I once talked about the intro to the Chuck Norris cartoon that wanted to be the Mr. T cartoon but never really talked about the intro TO the Mr. T cartoon. Let’s finally correct that oversight.
The bodyguard turned actor formerly known as Laurence Tureaud is best known for playing Clubber Lang in Rocky III and B.A. “Bad Attitude” Baracus, the child-loving, fool-pitying mechanic and muscle of The A-Team. Mr. T (first name Mr, middle name the period, last name T) would also appear in family sitcoms like Silver Spoons and Diff’rent Strokes as pretty much himself. He became a great hit with kids, which led to toys and other merchandise–even his own breakfast cereal–and of course his own cartoon.
Produced by Ruby-Spears, Mr. T (I’ve seen it written online as Mister T but we all know the proper spelling of his name) was one of the few shows about a celebrity that actually had the celebrity voicing him. I don’t mean something like Wishkid or The Gary Coleman Show, where a famous person played a character. (In fact Gary Coleman’s character was based on a TV movie he did called The Kid With The Broken Halo, about an apprentice guardian angel.) Since there was nothing unintentionally funny about it and anything for kids is immediately considered “dumb” the portion of the T-Fan arm that just likes to see him toss guys around–seriously, at one point in the early years of the internet when I finally got on there were a series of poorly edited photo comics about Mr. T throwing dudes “hella far” while drinking milk, calling Murdock a crazy fool and driving the A-Team van into outer space to occasionally fight aliens–they have immediately wrote off the show. Even Mr. Enter put the show down, but ask any 80s kid worth talking to and they’ll tell you the show was awesome!
The show followed T as he bused a teen gymnastics group around the country, joined by den mother Ms. Bisby, a proper lady often taken aback by the adventures the team would get into. The quartet that often got into the mysteries they would stumble upon (and no, that alone does NOT make it a Scooby-Clone) were the action-ready redhead, Robin, the science-loving Japanese-American Kim (look, “Asian” isn’t the right term as was recently pointed out to me because Korea, Japan, and China are different countries but I don’t want you thinking she’s from Japan–I think she was a first generation American at least) The future lawyer Woody (thankfully avoiding the “black kid” stereotypes), and the Brooklyn egotist Jeff (who DID follow his stereotypes for the most part). Rounding out the main cast, although other members of the team would sometimes be the focus of one of their mysteries, were Mr. T’s fanboy and Robin’s little brother Spike–lest you think the Witwickys were the only one who thought that wasn’t just a nickname–and his bulldog Dozer. And yes, Dozer had a T-style mohawk. I’m betting Spike would if he could get his parents to but all he could do was fake T’s voice, which was only slightly better than Christian Bale’s Batman voice, until he got in trouble and then he would end up in his normal voice.
The intro does a good job highlighting the main four members while the bus shows there were other people on the team that they could mine for stories. After seeing them do their gymnastics we see how they could also use those talents to escape from the bad guys. Even Mr. T gets into the action as he tossed alligators around. What we don’t see unfortunately is that the kids were also pretty good amateur sleuths as they used their individual interests to solve a mystery as much as they used their gymnastics, or when need be their coach, to get out of danger. T would also get involved in the adventure but usually after the kids stumbled upon it first. In a later season they would change the visual up a bit as someone had come up with a definite Mr. T logo, as seen on the aforementioned merchandise and cereal.
Only some minor changes. A clip is added of T skiing and doing a flip. Robin’s escaping the goons was replaced by Woody swinging into some pirates, possibly to extend the list of baddies the kids were dealing with since both of them tackle the same goons later in the intro. And of course that really cool T logo designed around his arm and fist. Most of the clips come from the episode but they also use original footage mixed in, although oddly all remnants of Ms. Bisby and the rest of the team are absent, and yet they were still in the show.
Each episode also began and ended with Mr. T talking to either the audience or a group of kids, setting up the story to come and at the end going over the moral of the episode. He would also introduce some the greatest titles a kids show could produce, like “Dilemma of the Double-Edged Dagger” or “The Cape Kennedy Caper”, very dramatic but properly matches the episode.
Of course we should talk about the theme song. The only words are Mr. T’s name but the music itself has all the action you’d want in an 80s kids show theme song for an action-adventure. It may not hit the soul the way the Jayce & The Wheeled Warriors theme does but it does the job it needs to and that’s what matters. This isn’t a theme song review, it’s a review of the whole intro and overall this would get a kid flipping around the dial in the 1980s to tune in for Mr. T kicking butt while a bunch of teens get their shots in as well. The intro does a good job advertising the show although seeing them do some investigating and showcasing that Bisby and the other members of the gymnastics team get involved would have helped too. I guess focusing on the main cast makes sense but Bisby was part of that cast. Who else would say “stars and garters” until the X-Men cartoon gave Beast the same catchphrase?
I don’t care what they say, Mr. T is a great cartoon and worth watching, and this was a darn good intro.