Three further escapades for the heavily-armoured helicopter and its pilots Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent) and Dominic Santini (Ernest Borgnine). Includes 'Mad Over Miami', 'And They Are Us' and 'Fight Like a Dove'.
appeared only two years after Knight Rider
and, perplexingly, the same year as the short-lived Blue Thunder
series. However, creator Donald P Bellisario had spent more than a little time in fully conceptualising this series. Although the format allowed for stories-of-the-week, a B-plot always ran as background motivation for the individual tales. This was a trick Bellisario would also use to good effect later in Magnum P.I.
and Quantum Leap
. The hook that sustains the audience here is an extremely bitter sub-plot: Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent) is a peculiar anti-hero to root for since he is effectively being held to ransom and doing the same in return. His brother St. John is held captive somewhere and until his release the Airwolf chopper is Hawke's to keep hidden and use under the covert instructions of "Archangel". His best friend Dominic Santini (the ever-appealing Ernest Borgnine) is a surrogate father figure caught up in the family history. All this pre-determined angst means this is never a show that plays itself for laughs. Very specific character flaws are upfront from the beginning. We are hammered over the head with the idea of Hawke being a tortured intellectual; hence the cello, log cabin retreat and inability to smile. Of course the real star is the spurious technology showcased in the Mach One helicopter armed to the teeth and able to defy the laws of physics on a regular basis. As the mid-80s looked increasingly to the lighter side in most television successes, Airwolf
is a rare display of aggression. Justice is fought, but dig only a little way and the moral motivations are often in question. Toward the end of its third season things began to lose coherence and after a year's pause the show was magically resurrected with an all-new cast. It didn't last. --Paul Tonks