The Top Choppers on Television
Well that’s easy, you’ve got American Chopper, um, CHiPs, uh…help me out here. Oh? Not motorcycle choppers? I see. So we must be talking about guys wielding knives, right? Oh cool! Then we can have the Iron Chef guys, maybe Dexter… What? Still not right. Okay, I give, what are you referring to. Helicopters? Seriously? There were enough TV shows revolving around or pertaining to the use of helicopters to make a ‘list’ of them? Whatever you say, Mr. Crazy. There, I took the liberty of un-confusing the lot of you by asking likely the same questions you’re all asking. And yes, I managed to scrape together quite the collection of shows where helicopters play major rolls. Sure, some a little less so than others. But for the most part, each of these past TV shows (nearly all 70’s and 80’s) were all about the Heli’s, whirlybirds, Huey’s, and choppers. Check ’em out!
Air America (1998-1999)
Rio and Wiley: Two undercover agents operating all hush-hush for Latin America’s secret flying division, ‘Air America’. Working directly with the State Department, they fly around righting wrongs, helping those in need, and doing good deeds. Oh, and Rio is the calm, cool, and collected Lorenzo Lamas. Now that’s show!
Strangely, this is the only one on the list I couldn’t drum up an opening theme for, so this was the best I could do.
Magnum P.I. (1980-1988)
Dogs named Zeus and Apollo, an Ex-British Army Sergeant Major named Higgins, T.C., Rick, a kick-ass Ferrari, and a ton of smokin’ hot chicks? Damn, was there any room for a Helicopter? Yep, and for Captain Mustache: Tom Selleck, too!
The A-Team (1983-1986)
Aside from the fact that helicopters made frequent appearances on the show, this is all you need to know: “(Ten years ago / In 1972), a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team.”
An allegory about the Vietnam War as much as it was about the Korean Conflict, M*A*S*H was based on many true exploits of military surgeons and doctors told to the crew during production of both the ’68 movie classic and this popular TV series. The finale in ’83 is largely considered to be the most watched TV program in American History. Also there were choppers!
Take the basic idea behind TRON, flip it a bit, add a healthy dose of Dezi Arnaz, Jr. and ‘holographic cop’ Chuck Wagner, who, as a computer program, can assume the form of anything from a car to a helicopter, and you’ve got what really ought to have been a hit. It wasn’t.
Budgie The Little Helicopter (1993-1995)
Airing in both Britain and America, Budgie was a relatively popular animated children’s show about a helpful little blue Helli with a yellow cap who flew around doing all sorts of cartoonish things. Believe it or not, the show was based on a book series by the Duchess of York herself, Sarah Ferguson.
Chopper Squad (1978-1979)
This show aired only on Australian TV for a brief time and the series was based around the work of a helicopter rescue team operating on Dee Why Beach in Sydney. An un-aired pilot was made in 1976, followed by a series of 26 episodes airing between 1978 and 1979. Helicopters aplenty!
Chopper One (1974)
Starring Jim McCullen, Dirk (The A-Team) Benedict, and Ted Hartley, the short-lived TV show focused mainly on a chopper pilot and the co-pilot/observer adventuring through the city in their Police Helicopter. Excitement personified. Hey, they can’t all be gold.
240 Robert (1979-1981)
Created by the genius behind CHiPs, Rick Rosner, 240 Robert -starring Mark Harmon- portrayed the adventures of a three-person squad who worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Emergency Services Detail. They often acquired the assistance of several Police vehicles, including a pretty sweet Huey.
Blue Thunder (1984)
Though it only ran for one season and fed heavily on re-used stock footage from the 1983 film of the same name, Blue Thunder has become one of two shows in the TV pantheon that most folks think of when they think Helicopters. It starred James Farentino, Dana Carvey, Dick Butkus, and Bubba Smith… oh, and a slick Aérospatiale Gazelle helicopter. And still with all of that, it lasted one season. Sad really.
First of all, the chief character/hero is one Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent). That alone ought to sell the hell out of this show. No? Okay, I’ll toss in Ernest Borgnine as Dominic Santini and a Bell 222 Stealth Helicopter built by the hidden CIA branch, the FIRM! Now you’re sold. This was perhaps the most bad-ass TV helicopter of all time. Also a sweet theme.