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Putting the original “A-Team” up against the new movie.

Putting the original “A-Team” up against the new movie. (photo)

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Before seeing “The A-Team” (to review for another publication) it seemed a good idea to at the very least refresh my hazy memory of the original show by watching the pilot. It was a nice time — the show’s just as amiable and laid-back as memory indicated, and it’s good company.

The new “A-Team,” alas, is very much a product of its times, with hyperventilating sound, some crappy CGI and incoherent set-pieces. (It’s also occasionally hilarious in a “Transporter” way.) The original show is very much of its time, but it holds up better than anyone would have guessed.

The movie gives our heroes an origin story in Mexico, perhaps a tip of the hat to the two-part series pilot “Mexican Slayride.” The episode’s a straight rip of “The Magnificent Seven”: marijuana-growing guerrillas are terrorizing a small town, and the team leads the villagers in a stirring revolt.

You know the drill: a townsman yells “Our grandfathers would spit on us! Better to fight and die than to run like children!” and it’s game on. But getting there is a leisurely process — tthe show opens with many, many establishing shots with no people, so many it’s closer to contemporary art-house master-shot cinema than a normal action movie.

06102010_creature.jpgThe fight scenes are done in the show’s patented no-visible-violence style — though what’s striking about them now is how unbelievably jaunty and upbeat the music is, like there aren’t cars flipping all over the place and bullets flying like nobody’s business.

Not even Indiana Jones got to hear his theme all the time, but the music never so much as hints at danger, conflict or suspense. This creates a weird distancing effect — the violence isn’t so much cartoonish as it is downright pleasant.

Introduced in the mental hospital, the maybe-he’s-crazy-maybe-he-isn’t Murdock gripes “I’m not nuts. I keep telling everyone that. Don’t you think I want to get out of here and see ‘E.T.’ just like everybody else?” Later, the team scams a Mexican town by pretending to be the advance team for a movie called “Boots and Bikinis,” starring Bo Derek, Farrah Fawcett and Loni Anderson, which sounds about right. They’re cinephiles!

The real reference point, though, is Vietnam: there’s a brief but startling shot from the back of a flying crop duster that totally looks like mass bombing is about to ensue, and in the finale the good guys bring a village to its feet to do the fighting for them. It’s hearts and minds in action.

06102010_theateam1.jpgThe show hums along pleasantly, establishing a men-hanging-with-men vibe that can only indulge one token female. (The only major character trait change between the old and new crew is that Face — Bradley Cooper now — is required not just to be a lady’s man, but to only love one woman in particular, which isn’t as much fun.)

As it happened, the end was near for this kind of low-stakes, high-frivolity TV series — as it was, in fact, for action movies starring not particularly complicated people who kicked ass without getting all traumatized or tortured about it. The movie almost manages to avoid getting predictably dark — but secretly, you know the team wouldn’t really want to do all that fighting. The show’s relaxed about its action in a way that’s nearly impossible to see now, which is kind of a drag.

Or you could watch it yourself, below. The opening chase through the studio lot is awfully cool — you’ll never think of “The Ten Commandments” the same away again.

[Photos: “The A-Team,” the “Mexican Slayride” episode, Universal Studios Home Video, 1983; “The A-Team,” Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 2010]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.