Airwolf was an American television series that ran from 1984 until 1987. The program centers on a high-tech military helicopter, code named Airwolf, and its crew as they undertake various missions, many involving espionage, with a Cold War theme.
The show was created by Donald Bellisario. The first three seasons star Jan-Michael Vincent, Ernest Borgnine, Alex Cord, and (from the second season onwards) Jean Bruce Scott. After the original series was cancelled, a fourth season, with an entirely new cast and on a much smaller budget, was filmed in Canada for the USA Network.
The show has a musical score (orchestral-based in the first and early second season episodes; synthesizer-based thereafter) composed and performed by Sylvester Levay.
The series’ protagonist is Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent), a loner who lives in a cabin outside of Los Angeles, California in a mountain resort area called Big Bear, accompanied only by his Bluetick Coonhound, “Tet”, and the surrounding wildlife. Hawke is a recluse, spending most of his time alone with his priceless collection of paintings which he inherited from his grandfather (the art was a gift for his grandmother), and serenading eagles with his equally priceless Stradivarius cello. His only real friend and mentor is the older, eternally cheerful Dominic Santini (Ernest Borgnine) who raised Stringfellow and his brother Saint John (pronounced “sin-jin”) after their parents died. Stringfellow’s father and Dominic flew in World War II together.
Earlier, Hawke was a test pilot for Airwolf, an advanced supersonic helicopter with stealth capabilities and a formidable arsenal. Airwolf was built by the FIRM, a division of the CIA (a play on the term “the Company”, a nickname for the CIA). Airwolf was stolen by its twisted creator, Dr. Charles Henry Moffet (David Hemmings). Michael Coldsmith Briggs III (Alex Cord), the FIRM’s deputy director (codename Archangel), then asks Hawke to go to Libya to retrieve the helicopter. Archangel has a blind left eye and walks with a limp as a result of having been caught in the carnage Moffet unleashed when he stole Airwolf.
Fearing that Hawke would refuse the mission to recover Airwolf, the FIRM confiscates his art collection, leaving Gabrielle (Hawke’s pilot-episode love-interest, played by Belinda Bauer) behind to brief him for his mission. A week later, after an undercover operative is killed in the line of duty, Gabrielle is sent in undercover with Hawke being sent in sooner than originally planned. With Santini’s assistance, Hawke finds and recovers Airwolf but chooses not to return it. Instead, he and Santini hide Airwolf, booby trapped, in an extinct volcano Hawke calls “the Lair,” located in the remote “Valley of the Gods,” which is visually modeled on Monument Valley. Hawke refuses to return Airwolf until the FIRM can recover his brother, St. John, who has been missing in action since Vietnam. To get access to Airwolf, Archangel offers Hawke protection from other government agencies who will try to recover Airwolf in exchange for flying missions of national importance for the FIRM.
In the second season, to satisfy CBS executives who wanted to appeal to a wider female audience, the show introduced Caitlin O’Shannessy, played by Jean Bruce Scott. Caitlin is a feisty former Texas Highway Patrol helicopter pilot who eventually joins Airwolf’s crew. In “Fallen Angel” Hawke confirms Caitlin’s suspicions that he and Santini possess and operate a super helicopter as the three fly Airwolf into East Germany to recover Archangel.
The mysterious organization known as “The FIRM” is a covert branch of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose Deputy Director, Michael Coldsmith Briggs III (Alex Cord), is code-named Archangel.
In the first two seasons, Archangel is often assisted by Marella (Deborah Pratt). She had doctorates in Aeronautical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Psychology, Microbiology, and French Literature, and was one year away from completing her Medical Doctorate as of the episode “Fallen Angel.” Marella is last seen in the second season closing episode “Short Walk to Freedom;” in the third season, her place was taken by a number of different ‘white ladies.’
The first season of the series was dark, arc-driven, and quite reflective of the contemporary Cold War, with the FIRM personnel distinctly dressed in white, implicitly boasting that “wearing white hats” distinguished them as good, instead of evil. Hawke remained unconvinced, and Santini was skeptical also; this was explained in “Daddy’s Gone a Hunt’n.” Early episodes frequently detailed the efforts of the United States government to secure Airwolf from Hawke who is officially charged with having stolen it. Because CBS wanted to make the series more family-oriented, the program was transformed during Season Two into a more light-hearted show with Hawke and Santini being portrayed as cooperative partners with the FIRM (see below for more behind the scenes information).
The FIRM, during the first three seasons, served as both ally and enemy for Hawke and Santini; when an opportunity to seize Airwolf presented itself, FIRM operatives often took it.
The flying Airwolf helicopter was actually a Bell 222, serial number 47085, sometimes unofficially called a Bell 222A. During filming of the series, the helicopter was owned by Jetcopters, Inc. of Van Nuys, California. The helicopter was eventually sold after the show ended and became an ambulance helicopter in Germany, where it crashed in a thunderstorm and was destroyed on June 6, 1992, killing all three crew members.
The concept behind Airwolf was a supersonic and armed helicopter that could blend in by appearing to be civilian and non-military in origin — “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Airwolf’s insignia patch, as designed by artist Andrew Probert and, as worn by the flight crew members, was a snarling wolf’s head with bat wings that appeared to be wearing a sheepskin, complete with the head of the lamb over the wolf’s forehead; a direct play on the saying.
At the close of filming, Jetcopters used the Santini Air helicopter to fly sightseeing tours of Los Angeles.
All information from www.wikipedia.org
- ^ Staff (1986). Emmy (Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS)) 8: 20.http://books.google.com/books?id=sqm2AAAAIAAJ&q=%22Care+Bears%22+-+ABC+network&dq=%22Care+Bears%22+-+ABC+network&hl=en.
- ^ Van Hoten, C: “The Wolf’s Lair, Issue 3, p. 6″. Veritas Fan Publishing, 2005. wolfslair.airwolf.tv
- ^ Credits at the end of the episodes state “Helicopters provided by Jetcopters, Inc.”
- ^ Rund-um-ramsbeck.de