(Not much on television, back in the 80s, made me happier than when the theme music for Airwolf came on. That was crazy electronic ass-kicking music. You knew shit was going down if that music happened anywhere else in the show. And, it had fucking Ernest Borgnine it it! That just rules. Not the best television show of the 80s we’ll show this week, but probably the best theme music. Oh yeah, and fuck Blue Thunder. What a cheap, blubbery version of an already awesome, sleek machine. Airwolf would kick Blue Thunder’s ass any day of the week. Yeah! – FATS)
Airwolf is 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 P. 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’s distinctive musical score, which was originally orchestral but shifted to more synthesizer-based arrangements early in the second season, was composed and mainly conducted by Sylvester Levay. Udi Harpaz conducted the scores for many later second and third season episodes.
Airwolf, an advanced supersonic helicopter with stealth capabilities and a formidable arsenal, was designed by Dr. Charles Henry Moffet (David Hemmings) – a genius with a psychopathic taste for torturing and killing women – and built by the Firm, a division of the CIA (a play on the term “the Company”, a nickname for the CIA). As the series begins, Dr. Moffet and his crew steal Airwolf during a live-fire weapons test. During the theft, Moffet opens fire on the Firm’s bunker, killing a United States Senator and seriously injuring Firm deputy director Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III (codename “Archangel”). Moffet takes the gunship to Libya, where he begins performing acts of aggression – such as sinking an American destroyer – as a service for military strongman Muammar Gaddafi, who allows Moffet to keep Airwolf on Libyan soil.
Archangel recruits the reclusive Stringfellow Hawke, the chief test pilot during the development of Airwolf, to recover the gunship. Archangel leaves his assistant Gabrielle (Belinda Bauer) – who becomes Hawke’s love interest – at Hawke’s cabin to brief him for his mission. A week later, after an undercover operative in Libya is killed in the line of duty, Gabrielle is sent in undercover and Hawke is sent in sooner than originally planned. With the assistance of pilot and father figure Dominic Santini, Hawke finds and recovers Airwolf, but Gabrielle is tortured and killed by Moffet. Hawke obliterates Moffet with a hail of missiles from Airwolf before returning to the United States. However, instead of returning the gunship, Hawke and Santini booby-trap Airwolf and hide it in “the Lair”, a large natural cave in the remote “Valley of the Gods” (visually modeled on Monument Valley). Hawke refuses to return Airwolf until the Firm can find and recover his brother, Saint John (pronounced “Sinjin”), who has been missing in action since the Vietnam War. To obtain access to Airwolf, Archangel offers Hawke protection from other government agencies who might try to recover Airwolf; in return, Hawke and Santini must fly missions of national importance for the Firm.
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 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 the Season 1 episode “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 2 into a more light-hearted show, with Hawke and Santini being portrayed as cooperative partners with the Firm. This cooperative partnership persisted into the fourth season with the newly introduced “Company” and the new crew of Airwolf.