The James Clayton Column: The A-Team and the 80s with Andy Serkis

With The A-Team bringing 80s telly to the big screen, James has a few more ideas for shows waiting to be tapped...

The A-Team and 80s TV

If you have a problem and if no one else can help you, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.”

That’s good to know. Since International Rescue turned out to be a pretty useless wooden puppet outfit, the world has been desperate for a group of independent throwback action heroes who can save good people from peril.

I have several dilemmas and, feeling let down by Thunderbirds, I’m looking for solutions that come with no strings attached. My family has been replaced by an ‘other’ family with button eyes, a dwarf in a red anorak is stalking me and I can’t locate the lost Sankara stones. I could do with several hands and a crack commando unit to help me out. Either A-Team Mk. I with George Peppard and Mr. T or A-Team Mk. II with Liam Neeson and Wikus from District 9. I’m not bothered.

All I need to do is find them and, contrary to the phone adverts that suggest they’re hip to mobile technology, that’s proving to be a difficult task. Does anyone have the A-Team’s email address? Are they on Twitter? If I shine a giant ‘A’ into the night sky will B.A. Baracus come bounding into view?

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While I try and track the Team, Hollywood is also reaching out to the 80s for assistance. Recent times have just vindicated whichever wiseguy it was that said, “If in doubt, go back to the eighties.” (I think it might have been King of California Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his more sensible gubernatorial policies.)

See box office success tagged to brand names like Transformers, The A-Team and The Karate Kid and ponder the potential of Tron: Legacy and the Conan The Barbarian and Mad Max reboots, and you realise that retrofitting is a pretty smart plan.

Out of them all, it’s not as hard to get your head around the resuscitation of The A-Team, because they’ve never gone feature-length before and don’t have a previous incarnation on film. There’s no silver screen legacy and shadows the shape of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ralph Macchio in crane stance dwarfing the new flick.

It’s easier for a franchise to stand on its own feet without such things hanging overhead. The A-Team‘s bump up from small screen to big screen is therefore a smoother transition than one that’s got to convince the globe to embrace Jaden Smith and forget Mr Miyagi.

Taking an old TV show and reconfiguring it for the modern age is probably preferable to movie remakes, though the spate of unappealing flicks that raided the 70s (I’m thinking Starsky & Hutch and the two Charlie’s Angels movies) prove that it can all go a bit wrong.

Following in the tyre tracks of The A-Team, I’d suggest moving on and mining the VHS archives of the 1980s instead. It was the silver age of television, when J.R. got shot, when MTV arrived and Video Killed the Radio Star, when everyone sat down for the whole day to watch Live Aid and in the process made sure that starving African children knew it was Christmas.

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The power of the cathode ray in the decade was such that David Cronenberg made Videodrome to celebrate its rise as the global religion possessing body and mind (“Long live the new flesh!”) and the Soviet Bloc started to revolt so that Eastern Europe could get cable.

The A-Team is quintessential 80s telly that has been turned into film and, judging by the prominence of all the posters, trailers and adverts for mobile phones and milk on the side of buses, has captured the popular imagination.

Miami Vice is another example of a concept that can be stripped of all its camp and rebooted for the 21st century big screen digital experience. I put it to the movie moguls looking for the next new (read: old) idea, that these formats from the tellybox of nineteen-eighty-something are perfect material to put into production…

Boys From The Black Stuff

Relocate it from Liverpool and set it in the dole queue of post-boom Dubai and you’ve got a contemporary tale of unemployment that touches the zeitgeist. Plus, Andy Serkis (the greatest acting chameleon) will get the opportunity to grow a moustache and take a trip to the Middle East. With Yassir Huuz wandering around the building sites of the UAE unsuccessfully looking for a payslip, reducing audiences to tears in the process, Oscars and better conditions for immigrant workforces are a guarantee.


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Because a feature-length modernised anime update of the superspy cult cartoon (with Andy Serkis providing the voices of the eponymous rodent, Penfold, Baron Silas Greenback and the rest of the cast) would be the best thing ever. Good grief.

‘Allo ‘Allo

The lame farce set in occupied France has the potential for so much war action and character development beyond bad sexual innuendo and clichéd stereotyping. I’d suggest channelling Tarantino and getting all Inglourious Basterds on the sitcom, casting Andy Serkis as a multi-faceted version of café owner René Artois in a blast of bloody violence, profanity and pop soundtracking.

Diff’rent Strokes

Even though it started in the 70s, there could be no finer tribute to the late Gary Coleman than a big screen adaptation of the story of the two black kids adopted by a rich white man. Directed by Quentin Tarantino to get the street cred and sharp dialogue, I’d cast Anthony Hopkins as a more menacing incarnation of old Mr Drummond. If the ghost of Gary Coleman doesn’t want to play Arnold, Andy Serkis will provide the first mo-cap raceswap performance. On the receiving end of the 600-times said question “Wa’chu talkin’ ‘bout,Willis?” is Michael Sheen (the other great chameleon actor) as Willis and Justin Bieber will tell us how it takes “Diff’rent strokes to rule the world” as the credits roll.


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The bizarre Australian soap continues to play on daytime TV, disseminating its white supremacist ideologies and unbelievably rapid plotlines into the minds of really bored students. What I suggest is a radical feature-length adaptation featuring every single actor who’s graduated from Ramsay Street to universal cinematic acclaim (Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, erm, Kylie Minogue) in a sordid and gory shocking action horror about suburban society. It would, of course, be directed by the country’s other odd and intellectually offensive export, Mel Gibson. Andy Serkis will be playing Harold Bishop.

And we’ll all party like it’s 1989. I love it when a plan comes together…

James’ previous column can be found here.

More thoughts from James can be found at