The Greatest American Hero

The Greatest American Hero Cast

Do you remember this show from the early 80’s? Quirky school teacher, Ralph Hinkley (William Katt), and down-and-out FBI agent Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp), are thrust into an odd crime-fighting partnership after being approached by an alien spaceship in the desert. Ralph is given a “super suit” (aka, the “red jammies”) by the aliens and told to work together with Bill and make the world a better place. Ralph looses the suit’s instructional manual out in the desert. The result is a reluctant and unlikely super hero, complete with super hero powers… who has some serious trouble using them – especially when flying.

Ralph flyingMy wife and I just completed watching all three seasons of this show on rental DVD. It was a childhood favorite of mine. I honestly didn’t think we’d make it through more than a few episodes because of the early 80’s style TV show production quality. Believe it or not, the show held up pretty well though. Oh, it’s still very early-80’s and has a hokey style of storytelling reminiscent of that period, but it held its own and worked well for us. We both loved watching the show together and hit a few episodes each week.

I clearly remember being a kid and wishing so badly that aliens would give me a super suit! Of course, I wanted my super suit to look more like Super Girl’s (it’s a cd thing) but Ralph’s “red jammies” would have done fine as well. I just wanted to be able to fly and beat up bad guys… and turn invisible to spy on my friends. lol

Actress Connie Sellecca played “the counselor” and Ralph’s love interest in the show. I had a huge crush on her! She was a mega-hottie back in the day.

little green guysFor an early 80’s TV show, it had some pretty slick special effects and production values. Not nearly as advanced as one might see today, but good for the time. Aside from the very obvious stunt man in a bad curly-hair wig here and there, most of the visuals were pretty good (for the time).

I didn’t care for the the third season that much though. Funny, I don’t remember the third season being so bad when I was a kid. It had a couple of good episodes, but most of the third and final season felt like an empty, reduced-budget, cartoony version of the show. The stories were blah, some of the regular characters were absent (mainly Ralph’s students) and the special effects were pretty bad – even by early 80’s standards. In the last season, Ralph’s flying visuals were accomplished by actor William Katt being strung up by wires in front of a giant rear-projection screen and it looked terrible. In addition, the fun of Ralph’s hap-hazard flying was missing. All of a sudden, Ralph was flying fairly well. Maybe that bad rear projection background screen helped his flying abilities somehow?

If you grew up watching this show, you might want to revisit it. If you’ve never seen it before, you may want to give it a try. It’s still a lot of fun to watch today. Consider skipping the third season though. Maybe best to remember the show when it was still in its prime in seasons 1 and 2.

I read not long ago that there’s a new Greatest American Hero movie in the works. I’m not sure if this is just a TV movie or theatrical release, but I’m curious to see what they do with it in a modern sense.

Were you a fan of the show? If you’ve never seen it before, does it sound remotely interesting? Do you ever wear red jammies (minus the cape) to bed?

5 thoughts on “The Greatest American Hero”

  1. I do remember this show; I anxiously waited weekly for it to arrive on our dearly beloved old boob tube. I also waited for the A-Team, and the Dukes of Hazard along with so many other brain rotting shows.

  2. I remember that show, but I really loved Police Squad with Leslie Neilson. “Police Squad -In COLOR!” and that WONDERFUL deadpan humor!

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