You know, I don’t even know why I’m including Airwolf. I’m not saying it wasn’t a significant 80’s show for some but it wasn’t really for me. Indeed I only even came across it in the early to mid 90’s when they reran it every Saturday afternoon and I only caught it every second weekend when my football team wasn’t playing at home. I was a season ticket holder you see. Guess the team and email the blog what team you think it is and I’ll send you absolutely nothing.
Indeed the blog doesn’t even have an email so either way, you would be onto plumbs.
Anyway back to Airwolf that show I couldn’t care less about.
The main protagonist had an absolutely absurd name that well exceeded any of his 80’s action show contemporaries. It was Stringfellow Hawk. Literally, a name that had to be written as there is no chance that it could exist in reality. He was played by the permanently forlorn Jan-Michael Vincent who’s name you’d have to write if it didn’t already exist.
Stringfellow’s background also completely upped the ante on any of the rather far-fetched backstories of the likes of Michael Knight, Thomas Magnum or The A-Team etc.
I mean it really was ludicrously implausible. So here goes……..
When Stringfellow was a kid he and his brother St John went out on a boating trip with their parents. An accident occurred and St John saved Stringfellow but their parents drowned presumably as a punishment from a higher power for naming their sons Stringfellow and St John. I mean with names like that they must have got their asses kicked repeatedly at school all day every day.
Years later Stringfellow has got his life together and obtained a Master’s Degree from University in something called Applied Physics and even has a girlfriend. However, she dies in a car accident. So with not much to live for he joins his brother in the doomed American war effort in Vietnam. They to come across life-threatening trouble most likely at the hands of the Viet Cong or NVA (I paid attention during Platoon and Apocalypse Now) but Stringfellow is rescued. His brother is not. Devastated by that latest disaster, Stringfellow comes to the reasonable conclusion that anyone he loves is doomed so he decides to retreat from society and live in a log cabin by a lake somewhere in California. He spends his evenings playing his Stradivarius cello serenading eagles that fly overhead.
If that wasn’t all absurd enough he’s also a test pilot of the eponymous Airwolf helicopter of the show’s title which is basically KITT from Knight Rider except it flies and doesn’t talk. In essence, the concept behind the show’s central piece of hardware was a combination of the aircraft seen in the early 80’s movies Firefox (1982) and Blue Thunder (1983). So a rip-off really.
Stringfellow holds onto the hope that his MIA brother will someday be found and attempts to hold the American government to ransom by hiding Airwolf from them with the help of Dom Santini played by Hollywood veteran Ernest Borgnine. Their hope is that by concealing the supersonic, stealth and highly advanced helicopter that it will motivate the authorities into searching for St John again. In terms of Dom’s backstory, all you need to know is that he was from the fictional Caribbean island of San Remo and said ‘That a boy’ a lot.
Their Airwolf missions are dispensed to them by Michael Coldsmith-Briggs the 3rd. He’s better known as Archangel and he sports a black eye patch, wears an all-white three-piece suit with matching tie and Panama hat and also has a silver handled cane to aid his limp. If he was in a Bond movie he’d be a white cat short of a criminal mastermind. He could also pass as a distant cousin of the Man from DelMonte or as Colonel Sanders’ wayward son. Check him out below, he’s kinda like a W.A.S.P. pimp.
Stringfellow doesn’t like Archangel. He punched him in the pilot episode and sent him flying over a table. I mean punching a one-eyed man who requires a cane to walk………….real tough Stringfellow.
The female interest was provided in season two by helicopter pilot Caitlin O’Shannessy who is clearly of Irish stock.
The antagonist is Dr Charles Henry Moffet who designed Airwolf but is also a sadistic psychopath and stole his invention before flying it to Libya where the evil Colonel Gadafi is more than happy to help him out. Gaddafi of course really did exist but was probably completely unaware of the show. Come to think of it the central narrative behind the aforementioned Hollywood films that just preceded Airwolf, those being Firefox (1982) and Blue Thunder (1983), both centred around high end supersonic and/or stealth American military aircraft falling into the wrong hands too. So again……a rip-off.
Stringfellow learns to despise Moffet not only because of his lack of American patriotism (which shouldn’t be much of a surprise as he’s British) but also because he will also eventually torture and kill his original season one love interest Gabrielle. I mean Stringfellow really is cursed, isn’t he?! If he so much as smiles in your direction there’s a good chance you’ll be killed tragically or murdered in the near future.
This all played out for three seasons and then in an attempt to freshen things up they completely changed everything in season four which would prove to be its final run. All of the main cast were either killed off, off-screen or just completely forgotten about. Greater research via google has confirmed that this was all done as a last ditch and somewhat desperate attempt to reverse rapidly declining ratings which had saw the show originally cancelled at the conclusion of the previous season before being picked up by a new network. Sadly for Airwolf fans, they weren’t successful though I’d have imagined that the hardcore were pretty appalled at them in any case. We did finally get to meet St John whose name was ridiculously pronounced ‘Sinjin’ for some unknown reason – making an already ludicrous name even more so in the process – and who took over from Stringfellow after he was badly injured in the series four opener and whose fate was never revealed. Though I, and by the looks of it the rest of the world, had stopped caring and therefore watching long before any of those shenanigans.
I’ll finish with a memorable quote from the show which is glorious in its profound absurdity followed by a link to its opening titles:
Dominic Santini: [after they’ve flown Airwolf into the Upper Atmosphere] Now, would you mind telling me why the hell we did that?
Stringfellow Hawke: I just wanted to see if it could be done.