Mister T “The Playtown Mystery” (part 1 of 5)

SUMMARY: While visiting an amusement park, annoying kid sidekick Spike uncovers a dastardly criminal operation going on behind the scenes. Can he get the gang to believe him? Will evil prevail over good? I pity the fool who thinks so!

Ah, the wonder, the joy and the madness that is Mister T. When I was a kid, The A-Team was the main part of my day as soon as I got back from school. Heck, it’s probably the reason I’m such a fan of mindless action flicks from the ‘80s in the first place. Naturally, being a fan of The A-Team meant being a fan of Mister T. As has been said before, he is one of the most genuinely goodhearted people out there, and also 100% certifiable. It’s a good kind of crazy though, the kind of crazy that creates wonderful insanity like this cartoon series.

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This sort of thing is right in my wheelhouse. I’m an ‘80s pop culture buff, and I don’t mind admitting it. I love it for the sheer WTF madness of some of the stuff that came out during that period. Crappy action films, deranged music videos, bizarre TV shows, I love it all! I love the madness to be found in the films, the music, pretty much everything.

This show comes close to being the craziest thing I’ve seen from that period. I vaguely remember watching this show when I was kid. It’s probably for the best that my recollection is hazy, because madness can occur quite easily from repeated viewings of an episode.

Today’s episode is entitled “The Playtown Mystery”, and if there’s a less enticing title out there, I have yet to find it. Don’t worry, though; the stuff you’ll see here will make you think you’re having a David Lynch fever dream. Actually, now that I think about it, you could probably say that for every one of the thirty episodes this show had.

This particular episode, well… Not only does it seem like it was written by someone really high on cocaine (as does the entire series, actually), there’s one character here who I’ll swear on a stack of bibles is high as a kite for the entire episode.

This is one of the last episodes of the series (#28 out of 30, to be precise) and it looks as though the writers just decided to do as much weird, randomly out there stuff as possible before the show ended, as we’re about to see.

There’s no “my show, the best show” teaser here, so we’re just going to leap right into things with no clue as to what lies ahead. So let’s cut the jibber jabber and get to it!

Caption contributed by Ed

Mr. T is Ian Fleming’s James Bond, 007 in For Your Eyes Only …Fool!

We begin with the fantastic opening animated credits, and all the awesomeness that this entails. Fist of stone morphing into Mr. T; gator-swinging; a ski stunt that puts James Bond to shame; Woody and Robin foiling some bad guys with gymnastics; our brawny hero tossing some stalactites that cause a snowmobile to crash; and finally, T ejecting out of a downed aircraft before it blows up.

Can it be possible that what follows will be just as mind-bendingly, inexplicably insane? Knowing this show? Yeah. That’s a pretty safe bet.

And yes, the last shot of the entire group in front of a giant “T” still has a few members we’ve never seen, and to the best of my knowledge don’t appear outside of the opening sequence. Maybe they figured a larger group would look more impressive or something.

After that comes live action Mr. T at a park with a bunch of kids. Probably the same ones from the “Fortune Cookie Caper” bookends, but to be honest, once you’ve seen one park you’ve kind of seen them all. He’s wearing what could either be a black vest with lapels, or just a dinner jacket that wouldn’t fit, so he tore off the sleeves and unintentionally gave Larry the Cable Guy a fashion tip.

The fun-filled activity for the day? The old cups and ball trick. No, this isn’t going to get into some weird area—I’m talking about the magic trick, the same magic trick that’s the favorite of magicians reduced to working birthday parties because they can’t score a gig in Vegas. I guess Mr. T does endorse gambling, after all, providing no money is on the line.

Caption contributed by Ed

”That’s right, kids. My sanity is under the third cup! Good job!”

The funny thing about this trick, to me at least, has always been that with just a slight modification and the addition of money, you’re committing a felony. Yep, just sub in playing cards and an absolute lack of scruples and you have the three-card Monte con game. Now there’s a fun thing to do with kids. Maybe the moral of today’s episode will be “Take your kids to Vegas if you want to hit the jackpot. Just put a false beard and sunglasses on them and try to pass them off as your midget siblings who are also rabid ZZ Top fans”.

But Mr. T is doing the version of this game that does not involve rigging things so you always win and the other player goes home broke. He shuffles the cups around and the kids guess correctly. I’m just assuming, since they’re crowding into the frame and we can’t see which cup they’re pointing at. But I’m thinking it’s legit, because anyone who’s been around kids knows that even the ones who eat paste know a line of crap when they hear one, and you know these wraparound segments had to be done on the fly.

I shudder to imagine the number of takes they had to go through to get these things done. I can guarantee if it wasn’t a kid missing his or her mark, it was Mr. T going off the reservation in some wonderful way we’ll never see. Forever lost to wherever it is B-roll footage goes to die.

Mr. T decides to make it harder by eschewing the cups for his hands, and I think he subs a coin for the ball, but I’ll be damned if I can tell. And I’ve gone over this clip like it’s the frigging Zapruder footage and I’m Oliver Stone. I’m thinking he doesn’t make the switch, but we’ll have to wait till the end to find out. Are you waiting in anticipation for this? Well, that’s kind of weird if you are.

The kids shout out which hand the ball is in, but this time, he asks a little girl next to him if she knows. The others shout out that she’s too small to know, which is impressive, since all the kids here are about the same age. T looks into the camera, and it’s go time.

Mr. T: You think she don’t know just because she’s little? [Well the writers do, can’t speak for the kids though.] Well, that happens a lot. The team didn’t believe Spike because he was just a little kid. [Are we sure the fact that he’s a scrawny white kid who dresses, talks and acts like an enormous black man didn’t factor into it?] I want you to find out how it happened. Watch.

I’m thinking my idea for a moral is going to be better than the one they actually use.

Our story begins at an amusement park called “Playtown”, and if there’s a more generic name for an amusement park, I have yet to hear it. It’s a fairly transparent riff on Disneyland, only with a huge rollercoaster off to the side. And if you have any doubts that this will play a part in the episode, there is something very wrong with you.

Caption contributed by Ed

I’m pretty sure guys who work for OSHA see this sort of thing in their nightmares.

We move across the park, and from the looks of things, there’s a live alligator just hanging out by the water. No fence or anything. And it doesn’t look to be an animatronic gator (the fake ones are a hell of a lot more lively), and it hisses as the camera pans past it. Hell, there are even some teens looking at it with what I would imagine are “Oh shit, let’s run like hell!” looks, if we could see their faces. Maybe they’re in Florida. Either way, this will be the first of many odd animal sighting in this episode.

Two minutes in, and we’re already in the magical land of “What the hell?” That’s gotta be some kind of record.

We move across the park, seeing an Old West section, a futuristic section, and what I would guess to be a fairy tale section, what with the huge castles and such. We end the pan on a small ceremony taking place. And when I say “small”, I mean small. It’s nothing more than a dinky little stage with a banner bearing the name of the park, and a tiny crowd of people who aren’t moving. Well, to be fair, this is a bunch of no name gymnasts making an appearance, not Michael Jordan. Hell, I’m thinking even Mary Lou Retton would have a bit of trouble attracting a massive crowd, and she has actual medals to show off. To say nothing of talent, charm and a personality.

On the stage, Mister T and the gymnasts are there to receive the key to Playtown for all the work they’ve done for gymnastics. I’ll get into that more in a second, but for now, I’d like to call your attention to the dumpy looking woman presenting them with this honor (I’m guessing it’s an honor; T accepts it nicely enough, so it can’t be too bad).

Caption contributed by Ed

”Here, feel free to take some of my stash out of my office! It’s the same stuff the writers get, you’ll go wild for it!”

First off, I don’t know what accent the voice actress was trying for, but it manages to hit Hungarian, Russian, Scottish, and Yiddish all in one sentence. I don’t know if this makes the voice actress talented or not, but goddamn is that impressive! It also has the unfortunate effect of rendering her dialogue totally incoherent (and the really loud soundtrack playing over this scene doesn’t help matters much, either). Needless to say, I’m desperately hoping for an extended verbal exchange between her and Mister T.

Second, they’re getting the key for everything they’ve done for gymnastics? Well, given they seem to spend most of their time solving crimes, I’ve got to call bullshit on this one. Unless, of course, they’re being thanked for not competing and making idiots out of themselves, in which case I say rock on. Give them whatever you need to.

The woman starts giggling insanely for no reason, and I have to imagine she had a couple of joints and an eight-ball beforehand, because nobody acts this way in public if they’re sober.

What happens next gives credence to my drug theory: the woman sneezes in the middle of her giggling fit, causing her glasses to fly off her face. What’s more, her glasses somehow end up on Mister T’s face. Also, the key to Playtown flies out of her hand and into a sewer grating. The only thing missing here is a subtle puff of white powder coming from her nose, but I’m thinking that wouldn’t have flown with NBC Standards and Practices.

Caption contributed by Ed

Early auditions for the Stallone role in Tango & Cash took an interesting turn.

T nonchalantly takes the glasses off and hands them back to the woman, saying, “You might need these.” Along with a few months in Betty Ford, from the look of things. And from this angle, we see that our coked-out friend is wearing a medal reading “Mayor”.

Now, this can mean two things. One, it could mean that the park hired a coke fiend to go around pretending to be the mayor of the park. Given that this isn’t some run down amusement park on a boardwalk run by toothless carnies, I’m thinking probably not. Second, she could actually be the mayor of the city that the park is in. Anybody from D.C. knows that a drugged-out mayor is well within the realm of probability.

I’m not even going to guess. It could be either one at this point.

[Note from the future: Its option A, which is oddly more unsettling to me than the second option, for some reason.]

The woman continues to giggle like she just got back from a hot date with the Joker, and tells our heroes to go on ahead while she gets them a new key; Apparently, she has lots more. Oh, I’m sure she has many, many keys on hand. Just based on her appearance in this episode, I’d say she must have at least half a ton stashed in her office. For her sake, I hope the DEA doesn’t know she even exists.

Since we never get a name for this… interesting lady, I think I’ll dub her Mayor Cokenstein. Hey, it’s catchier than Coke Broad, and I don’t feel like typing Mayor Stonedoffherass for the rest of the recap.

Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: Mister T "The Playtown Mystery"
TV Show: Mister T

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