They don’t make TV like they used to…

… which I suppose is a good thing.

A while back, UKTV Gold were playing the entire set of The A-Team episodes so the Sky+ series link feature was activated and I am now both ashamed and proud to state I’ve watched every single The A-Team episode (all 98 of them!). Yes, it was formulaic and had plots that you or I could have written, but it was fun. Many a happy Saturday afternoon was spent watching Hannibal, BA, Face, and Murdoch build an escape vehicle from six dustbin lids and 200 feet of handily-placed steel and corrugated roofing, powered by a big diesel V8: you know, the sort that everyone has lying around their back yard.

So I was scanning through the Sky TV guide earlier and stumbled on the newish “DMAX” channel (Sky 155). Playing was an episode of “Airwolf” – another Saturday afternoon staple. I sat down to watch the last half-hour and it all came flooding back. I could predict to my wife exactly what was going to happen next.

Oh no! They’re captured!

Hurrah! They’ve escaped past an inept guard using all their wit and cunning (the old “having a big fight between the prisoners” routine)

Oh no! The evil person is about to unleash his evil plan – I never actually worked out what he was up to today – that’s what the preceding 30 minutes was for anyway.

Hurrah! “String” has managed to get to “The Lady” (the helicopter).

(advert break) — yes, I even predicted where this would be

(insert some pretty good flying and general showing-off involving pyrotechnics here)

Oh no! They’re going to be too late!

Hurrah! Judicious use of the turbo thrusters have meant that everything’s been saved in the nick of time.

(now the end bit where “String” gets the girl or some happy reunion with an old friend who promises to be more careful in the future – today was a bloke who was an alcoholic – I never paid any attention to that bit – probably switched it over for the wrestling or something)

My wife was particularly entertained / despairing at the way one bloke got shot (in the heart by the looks of it), and was fit and well two scenes later, with only a sling to show for his brush with gunfire. The A-Team was also particularly entertaining with cartoon violence. In one episode, a helicopter crashed into a cliff face, burst into flames, fell 100ft to the rocks below and both passengers stumbled out with nothing more than a cough and an irritatingly large laundry bill to remove black dust from their jackets.

If Airwolf and The A-Team have much the same ring to them, it’s because the creator of Airwolf (Donald Bellasario) worked for Stephen Cannell (writer and producer of The A-Team) and went on to basically adopt quite a few of his working principles. What we should be thankful for is that Donald Bellasario stayed in the business of writing TV series and created several pretty good ones along the way: Magnum, P.I.; Quantum Leap; and the currently-running show, NCIS.

NCIS isn’t TV that’s written or made like they used to do it. Which is good.