Hip spy shows with covert agencies within agencies--like Alias
--are missing only one thing: A super-duper armor-plated helicopter with "nuclear-tipped shrike missiles." In the action series Airwolf,
a mysterious national security agency called the Firm constructs a "Mach-one-plus chopper that can kick butt," only to have it stolen by the nefarious scientist who designed it (David Hemmings, Blowup, Barbarella
). Desperate, the Firm turns to Stringfellow Hawke (Jan Michael Vincent), a soulful, cello-playing, art-loving, eagle-watching, guilt-ridden master pilot. Hawke refuses to help unless the Firm searches for his brother, who went MIA in 'Nam. Of course, he succeeds in his mission, but until the Firm fulfills its side of the bargain, he keeps the chopper--but also agrees to fly covert missions in exchange for tips about government efforts to retrieve Airwolf.
This elaborate setup proves surprisingly durable. The combat scenes in Airwolf are clumsily edited, but the scripts--though firmly in the cheesy techno-thriller vein of Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy--are pleasantly zippy. While Vincent may have gone on to a straight-to-video career (appearing in such sterling titles as Hidden Obsession, Indecent Behavior, and Animal Instincts), hes a persuasive and sexy pilot; he's got the same kind of rangy, athletic physicality that makes Kevin Costner convincing as an athlete. Add to this mix the ever-zesty Ernest Borgnine (Marty, The Wild Bunch) and it's clear why Airwolf outlived the similar series Blue Thunder. Most episodes feature international skullduggery with foreign agents trying to steal Airwolf and sell it to the Soviets or Libya, but there are enough clever details to keep you from objecting to the larger absurdity of the all-powerful helicopter. Guest stars include Shannen Doherty (Beverly Hills 90210) and David Carradine (Kill Bill). It's too bad Hemmings didn't become a regular; his sadistic, lecherous traitor gave the two-hour pilot some real juice. --Bret Fetzer
All 11 episodes from the first season of the popular 1980s adventure series, featuring the armoured attack helicopter and its pilots, Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent) and Dominic Santini (Ernest Borgnine). Hawke has set up a deal with the CIA to help them out in secret missions while he looks for his missing brother. In this first series, Hawke goes undercover to stop an old Vietnam buddy from stealing a top secret plane and selling it to the Russians, and the team come to the aid of a young woman whose Nazi-hunting father has been murdered by an old Nazi officer hidden in a Paraguayan fortified compound. Episodes are: 'Airwolf'; 'Daddy's Gone a Hunt'n'; 'Bite of the Jackal'; 'Proof Through the Night'; 'One Way Express'; 'Echoes From the Past'; 'Fight Like a Dove'; 'Mad Over Miami'; 'And They Are Us'; 'Mind of the Machine'; and 'To Snare a Wolf'.