Airwolf

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Airwolf TV Poster Image
Action in '80s covert military drama feels dated.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

There's a fairly clear distinction between "good" and "bad," though the b"bad" guys are usually typical '80s enemies like Communists, Libyans, and other political adversaries of the United States in the 1980s. The difficult lives and recovery of military veterans, especially those who fought in Vietnam, is also a theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hawke and Dominic are extremely loyal to each other. The bad guys want the helicopter, state secrets, and to teach the United States a lesson (but they always lose). Several of the female characters are both intelligent and strong.

Violence

Guns, bombs, and military weapons are fired, causing explosions and even death. Episodes feature various violent scenarios, punching, beatings, murders, kidnappings, and hostage situations; little blood is visible. Everything has a dated, special-effects feel than lessens the impact of some of the violence.

Sex

Contains some sexy dancing (especially notable during early episodes' opening credits), making out, and mild references to sex. The word "whore" is used.

Language

Words like "goddamn" and "hell" are audible.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Hawke has an extensive wine cellar; wine and hard alcohol is sometimes consumed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Airwolf is a 1980s action series that features Cold War themes, which makes the Russians, East Germans, and Libyans the "bad guys," thanks to the politics of the time. It also has some iffy language, shootings and explosions (guns visible, but little blood), and some drinking. There's also some sexual content, including images of women dancing suggestively in skimpy costumes, and scenes of men and women partially dressed and lying together. Though a bit milder than today's action shows, it's not intended for younger viewers.

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What's the story?

AIRWOLF (1980-1984) is a Cold-War themed action series featuring a renegade pilot conducting military missions onboard a high-tech military helicopter. Jan-Michael Vincent stars as the reclusive Stringfellow Hawke, a former test pilot for the supersonic Airwolf helicopter who prefers to spend his time playing the cello, watching American bald eagles, and enjoying an art collection inherited from his grandparents. When Airwolf is stolen by its creator, Dr. Charles Henry Moffet (David Hemmings), Hawkes is recruited by The Firm, a top-secret government agency, to recover it. Hawke agrees to the job, but only after The Firm's Deputy Director Michael Coldsmith Briggs III (Alex Cord) -- a.k.a. Archangel -- agrees to help him locate his brother St. John (Barry Van Dyke), who was left behind in Vietnam 14 years earlier. Along with his buddy Dominic (Ernest Borgnine), and later, Caitlin O'Shannessy (Jean Bruce Scott), Hawke goes on to help The Firm with a variety of dangerous covert operations under Archangel's direction, and under the watchful eye of his assistant, Marella (Deborah Pratt).

Is it any good?

Airwolf, which was produced by renown TV producer Donald Bellisario (creator of other popular shows like Magnum P.I., JAG, and NCIS), offers interesting narratives by combining government problem-solving plot lines and military-like action sequences. Stringfellow Hawke's rugged, complex personality also adds some substance to the series.

Like most of Bellisario's work, Airwolf features universal messages about some of the long-term physical, mental, and emotional scars that military veterans carry with them after they come back from war. Not surprisingly, it also feels a little dated, thanks to its Cold War themes and overall 1980s styling. No doubt that the show's original fans will feel some nostalgia while watching, while a new generation of viewers may find the story lines mildly entertaining.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about television shows from the 1980s. What qualities do they have that distinguish them from shows from other eras?

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  • Does the dated appearance of the show make any of the content -- like the violence or sexual content -- less impactful?

TV details

For kids who love classics

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