tek's rating: ½

The Greatest American Hero, on ABC
fansite; IMDb; Retro Junk; TV Tango; TV Tropes; Wikia; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Peacock; Vudu

Created by Stephen J. Cannell. I very vaguely recall seeing a bit of this when I was quite young. (It premiered in 1981, when I would have been around six years old, though I feel like I must not have seen it til a bit later than that.) But I watched it many years later (in the 2010s) on DVD. Anyway, the scenario is that aliens give a superhero suit to a high school teacher named Ralph Hinkley (William Katt), which provides him with super powers (flight, strength, invisibility, any number of other things). Unfortunately, he immediately loses the instruction manual, so he has to figure out how to use the powers on his own. (He's pretty bad at flying.) And when he receives the suit, there's an FBI agent with him, named Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp), who is supposed to become like some kind of adviser to Ralph, on what kind of situations to fix with his powers. The two of them don't get along at first, but I guess things improve by the end of the pilot episode. Also, Ralph is divorced and fighting for custody of his son, Kevin (though his son will almost never even be mentioned, after the pilot). The attorney representing him is Pam Davidson (Connie Sellecca), and it seems she and Ralph are in love. But it takes her awhile to accept that Ralph now has super powers. (She's easily the smartest and most normal, rational person on the show.) And throughout the first two seasons, we see a lot of Ralph's class, though we only really get to know a few of his students at all. The main ones are a guy named Tony Villicana and a girl named Rhonda Blake. (Bill and Tony really don't like each other.) There are also a couple of guys named Cyler and Paco, though I just read their names online; I don't really remember actually hearing them on the show. (I tend to think of Tony, Cyler, and Paco as expies for Vinnie, Freddie, and Juan from Welcome Back, Kotter.) Anyway, Bill and Pam are the only ones who know about the suit. They keep it a secret from everyone, and I guess they count on the bad guys they bust to either not talk about it, or that if they do, everyone else will assume they're crazy. (But really, it's ridiculous that no one in town ever notices Ralph flying around, since he usually doesn't fly very high.) I suppose I should also say that Bill has a boss named Carlisle, who really doesn't like Bill.

I should mention that when Ralph first got the suit, he and Bill didn't actually see the aliens, just their spaceship. But they finally do meet the aliens at the start of season three. Ralph gets a new instruction manual, but once again loses it. I should also mention that we almost never see any of Ralph's students in season three. (And I think the only one of the originals who's still around is Paco.) But also in the third season, Ralph and Pam get married. And, looking at Wikipedia, I see that the last four episodes on the DVDs never aired on TV.

Not sure what else to say, except that the show is fairly amusing, though pretty redonkulous. There's a lot of cheesy dialog, and the plots are kind of silly, and I don't think much of the special effects. But it's basically a fun show. And Ralph, Bill, and Pam have a good chemistry (or at least an entertaining chemistry). And the theme song is also cheesy, but kind of a pleasant earworm. (And there was this one time Castiel sang it on Supernatural, that was pretty cool.) Oh, also... the one thing I clearly remember about the show from having watched it as a kid is something that doesn't happen in any of the episodes on the DVDs, so I suspect I just dreamed it. (After a few decades, it's easy to mistake childhood dreams for things that actually happened.) Anyway... I'm really glad to have finally seen the whole series.

superheroes index
genre nostalgia