A Toast to Dirk Benedict
The other day I watched a couple of episodes of the original Battlestar Galactica (which you will remember I am a big fan of) followed by a couple of episodes of The A-Team. Both were popular shows from my childhood, both stand up for me now, and both feature Dirk Benedict in a prominent role. This made me start to wonder how Benedict has not gained a cult following in the way that William Shatner, Bruce Campbell, or even David Hasselhoff has.
In 1978, Benedict got his big break when he was cast as Lieutenant Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica. Battlestar Galactica was the story of a group of humans fleeing from robot attackers bent on wiping them out. Their twelve colonies have been destroyed, so they go in search of the legendary thirteenth colony, which is of course Earth. The show had a very strange religious overtone to it, and of course had the limitations of 70s television. Yet somehow it remained fun and action packed. Starbuck was the flyboy womanizer who liked to drink, smoke cigars, and play poker. He always had a wisecrack at the ready, and was ready to risk everything to protect his fellow man from the villainous Cylons. Despite being a blatant Star Wars copy, it was a good show. There was a second series of Galactica in 1980, but it did not include Benedict (or most of the rest of the original cast.)
In 1983, The A-Team hit the airwaves. In this show Benedict plays Templeton "Faceman" Peck. He is part of an elite combat unit who were framed for a crime they didn't commit. They escape from prison and live on the run as soldiers of fortune. The team usually is hired to protect a family or small town from a gang of thugs who are working to take their property for one nefarious reason or another. In spite of all the guns and explosions, no one ever gets killed, and rarely even seriously injured. This is the show that helped make Mr. T a household name. Faceman is the con artist, using his charm and wit to procure materials the team needs to get the job done. Besides the rank of lieutenant, Faceman shares a penchant with Starbuck for chasing women and smoking cigars. Faceman also enjoys sports cars and luxury apartments. There is a good gag in one episode, later in the opening credits, where Faceman sees a Cylon at a studio.
Now most actors, especially from that era, go their whole career without being in a show which is popular enough to remain in the public consciousness 30 years later. However, Battlestar Galactica was popular enough to get a remake series in 2004. The A-Team was made into a feature film in 2010. Both shows are currently available online. I know I am not the only kid who loved both these shows. So it seems that for the amount of entertainment that Dirk Benedict contributed to our childhoods, he gets short shrift these days. I don't see him making ironic cameos on "nerdy" T.V. shows.
He doesn't appear to have a big presence on social media or at conventions. Is it because he willingly avoids the public adulation? Hard to believe that for an actor. Is he just not as good at playing the public relations game as Shatner and Takei? Quite possible. The few recent interviews I've been able to find indicate that he might still take himself a tad too seriously, while the two Trek alumni have become masters at poking fun at themselves. Is it because he lacks the overly campy, train wreck qualities of Hasselhoff? Despite kicking off a minor controversy when he complained about Starbuck's gender swap in the remake, this also appears to be true.
Whatever the reason for his being apparently overlooked, I say that Dirk Benedict has contributed to the Sci-Fi and action genre, pop culture, and the childhoods of all the boys in my generation. Let us recognize his contributions and thank him for providing us with not one, but two morally questionable childhood heroes.
So in closing, here is toast to you Mr. Benedict. You took us to the outer reaches of space and showed us not only how to con a luxury apartment, but how to use that skill for good. Thanks for the fun, sir.