Culture Magazine

1980s TV and Vietnam

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
Just a note: I've watched a lot of TV, much of it standard network fare. Back in the 1980s I watched Magnum, P.I. and the A-Team. Both were one-hour prime-time action-adventure shows. The first was about a private investigator living in Hawaii. The second was about a team of adventurers who hired themselves out to do things and stuff. I've now been watching both on Hulu. Fun stuff, though not particularly edifying.
What I'd forgotten, though, is Vietnam is in the background of both series. The four members of the A-Team had been in the same unit in Vietnam. They got caught doing something they shouldn't have been doing–well, it's not THAT simple–and they were tossed in military prison. They escaped and went underground in Los Angeles, where they hired themselves out on the side of truth and justice.
Thomas Magnum had been in Vietnam as well. Two of his buddies in Hawaii, a helicopter pilot and a nightclub owner, had been in his unit in Vietnam. They were legitimately discharged so they didn't have to operate underground like the A-Team did.
Neither show is known for its realism.
I also watched M*A*S*H, a 1970s series set in Korea but which gained its salience from the fact that it aired in the immediate aftermath of the war in Vietnam.
Assignment: "Read" these TV shows as cultural response to, assimilation of, the war in Vietnam.

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