Season 4 of The A-Team featured a lot of what I call stunt casting: guest stars that are extremely popular at the time and are put on a show to capitalize on that. Now there can be a fine line between a genuine guest starring role and a stunt casting, but you’ll know it when you see it because you really can’t ignore it.
During The A-Team’s fourth season, they had Hulk Hogan (twice!), Rick James, Pat Sajak and Vanna White had cameos because Murdock went on Wheel of Fortune for some reason, and, of course, there was Boy George.
I know, right?
The episode is called “Cowboy George” and the basic plot is Face is doing some talent booking, working with some dude named Dash, who screws him over on his contract by exercising a clause that allows for substitutions. So instead of getting Cowboy George for some honkytonk gig, he gets Boy George and Culture Club, who have been led to believe they’re going to be playing the Arizona Forum, not a dance hall called The Floor ’em. This poses a problem to LQ Jones, who demanded Cowboy George to insure the show would be a sellout. The he and his buddies could rob the audience’s payroll. To get help get out of the jam, Hannibal impersonates Cowboy George, but Boy George and Culture Club perform, which first angers and then charms the audience. The A-Team also thwarts the robbery and takes the bad guys to the sheriff, but it turns out the local replacement sheriff isn’t really a sheriff; he’s in on the whole thing, too, and the real sheriff is dead in one of the cells were Hannibal, BA, and Face are being held. Outside, a mob of angry workers are trying to break in to hang them because they think the three men stole their payroll. Which means it’s up to Murdock (who has an obsession with the Lennon Sisters in this episode) and Boy George to get them out of trouble.
Now, here’s why I think this is the greatest bit of guest casting in the history of television.
Unlike the Hulk Hogan or Rick James episodes (which I enjoy, don’t get me wrong), The A-Team aren’t hired by Boy George to do a job. They just sort of stumble into this scenario and Boy George happens to be involved and he goes along for the ride.
And he is clearly having a good time.
Boy George is an amiable guy, willing to cut down the band’s contracted fee from $1.2 million to $600,000 and he’s confident that Culture Club can draw the kind of crowd necessary to make that kind of money if they can get some advertising. Everyone loves Culture Club (fact check: this is true). He’s not put off by the booing rednecks, either, though his first impression of the dance hall isn’t the best. He and the band go out and start their set. Of course, the crowd falls in love with them.
When the trouble starts and Face, Hannibal, and BA get thrown in jail, the not-sheriff interrupts the show to tell the crowd what happened to their payroll, hoping to work up a lynch mob. It’s Boy George to the rescue. He acts quickly, going to the radio station where Murdock has locked himself in a booth to both get publicity for the Culture Club shows, and to also play every Lennon Sisters song he can get access to.
The two of them then break into a shop because they need some supplies and a plan to save the guys. Murdock struggles to pick the lock, even when Boy George provides him with a bobby pin. In the end, Boy George just kicks the door in. He even has a funny quip!
Murdock: See, a really honest man doesn’t really have an appetite for this sort of thing.
Boy George: Yeah, but who needs honesty?
Isn’t that great?!
Murdock gets the idea to smuggle some explosives into the besieged jail by dressing up as the pregnant wife of one of the guys and Boy George gives helpful critiques of Murdock’s clothing choices.
Boy George rides along after the jailbreak to stop the bad guys at the airport. And then he and Culture Club perform one final song for a very pleased crowd of cowboys.
I know. It sounds ludicrous. It shouldn’t work at all. And it probably would fall absolutely flat if not for Boy George being slightly amused the whole time. It’s not that he doesn’t take any of it seriously. He’s not goofing nor is he acting like it’s all beneath him. He comes across as very oh-you-crazy-yanks bemused and decides to enjoy the craziness. He gets the spirit of a show in which cars flip and explode and the people in them crawl out looking a little disoriented and disheveled.
Boy George brings the joy to the episode. Pure, blessed joy.
And we are all better for it.