CBS (ended 1987)



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Created by Donald P. Bellisario, who had already had such hits as 'Magnum p.i.' (1980-1988), 'Airwolf' followed the adventures of a hi-tech helicopter and it's reclusive pilot, Stringfellow Hawke. Bellisario developed Airwolf (early working titles: Blackwolf, Lonewolf), from the loose concept of a third season 'Magnum, P.I.' episode he'd previously written, titled 'Two Birds Of A Feather' (1983) - an unsold pilot about a treasure-hunting, adventure-loving ace combat pilot named Sam Houston Hunter (William Lucking). Bellisario had come up with the concept after Lucking played a similar character in a couple of episodes of another Bellisario series, 'Tales Of The Gold Monkey' (1982-3). After the proposed new series wasn't picked up, Bellisario took the bare bones of the concept, and eventually developed the premise into 'Airwolf'. Airwolf itself was a hi-tech attack helicopter, equipped with cutting-edge on-board computer, surveillance and radar systems, able to fly quicker than the fastest jets, and armed with awesome fire-power. Dubbed "The Lady" due to it's slender grace, Airwolf had been constructed by "The Firm", a mysterious, top-secret division of the C.I.A., distinguishable by it's agents all-white dress code. At the start of the Pilot adventure, we see Airwolf on its maiden test flight, piloted by its creator, Dr. Moffet (David Hemmings). But after the successful test flight, the twisted Moffet turns the chopper's lethal fire-power onto the flight tower, causing carnage, before heading off to Libya in the machine. Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III, codename "Archangel" (Alex Cord), the head of the division who built Airwolf, is badly wounded in the assault but not yet out of the game. Now wearing an eye-patch and walking with aid of a cane as a result of his injuries, he calls upon ace combat pilot Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent) to take the task of bringing back Airwolf from Libya. Hawke is a cello-playing recluse, living in his scenaric cabin in the mountains – with a priceless art collection, and with only his dog Tet for company - ever since his brother St. John went Missing In Action in the Vietnam War, never to be found. Hawke eventually agrees to take the mission, aided by his only close friend, Dominic Santini (Ernest Borgnine). Much Hawke's senior, Dominic was very much his mentor, who was prone to the odd bout of grouchiness, but for the majority of the time was raucously cheerful. He owned Santini Air, a flight company that's main vehicles were decked out in stars and stripes, which specialised in performing arial stunts for films. Hawke and Dominic prised Airwolf back from Moffet's clutches (blowing away it's twisted genius creator in the process), but Hawke wasn't ready to return it back over to the Firm just yet. Hiding it in a hollow mountain in the middle of the desert wilderness, he refused to return the super-chopper until the Firm found solid information about his M.I.A. brother St. John, be he dead or alive. Thus was set the scenario for the series, with Archangel - usually accompanied by assistant Marella (Deborah Pratt) - calling upon Hawke in times of crisis to fly Airwolf on missions of national concern, with the occasional glimmer of hope regarding finding St. John - or at least solid information about his fate - thrown in for good measure. The first season was intelligently written, with a very classy, elegant feel. It was in many ways ahead of it's time, being distinctly dark and dramatic, with heavy religious over-tones and symbolisms, and with stories revolving around cases of international espionage, spying, and such-like, and much talk of "the opposition" - be it taken to be Libyans, the Russians, or whichever assumptions one took. The series did fairly well in the ratings, but CBS wanted to achieve even higher numbers, by "domesticating" the show more – to make stories less dark and symbolic, and to make things more light-hearted to try and win a wider audience. When the second season arrived, it brought with it the most significant and notable change - the introduction of a regular female cast member, created by Bellisario after CBS's insistence. Introduced in the season's opening episode, 'Sweet Britches', Jean Bruce Scott was brought in as feisty Caitlin O'Shannessy, who within the season's first few episodes was set-up as a regular character, working at Santini Air, and before long became the occasional third Airwolf pilot. Also with the new season, The Firm was blended into the background somewhat, to allow more wider-ranging stories, again mostly due to CBS's insistence. Overall the season did well, with much of the dark intrigue still surviving from the first series, mixed with the new slightly lighter-hearted, wider-reaching stories. In the meantime, Bellisario and Deborah Pratt, having met on the show, had married. But by the end of the season, Bellisario had grown increasingly tired of CBS' constant "interfering" with his original vision for the series, and eventually left, taking Pratt with him. The pair left to work on new projects of their own, the biggest and most popular to date being 'Quantum Leap' (with which Airwolf shares much of it's dark, religious over-tones, as well as also using a horde of the same Bellisario-favoured actors and crew). Also behind the scenes, Jan-Michael Vincent's troubled personal life - including battles with drink and drugs, and frequence fights with his wife - were increasingly causing problems during production of the series. Vincent actually broke his arm during one such drunken row with his wife, mid-production of one episode, 'Sins Of The Past', with his right arm visibally hanging limp throughout much of the episode as a result. CBS brought the series back for a third season, now without Bellisario's overseeing (his name on the show survived only as 'Created by' on the opening credits). While still offering up some good episodes, including some very impressive action set pieces (both airborne and otherwise), overall the previous sharp, clever script quality was now somewhat lower, and things were by now noticeably more watered down, with the series now acting as a more all-round "family" action-adventure show. Whilst they still occasionally had their moments, both Hawke's reclusive broodiness, and the whole eerie mysteriousness surrounding The Firm – two key factors in Bellisario's original vision - were by now very toned down. (Incidentally, with the third season, the Firm became spelt as an acronym, "the F.I.R.M.", though what these initials stood for was never explained.) The majority of episode plots were by now a far cry from the original season's dark themes; it's often commented (rightly so in several cases) that, far from the early stories of international emergencies, many of this season's stories seemed to revolve around little more than domestic feuds! But the worst was yet to come... CBS finally called it a day with 'Airwolf' at the end of the third season in 1986 - the last episode being 'Birds Of Paradise', an avarage episode which didn't serve to round to series off in any way. Despite CBS's constant tampering trying to make it an even bigger hit, in the long-run was much the cause of the demise of the show, with ratings gradually dropping mostly as a result of the third season's many more "family friendly" story-lines which lost favour with many fans. Jan-Michael Vincent's ever increasingly troubled personal life had done nothing to ease production of the series, either. However, the rights to the series were brought by a small TV company, Atlantis, for the USA Network, and a new series was commissioned for syndication. The whole of the original cast were written out (no doubt due to cost) – both Hawke and Dominic are killed off in the opening episode (though only Jan-Michael Vincent is actually seen), Archangel is suddenly said to be assigned overseas, and what has become of Caitlin is never mentioned. Taking their place was an all new cast. In the opening episode, 'Blackjack', Hawke's long-missing brother St. John (now seemingly his younger brother, not older, and played by Barry Van Dyke is suddenly located. The original series had several contradictions over St. John, but this new version completely threw any previous continuity out of the window! The Firm was now suddenly, unexplainedly called "The Company" (gone too were the trademark white suits), at which Jason Locke (Anthony Sherwood) is the new contact. He calls upon Major Mike Rivers (Geraint Wyn Davies) to help locate Airwolf – only to find that Dominic's niece, the - previously unmentioned - Jo Santini (Michelle Scarabelli) has already found it, and in it, they set off to rescue St. John. After his rescue began a new season of adventures, often with very little feel of connection to the original series. The new series was filmed on a very low budget in Canada, and much of the aerial footage – including ALL footage of Airwolf in flight, was simply footage recycled from the original three seasons. Other times, very poor model effects of Airwolf were used. Special effects (bar the stock footage) were weak, most of the stories were incredibly dull and wooden, much of the acting was poor - the series was embarrassing at best. There seemed little place for logic, either - the new contact, Locke, clearly knew of Airwolf's location (and often flew it himself!!), yet made no attempt to return it to the Company. In the original, Stringfellow Hawke, and at a push, Dominic or Caitlin, were capable of flying Airwolf – yet suddenly, each of the new characters could pilot it... the whole premise was full of holes. It seems maybe rather amazing (not to mention such a shame) that from the dark, classy, "ahead-of-it's-time" first season, things could end up as this. Understandably, many Airwolf "purists" will refuse to recognise this series as part of the "proper" Airwolf fodder. Suddenly, despite all of the CBS third season's short-comings, fans now found themselves saying "come back third season, all is forgiven", and would have given anything to have the original series, in any of it's versions from the original three seasons, back in place of this crudely produced revamp! Airwolf wasn't the only "super helicopter" on air at the time of it's debut – there was also hi-tech police surveillance chopper 'Blue Thunder' (1984), spun-off from the 1983 movie of the same name; but even with that series having a big-screen film to kick it off, Airwolf generally emerged to be seen as the "ultimate" super-helicopter series, with - at it's peak - it's clever, cathartic scripts paling Blue Thunder's much wider, less serious take. Airwolf itself was a highly modified Bell 222b, with a number of fibreglass and aluminium sections fitted to give it its unique look. In the TV series Airwolf may have been capable of supersonic speeds, but in reality, the numerous additions resulted in only slowing the helicopter's speeds! Sadly, the aircraft used for Airwolf crashed in Germany in 1991 (however, most of the specially built modifications are still in existence in the depths of Universal Studios). Note: This article, as well as episode guest cast lists, synopses and all other material in this guide (unless otherwise contributed) is written by the editor of this show. While it is intended for the reference and enjoyment of fellow fans of the show, please ask permission before using it, be it whole or in part, elsewhere.moreless
  • R.I.P.

    Ernest Borgnine Has Passed Away at 95

    The star of McHale's Navy and Airwolf died of kidney failure today in Los Angeles.


    May 22, 2007 DVD Releases

  • Jan-Michael Vincent

    Jan-Michael Vincent

    Stringfellow Hawke

    Alex Cord

    Alex Cord

    Michael 'Archangel' Coldsmith-Briggs III

    Ernest Borgnine

    Ernest Borgnine

    Dominic Santini

    Jean Bruce Scott

    Jean Bruce Scott

    Caitlin O'Shaughnessy

    Barry Van Dyke

    Barry Van Dyke

    St. John Hawke

    Geraint Wyn Davies

    Geraint Wyn Davies

    Major Mike Rivers

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    • Looks intresting.

      i just finished watching Airwolf , i like it because it have lots actio. Jan-Michael Vincent live in a beautiful cabin by lake and his dog is very funny when Ernest Borgnin try put his helicopter down when I look Biography i did not know he pass alway he is funny man think you Netflix
    • AIRWOLF : Season 1/2/3/ universal Studios : Starring Jan Michael-vincent - Ernest Borgaine- Alex Cord- Jean Bruce Scott (1983-1986- 56 episodes total)

      AIRWOLF starring Jan-Michael-vincent + Ernest Borgaine + Alex Cord + jean Bruce Scott* UNIVERSAL Studios * 3 seasons best hi - tech helicopter action drama series with hawk lives in a beautiful cabin by lake and Dominic own Air rental helicopter Buisness SANTINI AIR & stringfellow Hawk & Domnic hides AIRWOLF most expensive hi-tech Helicopter in valley of God's mountains & work with Archangel: THE FIRM. (1983-1986)*** I (1987) 4th series AIRWOLF When it got a new cast new entire story hawk brother took over Airwolf + UNIVERSAL STUDIOS Droped series cost to much make and went to cable network the series lasted only 22 episodes spin off got Axed due fans prefer ORIGINAL AIRWOLF /1983-1986 Universal Studios \ONLY I only brought season1-2-3- AIRWOLF star Jan-Michael Vincent & Ernest Borgaine lead star UNIVERSAL Studios best SEASON ever 5*** stars series 1/2/3 - 56 episodes total equal ORIGINAL David Hasselhoff : KNIGHTRIDER + THE ATEAM + THE INCREDIBLE HULK + MAGNUM . + six million Dollar Man . 10/10 hit series universal studios classic 80's series.moreless
    • This chopper armed to the teeth was my hero.

      Imagine this: An almost indestructible helicopter armed with powerful weapons like: .50 machine guns, rockets, and heat seeking missiles. This helicopter is extremely fast and has special boost that would make it go even faster. That's all this baby has and much more.

      I loved how the guns would come out of their hiding places like a lion showing up its sharp teeth under threat. Other ultra cool thing I liked was the mountain where they parked this machine of destruction, it would open its false rooftop and Airwolf would descend down its throat into a cavern packed full with electronics and weapons to keep this animal in perfect shape.

      Love the show.moreless
    • Probably one of the most gifted action shows ever made, that fell so drastically fast. But still in 2005, one of my favorite shows ever!

      "Airwolf" is really the forgotton show of the popular mid-80's action shows of the time. Although not as a highly-rated, most cult viewers of the time, regarded "Airwolf" on the same level as it's sister shows, "The A-Team" & "Knight Rider". Although not scripted as good as "The A-Team", "Airwolf" easily won out over script quality over "Knight Rider", even in "AW"'s darkest times, circa '86 & '87. "Airwolf" had the action of "Knight Rider", but kept a seriousness about itself, where it didn't cross over into that 60's "Batman" area of cheese, like "Knight Rider" did.

      In it's 1st Season (1984), "Airwolf" showed tons of promise to be one of the greatest action shows ever made. Each episode was superb in writing, and most episodes kept you on the edge of your seat. It's obvious now that shows like "Airwolf" set the mold for shows that we see today such as "24", with the foreign intrigue element, but also lots and lots of action, with the budget of a film, but on a TV show. However, "Airwolf" did not keep this quality past it's 1st Season, sadly, and when it fell, it fell fast! However, Season 1 remains probably one of the best quality seasons of any show ever to me, to this day, albeit the fact it only contained 10 episodes and a two-hour movie.

      Season 2 (1984-85) saw many changes, mainly to the show's formula. A female character was added to give balance to the show, a balance that wasn't really needed, and it was obvious to viewers that gradually the international intrigue stories that were so so good in the show's 1st Season, were being phased out for more domestic-oriented stories here in the U.S., due to pressure from the CBS suits. The quality of the show also seemed to start suffering. Although the beginning of the season started somewhat strong, by mid-season, certain elements of the show seemed to start showing 'rushing to the network', and the show also started suffering from production delay's due to a variety of issues, which also caused the budget for the series to skyrocket. It's almost strange, the first several episodes to Season 2 are very familiar to the viewer, showing the same kinda stuff from Season 1, but by the end of Season 2, it's almost a completely unrecognizable show, other than Airwolf itself still being on it. It's like the show went an overhaul within only one season. I don't know, it just feels like a completely different show watching say, "Sweet Britches" and then watching "Short Walk To Freedom".

      Season 3 (1985-86) saw the biggest change to the series at this point, and also proved to be the last on CBS. The show's writing staff & producing crew was pretty much turned over from Season 2. Don Bellisario stepped down as Executive Producer from day-to-day production, but did keep a distant eye on the show, but not much, deciding to hand the reigns over to veteran TV director, Bernard L. Kowalski. The season saw weird highs & lows. For example, the first four episodes almost seem like they each are from an entirely different show, with the Airwolf helicopter & the characters being the only recognizable things. "The Horn of Plenty" is some goofy attempt at a brainwashing episode that, granted sees great performances from both Jan-Michael Vincent & Jean Bruce Scott, but mainly seems like something out of "The Six Million Dollar Man". "Airwolf II" then becomes one of the greatest episodes of the series, my personal favorite myself, as we get to see Airwolf finally meet it's match by taking on it's successor, Airwolf II: Redwolf. "And A Child Shall Lead" then seems like some 'very special heartfelt episode' of "Highway To Heaven" with Airwolf thrown in for action measure, and then after that, we get "Fortune Teller" which was like "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." meets "Airwolf". Season 3 was plagued with problems like this. But the overall quality still remained as soemthing good enough to watch on Saturdays at 8pm, when nothing else good was on. Sadly, the show never had a chance to rebound, although the show still consistantly won it's timeslot & CBS Saturday nights, it was canceled at the end of it's 3rd Season, due to too high production costs.

      Someone at Universal decided in order to make the show more marketable in 2nd-run syndication, it needed another full-season of episodes, in order to make the package more attractive to syndicators. Universal then teamed up with the fledgling USA cable network, and decided to produce 24 additional episodes on a shoestring budget up in Canada ... enter ... the infamous Season 4 (1987).

      Season 4 premiered on a new network, on USA (so it's now a cable series) in January of 1987. To the shock of audiences the entire cast had completely been changed. In the story, **SPOILERS**, Dom had been killed & String badly injured from a helicopter explosion, Archangel was re-assigned perminately to the 'far east', and Caitlin just vanished and was never mentioned again, as was St. John's supposed Amerasian son, Le Van (who popped up as a recurring character in the second-half of Season 3), who was also never mentioned again, and just vanished. St. John was rescued from Burma (apparently he got moved around alot since becoming an MIA in Vietnam so many years ago), and Archangel's replacement, Jason Locke, now composed an entirely new Airwolf crew, with St. John, a new agent Maj. Mike Rivers, and Dom's niece Jo (who was never mentioned ever before, until now, but we were led to believe she was a regular friend of their's). The show was also shot in Canada on a shoestring budget (the budget-quality of the show dropped to something of "MacGyver", when it 'was' something of "Airwolf"). The show also was so poor 'financially' by this point, that they didn't even have the real Airwolf. They just recycled stock footage from the previous three seasons of "Airwolf" for all of their aerial scenes. Despite all of this, the writing actually improved, on a story point. Alot of the international stories that made the 1st Season so good had actually returned, but by this point most people didn't even recognize the show anymore, and there were so many continuity errors from the CBS seasons to the USA season, that the show was barely recognizable other than Airwolf.

      Overall, despite all of these issues, and the sudden plummet of a series that started promising into the trashcan in only a couple of seasons, was a disappointment. But I grew up with this series, and it's one of the first shows I can remember, so despite all of it's flaws in the later years, it's still a personal favorite, even Season 4. I'd still take 'flawed' Season 3 or 4 "Airwolf" over some of the things on TV today.moreless
    • Looks intresting.

      I have never seen this show before, but it looks like something worth watching if it is level fifty on It is truely a shame to be born in the nineteen eighties and miss shows that you think are intresting to watch. But that is just how God wanted it to be. Oh well. I might find a DVD of it somewhere.

    More Info About This Show


    epic adventure, vicious firefight, visually striking, war hero, genius inventor