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Generally I have found that all of he classic eighties shows that comprised my childhood TV viewing schedule have not stood up to the test of time. Revisiting them some twenty years later has been a voyage of almost complete disappointment, with none of them living up to the expectations that I had based on my rose-tinted memories of them from my youth. The Golden Rule that I have established to test the worth of such TV shows is as follows: is the series better than the opening credits sequence? Take, for example, Magnum P.I. That beautiful car, the punchy theme tune and Tom Selleck’s trademark eyebrow-action, it was all so much more glamorous than the show itself. You would probably be more entertained watching the credits sequence over and over again as opposed to ever sitting through an entire episode. Like the McDonalds’ burger photos which were infinitely better looking than the burger you actually get, shows like Magnum and Dukes of Hazzard just did not live up to expectations. Knightrider struggled to break the pattern, with only shows like the A-Team, and possibly MacGuyver, having the edge. But what of Airwolf? Does it stand the test of time and beat the Golden Rule?

Airwolf: Season One

Series


Airwolf is something of a practical improbability. It is a heavily armed and heavily armoured attack helicopter which has the capability of disengaging the rotor system and activating jet engines which propel it to supersonic speeds. A jet-helicopter, allegedly, which also makes a strange wild-cat-like growl during flight. Impressed? Well, as a child I certainly was but, funnily enough, even as an adult this Airwolf contraption is still pretty smart.

Whilst the helicopter was clearly the star (much like Knightrider’s KITT, except without the irritating talking computer), it had quite a solid supporting cast as well, with Jan-Michael Vincent taking the lead as the ludicrously-named Stringfellow Hawke (who happens to not only fly, but also play the Cello, implying that his parents must have been able to predict the future). He’s one of those dark, brooding loners who sits in the middle of nowhere in his lakeside retreat and wishes that the rest of the world would leave him alone. One of the coolest TV show heroes, his departure after three seasons (due to alcoholism) saw the series jump the shark. He was backed up by Ernest Borgnine’s Dominic Santini, the prime example of a decent actor reduced to raucous laughter and rampant bumbling in order to entertain the younger audience members. Between the two of them, and the ‘Wolf of the title, the show managed to stay pretty engaging, at least for a while.

Airwolf: Season One
Why? Well, the pilot episode (which borrowed heavily from two of Eastwood’s classics— Firefox and The Eiger Sanction)—saw a top secret military aircraft, Airwolf, stolen by its treacherous creators and flown to Libya with a view to being sold to General Gaddafi. A top-level spy, Archangel, must bring one of the best pilots on the planet out of retirement in order to get it back. Hawke’s own agenda is a driving desire to find his MIA brother, who disappeared in ‘Nam some twenty years earlier. With a view to this, although Hawke completes the mission, he refuses to hand back Airwolf until Archangel and his government stooges uncover the truth behind Hawke’s brother’s disappearance. And so begins an uneasy alliance, whereby Archangel recruits Hawke—and subsequently Airwolf—to go on dangerous missions, often into Russian territory, to do various covert operations.

After twenty years the show is still pretty entertaining. Sure, it’s nothing like what we have come to expect from TV shows these days—something this stupid would not even get commissioned in the first place—but I think our kids are missing out on silly but fun frolics like this. I mean, the show is totally unbelievable: 1. They keep the super-fast helicopter hidden in the middle of the desert, which means that in ‘emergencies’, they have to either ride—or fly!—out to get it and then fly all the way back. 2. It is capable of stupid supersonic speeds, often even outrunning missiles. 3. The government never seem to bother trying to actually get back this billion dollar piece of military equipment, despite the fact that the entire pilot episode centres on this premise. I could go on but, to be honest, none of it really matters as long as you sit back, switch your brain off and relish watching this screaming helicopter whiz across your screen, machine-guns blazing.

Airwolf: Season One
Episode List:

1. Airwolf
2. Daddy’s Gone A-Huntin’
3. Bite of the Jackal
4. Proof Through the Night
5. One Way Express
6. Echoes from the Past
7. Fight Like a Dove
8. Mad over Miami
9. And They are Us
10. Mind of the Machine
11. To Snare a Wolf
 

Video


Airwolf is presented in its original TV format with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio non-anamorphically enhanced fullscreen transfer. Detail is pretty good, but there is quite a lot of softness and noticeable grain running throughout. The colour palette seems a little faded but still presents the often sunny, desert conditions in quite a nice light. Blacks are marginally grey, making the shadows a little disappointing. Considering that it is over twenty years’ old, the state of the transfer is quite acceptable, with several noticeable print defects in the form of glitches and scratches scattered throughout the season.

Airwolf: Season One

Audio


The main audio track is a basic Dolby Digital 2.0 effort that presents this series quite reasonably. Dialogue is never less than clear and coherent, whether the mumblings of Hawke himself or his highly animated colleague Santini. There are several nice effects, normally located towards the end of each episode, either in the form of stock helicopter and plane explosion footage, or general explosions created especially for the series. Not quite packing the right punch, they still provide for some reasonable soundtrack action. The catchy theme song generally plays in some form or another throughout the score element of the soundtrack, with a few minor variations but the Airwolf theme reigning above them.

Extras


There are no extra features for this new Airwolf: Season One boxed set, which is a little disappointing.

Airwolf: Season One

Overall


Many twenty and thirty-something adults will fondly remember the adventures of Stringfellow Hawke in his cool attack helicopter, Airwolf, and this box set collects all eleven episodes of the first season of the TV show. With the kind of video and audio that you would only expect form a series that is over twenty years’ old, but no sign of any extras whatsoever, this is not really a justification for upgrading if you have the original separate volumes of the series. Then again, for the price, if you don’t already have it and you fancy a trip down memory lane then you could do a lot worse than revisiting Airwolf as it is one of those few ‘classic’ eighties shows that actually is better than its cool opening credits sequence.


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