occasion claimed that the extreme h/c and smarm read very much like pre-slash while some h/c writers vehemently oppose slash and do not consider their work in any way similar or related to it.

Fan communities

A-Team fandom began as an off-line fandom, largely connected through fanzines, letterzines and newsletters until the mid-1990s. From that point forward it moved to a largely on-line based fandom, first through electronic newsletters and then mailing lists.

Although communities on LiveJournal and some messageboard forums have been created since then and had some level of activity, mailing lists have remained the primary forum of communication in A-Team fandom. There are numerous lists still active as of 2009, most with higher membership counts than similar-themed LiveJournal communities. A-Team fandom also currently has some active message board communities, either about the show itself of focused on the actors involved in it.

See A-Team LiveJournal communities and A-Team mailing lists for more information.

Fanworks

Fanfiction

Fanfiction in A-Team fandom has covered a fairly typical, wide range of genres, with gen, het and slash all being produced in significant quantities. Action/adventure stories are popular, similar in tone to the original series, as are more serious gen stories, often with elements of hurt/comfort and angst as writers tried to explore the characters on a deeper level than seen on the show.

Crossovers have been very popular in A-Team fandom as well, given the show's nature and ability to integrate it with other series such as other 1980s action series like Riptide. Crossovers with The X-Files were popular in the mid-to-late-1990s, given the popularity of that series at the time.

Mary Sues and OFCs in A-Team fiction

Fanzine artwork of "Kamala", a character from the A-Team story "Intertwining Fates" in Plans Scams and Vans #3. The character could easily be described as a "classic" A-Team Mary Sue.

OFCs pop up fairly regularly in A-Team fiction, some obvious Mary Sues, others more well-developed and interesting characters. Often these characters are meant to be love-interests for one of the team members, although occasionally they may just be a new character to take the part of a female team assistant such as Amy Allen and Tawnia Baker was. Sometimes the OFCs may be introduced as being the child of one of the team members--either very young and the result of a current relationship, or a now-adult child the team member never knew about. In the latter case, that child might end up becoming a love-interest for another team member, leading to conflict on the team.

Fanart

A-Team fandom has never produced very much fanart, beyond a small number of fanzine illustrations, generally of the simple portrait style or using screencaptures and photos from the series itself.

Fanvids

Vidding was never big in A-Team fandom, although a small number of vids have been produced through the years including some by the Central Consortium.

Pairings

Het pairings

Canon

Hannibal/Maggie and Murdock/Kelly are the two primary "canon" 'ships on from the series, despite only having 2 and 1 episodes to back up these relationships, respectively. Due to the nature of the series, the characters were generally unable to maintain longer-term relationships, and few stories were written utilizing the "girlfriends-of-the-week" (usually Face's).

Non-canon

Amy Allen is popularly paired with members of the Team in het-fiction, usually either Murdock/Amy or Face/Amy, with a few people supporting Hannibal/Amy as well.

Slash pairings

All slash pairings are non-canon in the A-Team universe, and some repeated conflict has occurred through the years over the subject of Slash in A-Team fandom. Easily the two most popular slash pairings are Hannibal/Face and Face/Murdock, although other pairings sometimes written include B.A./Murdock and Hannibal/Murdock.

Fandom Members

Some A-Team fans who contributed widely to the fanzines, fan-fiction, and internet presence of the A-Team include:

See A-Team fans for more information.

Fandom size

There were 567 stories on FanFiction.Net as of October 10, 2006. As of April 18, 2009, there were 691 stories, 2 communities and 2 discussion forums.[26]

As of October 6, 2007, there were 268 current members of the A-Team story board, a number which had dropped to 255 by June 13, 2009.

As of June 10, 2009, there are 209 fans on FanPop. [27]

As of June 13, 2009, the A-Team Fan Fiction Archives held 1,797 stories.[28] This site serves as the primary archive for A-Team fiction on the web.

See also A-Team LiveJournal community size

External Links

See also

Sources

  • Langley, Katherine. Telephone interview.



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