“The A-Team is defeating an armed, organized posse of thugs with cabbages and hay bales.”
As you’ve heard endlessly by now, part of this project was inspired by the financial success Julie Powell found in spending a year cooking Julia Child’s recipes; if she can get a movie made about her and her kitchen, surely I could get a film deal about me and my living room couch, right? What you might not know is that there’s a well-established history of people doing things for a year and then trying to make money off of them. A fellow named Dave Holmes just attached an expansion pack of meta on this model. He’s spending 2010 reading and writing about every do-something-for-a-year project he can find on a site called My Year of Everything. It’s a fun read so far, and Dave posts funny pictures of himself pondering each book he reads. He also mentions The A-Team several times… can you find them on his site?
There’s a real upside to doing one of these projects, namely money, and possibly the chance to be featured on a site like Dave’s. But there’s also real risk: I know people who’ve started year-long projects in 2010 and have already folded them for lack of time or motivation. A year can feel like a long time, especially if you have or want any kind of life, or job, or responsibilities, or dignity. Make sure you’ve got enough in the tank to see your yearlong project through, and do it before you start, not in April. Maybe start with a shorter project – “July with ALF,” or “Three Weeks Locked in the Bathroom Reading ‘Good Housekeeping'” – and see how you do. Then you can work your way up to a whole year. It’s not how I did it, but then I’m an enigma.
By the way, it’s not known what the first “year of” project was, but I suspect it all came out of that Lee Michaels song “Do You Know What I Mean,” the one where the guy constantly sings “it’s been fourteen days since I don’t know when.” Even as I kid I found this ludicrous and wrote a song in response: “It’s been fourteen days since two weeks ago..” But back then I didn’t know how hard these projects could be. Maybe Lee was bummin’ because he’d been trying to do a “Year of Lee Michaels Songs” thing and it didn’t work out.
Wild Guess Preview: It’s been a slow couple of months in the commando industry, so a bored A-Team ends up killing time at a small business seminar. At one of the breakout sessions Face learns that companies who partner with nonprofit groups can make big bucks, so he designs a public awareness campaign aimed at fighting low birth weight! Hannibal, Murdock and Triple A are all on board, but oddly, B.A. is against it – because today’s low birth weight babies turn into tomorrow’s ashtray-making underprivileged kids! An odd episode in which no guns are fired and the only salvos launched are those in pursuit of best public policy practice; on the plus side, watching this one earns you three credit hours in the Greater Calgary Community College associates in public administration program.
Is the A-Team moving to Cinemax? No, Murdock’s channeling the mystic aura of a Ouija board.
The Recap: We start right in the middle of a chase scene, with the allegedly diabolical Colonel Decker and company trailing the awesome A-Team van down some dirt roads. Suddenly the van drives through a billboard admonishing drivers to slow down. Then Decker’s car drives through the sign too! Some nearby cops start chasing all of ’em, which Murdock confirms not by looking out the window or listening for sirens, but by asking a ouija board. Hannibal tells B.A. to take a shortcut over a non-existent bridge, and Decker thinks this is the moment where, as he puts it, “The A-Team becomes the B-Team” (boo), but no – they launch over the bridge as easily as when they launched over the sign moments before. Decker’s car can’t quite make the jump, so Hannibal laughs at him and then they peel off for another adventure.
“Fairdale…. this looks like a good little town to hang out in,” says Hannibal, so that’s where they go. Hannibal wants Murdock and Triple A to get them hotel rooms, while he goes shopping with Face and B.A. At the store they find a cranky dude yelling at a Mary Lou Retton type and her sort of golf pro-ish husband/brother/something because they’re farm pickers. Hannibal finds this odd, so he and B.A. confronts the grocery guy. The dude backs down and they stand by looking angry while the couple picks out cantaloupe. Now a mildly cross conversation over melons might not sound very action-packed, but I think these shopping scenes are another way this show stands out. (Did you ever see Michael Knight pick out sandwiches? I rest my case.)
Apparently it’s Evil Double Coupon Day at the Fairdale market, because twelve other dudes pull up in a pickup truck to help intimidate the melon couple. The team doesn’t like this and they step in; Face says they’re “Market Marshals… bringing justice to the produce aisles and freezer sections of America.” The team gets the better of the chunky country dudes in the ensuing fistfight, and the thugs are like screw this, we’ll go pick on old women in the cereal aisle at Kroger’s. One of them says “I want you to find ’em, pull ’em out of the ground and snow-bob ’em” - I might not have heard that completely right.
Nighttime. Motel time. The thugs show up for a little payback. No, it’s the melon people – they don’t have names, so we’ll call them Brother and Sister – and they need help fighting Ted Jarrett, “the biggest grower in the valley” who’s “grind[ing] the pickers into the ground” after luring them in with promises of big money and fast living. (Jarrett is played by John Vernon, who also played Curtis Mooney, the cranky cop in Killer Klowns From Outer Space.) The local storekeepers are in on the scam, too; they hike their prices to keep workers from being able to pack up and leave. Murdock, incensed, calls this “a nice little touch of the Third Reich”! The dude says the workers are refusing to work so they can get better conditions, but Jarrett is punishing them by making it hard for them to get food. Hannibal smiles; methinks we have a mission!
The van drives out to the workers’ shantytown to meet Brother and Sister. The other pickers are hungry and cranky and want to continue losing at life, but Hannibal reminds them that Jarrett needs them to pick his crop or it’ll go bad, and he’ll lose a lot of money. He says the workers can use time to their advantage. B.A. adds some revolutionary jargon: “Strength comes in numbers… strength comes in unity… if you look around you find all the strength you need!” “What you need is a union,” says Hannibal. They’re still not sure, so Hannibal tries again: I’ll give you two days’ worth of food, and I’ll go find the other pickers and organize them. The pickers realize they have nothing to lose, so why not. Triple A is worried: where’s Hannibal going to get food for them? I’m sure the Fairdale Taco Bell will let them eat great even late.
Thank goodness for Chef Hannibal.
Oh, this is gonna be even better – Hannibal sneaks into Jarrett’s garden party dressed as Chef Boy-ar-dee, pulling a machine gun from under a roast pig and firing into the air. The van pulls up, and Hannibal announces Jarrett is donating all the party food to the workers, save for a few cocktail weiners and a Waldorf salad the neighbors brought. Hannibal and Face also shake Jarrett down for his diamond ring and assorted cash to make up for what he stiffed the workers. “The A-Team thanks you… the newly formed workers’ cooperative thanks you!” says Hannibal. Murdock adds that there will not only be a union, but they’ll have uniforms with real bow-ties – clip-on bowties “are for geeks! And geeks are a whole other union!” “You’re nuts!” says a thug. “I’m not nuts, I’m condiments! I’ve been promoted!” Righteous But Still Crazy Murdock is all right!
Wouldn’t you rather be at my youth center making ashtrays right now?
The van pulls up at one of Jarrett’s fields, and now they have to hand out union pamphlets to the other workers. Murdock and B.A. get into an odd argument – B.A. says “I hate cabbages, so don’t be talking about ’em” – as they hand out their literature. (Murdock speaks fervent real or made up Russian as he greets the workers, by the way) Jarrett finds this very irritating, as does his thug – they heard there’s a secret meeting happening, and Cross, his lead henchman, says he’s going to find out where the meeting is and stop the vote. The team has, in fact, set up a union organizing center somewhere. Face is organizing a big rally/square dance, while Murdock checks on their office supplies with his trusty ouija board.
The twin girls from the haunted hotel weren’t this tall in the Kubrick version, were they?
Uh oh. The thugs have found their secret headquarters, what with the “Local One Union Headquarters” sign. They demolish it, but Hannibal comes out and explains the sign was actually on one of Jarrett’s buildings. “I’d love to be with you when you tell him,” he laughs. The thugs make plans to bring “every piece of muscle” they can find to the secret meeting… but how to find out where it’s being held? Ah, they go to the pickers’ camp and steal a kid on a tricycle, who was in “The Shining” until he triked over here. They extort the meeting time and place out of the kid’s mom, and now there’s gonna be trouble.
Not only did Face have to give up his shoes, he had to do a guest shot on the “Morning Farm Report” that week too.
The team prepares the barn for their big meeting, and Triple A and Murdock explain the jazz to Sister. “The jazz is all the Twinkies you can eat, and Woody Woodpecker cartoons 24 hours a day,” says Murdock. “Nature’s way of putting your fingers in a light socket,” says Face. Hannibal thinks they need some real farm equipment, so Face has to stop at a farm field and talk a guy into giving up his flatbed truck. The farmer is suspicious, so he works out a deal: he’ll loan out the truck if Face loans out his “hootchie” – “Gucci!” – shoes. And so we got us a flatbed truck, and one of those tree branch mulch things. Hannibal is impressed by Face’s creativity, and now it’s montage time. B.A. and Murdock are converting the mulching thing into some kind of death bot thing, Hannibal’s positioning hay bales, and strident military music plays on. They’ve even got cabbages!
Look for the union label – as cabbages fly at your head
The Jarrett dudes drive up as Face is rousing rabble among the pickers in advance of their big union vote. They burst in, and Face starts launching cabbages at the dudes! Ok, this is about the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life – they’re defeating an armed, organized posse of thugs with cabbages and hay bales. Hannibal’s stunt double swings down from the rafters and nails Jarrett, and he says “you can be the first to congratulate the workers.” Sister says the vote is in: unanimous in favor of the union. “Great family feeling, huh?” says Hannibal. Jarrett doesn’t find this so funny.
So problem solved for the workers of Fairdale, but Murdock checks in with his ouija board and it says Decker is coming. So it’s back into the van, and they race off, and the people that had put up the billboard they crashed through at the beginning have repaired it, but here they come and they CRASH THROUGH IT AGAIN as we close out for the week.
Now this is more like it! A solid, funny episode; the only improvement I can think of would be to give the Brother and Sister characters real names. I suppose if you’re not a big fan of unions this won’t be your cup of tea, but as a TV story it works; the reintroduction of the team is finally clicking. As is, I daresay, this project.