The A-Team was a series that fans seemingly either loved or couldn't get behind. The never-ending explosions, chase scenes and ridiculous situations piqued the interest of millions. The same characteristics of the show also turned some people off.
Some viewers and critics deemed the show too violent for children and rather unrealistic overall. Of course, headlines and comments trickled down to the cast. One of the most vocal actors and advocates of the series, Dwight Schultz, who played the one and only Howling Mad Murdock, says they were just doing their respective jobs.
"People expect me to apologize for the series," Schultz said in a 1985 United Press International story. "I'm an actor and I'm doing the same things I would do in a movie or on stage — acting."
According to Schultz, who was no stranger to Broadway and plays across the country, critics simply assumed the cast of The A-Team weren't having as much fun as they actually were. He came to the defense of his show when critics called it too violent.
"Some producers and casting directors say I sold out," Schultz added. "They assume we're schlocking it and hating it. The media say we're violent. We're among the least violent shows on the air." That sounds like a Howling Mad Murdock statement, but when followed up with "Nobody gets killed," Schultz's point is made.
He says critics simply don't want to understand what the show is; a funny series created based on highly-improbable and, more times than not, impossible situations.
"We're a comedy show," Schultz said. "Farce, fantasy, tongue-in-cheek. The dialogue works on two levels with allusions to literature and the theater. We're much more sophisticated than people give us credit for."
Once again coming to the defense of his career-defining series, Schultz added, "When I visit hospitals, it's the doctors who want to say hello, not the kids," pointing to his belief that the series didn't negatively impact millions of kids like some critics perhaps tried to imply. He says the show was the ultimate way to unwind from real life.
"Why do adults watch The A-Team?" Schultz asked rhetorically. "Because it is mindless and a reprieve from the day. The characters are bizarre and funny... pure escapism. Viewers aren't supposed to take the show seriously."
At the end of the day, regardless of critics' concerns and reviews, The A-Team was a powerful player during its initial run in primetime, and its cult following is just as passionate about the series today as it was in the mid-Eighties. For Schultz, who acted in theater prior to the show, The A-Team stood out from the very first script.
"I agreed to do The A-Team because the script made me laugh out loud, which I seldom do when I read a part... with Murdock I thought how many different ways there were to play him. Nobody knows if he's sane. His whole thing is putting people on, and you never know when he's serious. There's a method in his madness."
Perhaps that's why the name Howling Mad always stuck.
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