January 14, 2023



(NBC, September 17, 1983-October 19, 1985)
Ruby-Spears Enterprises



Mr. T – Himself
Takayo Fischer – Ms. Priscilla Bisby
Shawn Lieber – Jeff Harris
Phil LaMarr – Woody Daniels
Amy Linker – Robin O’Neill
Siu Ming Carson – Kim Nakamura
Teddy Field III – Spike O’Neill
Cathy Cavadini – Skye Redfern


            Born Laurence Tureaud, Mr. T was the youngest son in a family of twelve children in Chicago, Illinois. Having grown up facing constant lack of respect because of the color of his skin--hearing his father, uncle and veteran brother constantly called “boy”--he legally changed his name in 1970 to “Mr. T” so that “the first word out of everybody’s mouth is ‘Mr.’” He played football, wrestled and studied martial arts at Dunbar Vocational High School and became the citywide wrestling champion two years in a row. He won a football scholarship to Prairie View A&M University where he majored in mathematics, but was expelled after a year.

Fools, consider yourself pitied.

            1975 saw Mr. T join the Army’s Military Police Corps for several years before trying out of the Green Bay Packers football team, but a knee injury kept him out. Instead, he became a bouncer for the club Dingbats Discotheque where the Mr. T persona began to take shape. He started wearing gold chains adorned with various pieces of jewelry that essentially served as a “lost and found” box; the items typically left behind by patrons after a fight broke out who could then reclaim them from him without going back into the club. They were also meant to represent the chains that were used to bring his ancestors to the country and held them down. While reading National Geographic, Mr. T noticed the hairstyle on a Mandinka warrior and decided to adopt it as his own as a simpler, more permanent visual signature and a powerful statement about his African origins. His tenure as a bouncer led to his also becoming a bodyguard whose reputation garnered him clients such as Steve McQueen, Michael Jackson, Muhammad Ali, Diana Ross, Joe Frazier and more.

B.A. Baracus and his signature van.

            In 1980, Mr. T took part in NBC’s Games People Play in the “America’s Toughest Bouncer” competition, which he won by knocking out Honolulu bouncer Tutefano Tufi in a boxing match. This caught the attention of Sylvester Stallone, who had Mr. T cast as the antagonist Clubber Lang in Rocky III. It was this film that introduced his catchphrase: “I pity the fool!” He appeared again as a boxer in the film Penitentiary 2 and then in a bit on the sketch comedy series Bizarre with Super Dave Osborne (Bob Einstein) before landing a starring role as Sergeant Bosco “B.A.” Baracus on the series The A-Team. The series was a massive hit in its first three years, and Mr. T became the most popular character on it—especially with children.

Animated Mr. T helping out one of his charges, Kim.

            What better way to capitalize on that than with a cartoon centered around Mr. T? Then-network president Brandon Tartikoff ordered one from Ruby-Spears Enterprises. Steve Gerber and Martin Pasko were given the assignment and came up with three different proposals for the network. None of them, however, were selected. Instead, the show became yet another in a long line of Scooby-Doo clones (almost fitting, as Joe Ruby and Ken Spears were the original co-creators of that successful franchise during their tenure at Hanna-Barbera). However, instead of a talking dog, Mr. T would be joined by the youth gymnastics team that he coached. This emulated real life as, before joining the Army, Mr. T had worked as a gym instructor for a government program where he discovered a gift for helping children and continued to do so throughout his life and career. Not only did Mr. T voice himself, but he appeared in live-action segments at the beginning to introduce the story and at the end to deliver a moral lesson to the audience.

Mr. T and his crew (clockwise from top left): Ms. Bisby, Kim, Jeff, Woody, Vince, Robin, Spike, Dozer and Garcia.

            Mr. T and the team would travel around the world to compete. Along the way, they would end up encountering some kind of crime or mystery that they couldn’t help but attempt to solve; such as the wreckage of a ship that doesn’t exist, spies seeking to sabotage the space shuttle program, and even a relative of one of the characters being framed. The team consisted of Robin O’Neill (Amy Linker), the second-in-command eager to jump into situations; Spike O’Neill (Teddy Field III), Robin’s little brother who worshiped Mr. T to the point he dressed and talked like him; Jeff Harris (Shawn Lieber), a wise guy with a big ego; Woody Daniels (Phil LaMarr in his first voice acting role), Jeff’s friendly rival with aspirations of becoming a lawyer; Kim Nakamura (Siu Ming Carson), who possessed a photographic memory; Sky Redfern (Cathy Cavadini in her first voice acting role), a Native American; Garcia Lopez, an aspiring photographer; Vince D’Amato, who wanted to be a movie star; Courtney Howard, who had an ex-con uncle that turned into a magician; and Grant Kline, an ex-gang member Jeff helped reform. Additionally, there was Ms. Priscilla Bisby (Takayo Fischer), their mystery book-loving bus driver, and Bulldozer aka Dozer, Mr. T’s bulldog that shared his taste in hairstyles.

Stranger danger!

        Mister T debuted on NBC on September 17, 1983. Unlike many of the other celebrity-led cartoons at the time, this one proved popular enough to keep going for three seasons. It was featured in the NBC Saturday morning preview specials from 1983-85, which typically aired the Friday night before the debut of the new season the next morning. Mr. T appeared live in 1983’s The Yummy Awards and provided new voiceover for repurposed footage in 1985’s Back to Next Saturday Morning, however a combination of clips from various episodes and an arm stand-in were used to interact with the storyline of 1984’s Laugh Busters. The series was written by Pasko, Gerber, Flint Dille, Mark Jones, Buzz Dixon, Rick Merwin, Michael Maurer, Paul Dini, Matt Uitz, Cliff Ruby, Elana Lesser, Kimmer Ringwald, Booker Bradshaw and Janis Diamond, with Ruby, Lesser, Pasko, Ringwald and Dan DiStefano serving as story editors. Characters were designed by Jack Kirby, Kurt Conner, Thom Enriquez, Moe Gollub, Doug Wildey and Duncan Majoribanks. Animation duties were handled by XAM! Productions and Hanho Heung-Up Company, and music was composed by Shuki Levy and Haim Saban under the supervision of Paul DeKorte. Gary Shimikawa directed the live-action segments. Reruns were aired throughout the 80s and early 90s as part of the USA Cartoon Express programming block, and later on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block and sibling network, Boomerang.

            A small merchandising blitz accompanied the series, complimenting the merchandise already featuring Mr. T from The A-Team. One of the most popular pieces was Mr. T Cereal by Quaker Oats; their first licensed ready-to-eat cereal. The T-shaped cereal came with a sticker sheet featuring several of the show’s cast and bus. Grandreams published two comic annuals in the United Kingdom based on the show and Harbor House Publishers several coloring and activity books, while Starland Music adapted several episodes into read-along books with records. A board game was released by Milton Bradley that saw the team having to race to complete three tasks before missing the plane to their next meet. There was even a set of Shrinky Dinks by Colorforms. Various episodes were released to VHS internationally by The Video Collection, and the entire first season was released by Warner Archive to DVD as part of their Hanna-Barbera Classics Collection in 2011. The entire series has yet to see an official release, but could be purchased to stream from Prime Video and Google Play. The episode “Mystery of the Golden Medallions” was included on the compilation DVD Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s Volume 1 in 2010, which was re-released in the collected compilation set in 2018. In 2013, the series was parodied on Saturday Night Live’s TV Funhouse featuring Tracy Morgan as the voice of Mr. T.

Mr. T-Rex from Eek! The Cat.

            In the years during and following the end of Mister T, Mr. T kept himself busy. He appeared on a variety of programs like sitcoms Diff’rent Strokes, Silver Spoons and Blossom, sketch shows like Saturday Night Live, and had another starring role in the Canadian series T and T and the mini-series I Pity the Fool; starred in films like D.C. Cab, The Toughest Man in the World and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; released a rap mini album called Mr. T’s Commandments; had a short wrestling career with the WWF (now WWE) and WCW; appeared at the 50th Presidential Inaugural Gala; and was even a widely in-demand pitchman, appearing in commercials for numerous products and companies such as Snickers, Toyota, Burger King, Aaron’s Furniture, World of Warcraft and MCI. Although he never had another Saturday morning show, he would play himself in an episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks and House of Mouse, and a T-Rex version of himself in Eek! The Cat. He was slowed down for a period after being diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma in 1995, but gradually made a comeback once it was in remission; referencing it before his waltz with Kym Johnson Herjavec on Dancing with the Stars in 2017.



Season 1:
“Mystery of the Golden Medallions” (9/17/83) – Woody tries to adjust to being the new member on the team while they solve the mystery of crooks smashing gold medals around town.
“Mystery of the Forbidden Monastery” (9/24/83) – After being invited to a phantom competition, members of the team begin disappearing when they investigate a nearby monastery.
“Mystery of the Mind-Thieves” (10/1/83) – The team investigates who robbed the minds of a group of scientists that includes Kim’s father.
“Mystery of the Rocky Mountain Express” (10/8/83) – Garcia ends up exposed to a top-secret virus smuggled onto the team’s train by some criminals.
“The Hundred-Year-Old Mystery” (10/15/83) – The team wants to set up a gymnastics camp in Mississippi, but a local gang intends to stop them.
“The Crossword Mystery” (10/22/83) – Solving a crossword puzzle’s clue leads Ms. Bisby into discovering a word that puts her and two professors into a trance.
“The Ninja Mystery” (10/29/83) – Vince is interested in a movie location in New York City not too far from where mysterious ninjas are robbing stores.
“Dilemma of the Double-Edged Dagger” (11/5/83) – The team must clear Mr. T’s name when he’s arrested for robbing a museum.
“Secret of the Spectral Sister” (11/12/83) – While visiting her family, Robin gets a mysterious call from her thought-dead sister just as burglars break into her bedroom to look for something.
“Mystery of the Silver Swan” (11/19/83) – Investigating a classic car leads the team to discover a counterfeit car ring.
“Case of the Casino Caper” (11/26/83) – Courtney gets the team in trouble when she attempts to take down a pair of casino robbers on her own.
“Fade Out at 50,000 Feet” (12/3/83) – Jeff’s cousin goes missing from an air show while Woody falls for a shady woman named Vanetta.
“Riddle of the Runaway Wheels” (12/10/83) – Crooks have their sights set on the Turbo Team’s prize stunt car to help them acquire their own prize.
Season 2:
“Mystery in Paradise” (9/15/84) – Despite a loss, the team enjoys their time in Hawaii until a confrontation with pirates tests Courtney’s fear of water.
“Mystery of the Black Box” (9/24/84) – After recovering a black box from a downed supersonic jet, the team is being pursued by a group that wants it back.
“Mystery of the Panthermen” (9/29/84) – The team investigates an island in San Francisco where people are being frightened away and abducted from.
“Mystery of the Ghost Fleet” (10/6/84) – While Mr. T investigates a ship that doesn’t exist, Kim puts herself on a crash diet for an upcoming meet that takes its toll on her.
“Mystery of the Ancient Ancestor” (10/13/84) – The team works to get to the bottom of why the family that owns the town they’re in has a grudge with Skye’s family.
“Magical Mardi Gras Mystery” (10/20/84) – Everyone suspects Courtney’s criminal-turned-magician uncle when a jazz singer’s diamonds disappear.
“Mystery of the Disappearing Oasis” (10/27/84) – Mr. T braves his fear of flying so the team can go with Kim to meet her pen pal, who just happens to end up abducted over her necklace.
“Fortune Cookie Caper” (11/3/84) – When a string of arson attacks affects Jeff’s parents’ bookstore, the team investigates.
“U.F.O. Mystery” (11/10/84) – Woody’s stubbornness to avoid getting glasses hinders the team and their investigating when their professor friend ends up kidnapped by…aliens?
“Mystery of the Stranger” (11/17/84) – The team attempts to rescue Spike after he’s abducted by a married couple.
“The Cap Cod Caper” (11/24/84) – When Spike accidentally takes attention away from her victory, Robin attempts to top him and ends up captured by oil smugglers.
Season 3:
“They Williamsburg Mystery” (9/14/85) – While restoring an old house, the team get embroiled in a mystery of two colonial soldiers looking for a buried secret diary.
“Mission of Mercy” (9/21/85) – The team must recover a cargo ship full of donated goods from a team of mercenaries.
“Mystery of the Open Crates” (9/28/85) – Mr. T helps out an old friend keep his youth center out of the hands of drug dealers while Courtney learns a lesson about meeting one’s heroes.
“The Playtown Mystery” (10/5/85) – Nobody believes Spike when he tries to point out that two amusement park mascots are acting suspiciously.
“The Comeback Mystery” (10/12/85) – The team’s newest member has connections to a gang and are using his past with them to keep him quiet about their activities.
“The Cape Kennedy Caper” (10/19/85) – While visiting Cape Canaveral, Robin stumbles upon two spies with plans to blow up the space shuttle in orbit.

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