Why the Last ‘The A-Team’ Episode Wasn’t Its Intended Finale
The final episode of The A-Team was broadcast March 8, 1987, months after its intended finale had already gone to air. Confused? That’s understandable. After all, the conclusion of the classic ‘80s action TV series hadn’t gone to plan.
When The A-Team premiered in 1983, it became an instant hit. The debut episode aired after Super Bowl XVII and immediately pulled in a massive national audience. Fans were sucked in by the story of “a crack commando unit [that] was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit.” Each week, these military-men-turned-soldiers-of-fortune set out on a different mission, bringing justice in a world where evil too often prevailed. As the show's famous intro declared: “If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire ... the A-Team."
The show starred George Peppard as the group’s leader, John "Hannibal" Smith. His team was made up of the smooth-talking Templeton "Faceman" Peck (Dirk Benedict), the wild man H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock (Dwight Schutlz) and the muscle, Bosco Albert "B.A." Baracus (Mr. T). The latter role had been written specifically for Mr. T following the popularity of his Rocky III character, Clubber Lang.
Watch 'The A-Team' Intro
The A-Team enjoyed a run as one of the ‘80s' most popular TV series. The show spawned a range of merchandise, including trading cards, comic books, posters, jigsaw puzzles and action figures. While the show’s cultural impact was significant, its time at the top was short-lived.
The A-Team’s mix of action, adventure and comedy was initially groundbreaking, but its plots soon proved to be too predictable. The show’s formulaic structure - the team gets a mission, battles bad guys, flips some cars, then wraps everything up in 60 minutes - eventually lost viewers’ attention. After being the fourth most-watched U.S. television show from 1983-84, The A-Team’s ratings rapidly declined. For its final season, the program had dropped to 61st. Despite attempts to revive interest by bringing in new characters and different plots, the writing was on the wall.
NBC opted to cancel the series midway through its fifth season. On Dec. 30, 1986, an episode titled “The Grey Team” was aired. In it, the A-Team aids in a sting operation designed to capture Russian agents. When a girl runs off with classified documents and hides at a local nursing home, members of the team sneak into the facility to get them back.
Watch What Was Supposed to Be 'The A-Team''s Final Scene
Throughout the episode, dialogue and visual clues allude to it being the show’s final episode. At one point, Murdock ponders the A-team’s future, while Hannibal insists the group has years of adventures still ahead. Elsewhere, Murdock is seen wearing a shirt that says “Fini” - the French word for “finished.” “The Grey Team” offered a sense of closure for the series. But it wasn’t the last episode.
A little more than two months later - on March 8, 1987 - NBC aired the previously unseen episode “Without Reservations” during a stretch of A-Team reruns. Even though it was originally scheduled to be the penultimate episode, a mistake led it to initially be passed over for broadcast. Unlike “The Grey Team,” “Without Reservations” - with its plot centered on a restaurant hostage situation - was much more open-ended. At one point, Murdock is seen wearing a shirt saying “Almost Fini” - meaning "Almost Finished" - further proof that “Without Reservations” was supposed to be the second-to-last episode.
Watch a Clip From 'The A-Team' Episode 'Without Reservations'
Exactly who was responsible for the episodes airing out of order was never revealed. Still, the show has retained a strong place in ‘80s pop-culture history. The A-Team has been referenced in a long list of TV series, including Saturday Night Live, Family Guy, Scrubs, 30 Rock, Arrested Development and Archer.
In 2010, a movie adaptation of the show was released, starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper and MMA fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. A reboot of the series was rumored to be in the works in 2015, but those talks never brought anything to fruition.