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The Greatest American Hero - Season One (1981)

Comedy movie directed by Arnold Laven, Gabrielle Beaumont, Robert C. Thompson, and Rod Holcomb

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Believe It Or Not.

  • Feb 20, 2006
THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO was one of those shows I remember watching fondly as a kid. I looked forward to watching the adventures of Ralph Hinkly and Bill Maxwell each week and seeing what trouble they would get into. THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO came out during a time when it wasn't common to have superheroes how came from normal backgrounds. The SUPERMAN movies had only been out a few years and Hollywood was sucking up superhero scripts left and right (though most of them were never made). What was unique about THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO was that Ralph Hinkley was just an ordinary guy who was given a suit with superpowers (kind of like the Green Lantern). Ralph didn't grow up rich or come from outer space, he was just a high school teacher trying to make a difference in the world.

Ralph was partnered with Bill Maxwell, a CIA agent with a patriotic fervor and a nose for knowing where the bad guys were. Bill was a perfect foil for Ralph and together they made a great duo. Add the lovely Pam Davidson into the mix as Ralph's fiance and the useful 3rd-string utility person and you have a perfect blend.

William Katt played Ralph, Robert Culp played Maxwell, and Connie Sellecca played Pam. The chemistry between the three was wonderful and helped cement the show in reality.

Ralph becomes the Greatest American Hero because one night while taking his students in a field trip out in the desert, their bus dies down. Ralph hitch hikes to get some help and is picked up by Maxwell. While together, the car stops and starts doing some goofy things. Then a spaceship appears and delivers a magic suit to the duo. Ralph is the one to whom the suit is given, but Maxwell is to be his partner. However, while walking back to the bus, Ralph looses the instructions to the suit. Therefore, when the adventures start he has no idea of what the suit is capable of. He's taught how to fly by a little kid, but as much flying as he does, Ralph never does quite catch on how to fly properly.
Hollogram imagine, invisibility, superstrength, and invisibility are all attributes that the suit gives to Ralph when he wears it.
But, he doesn't learn about these things easily.

This Season One set of THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO includes all 8 episodes of the first season. The show debuted after the Super Bowl in 1981 and was an overnight phenomena and a huge success. My favorite episodes of the first season are:

Episode 1 "The Greatest American Hero"--the series pilot.

Episode 6 "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys"--the Lone Ranger
makes an appearance and gives encouragement to a new hero.

Episode 8 "The Best Desk Scenario"--Pam is kidnapped and Ralph
and Bill have to rescue her. This episode captures the
essence of what made the series unique, little things were at
the heart of the show while the superhero stuff was mostly
backdrop and filler.

If you watched carefully, Danny Glover has a brief role in Episode 7 "Fire Man". Extras with this set include a set of interviews with Stephen Cannell, William Katt, Robert Culp, Connie Sellecca, and Michael Pare; as well as the pilot for a never planned-out sequel THE GREATEST AMERICAN HEROINE.

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review by . September 26, 2010
The show was the somewhat reluctant brainchild of Stephen J. Cannell (the uber writer/producer who brought us Hunter and 21 Jump Street) who said in the special features that the idea of doing a Super Hero show was pitched to him in a meeting, but that he wasn't really interested at first. He kicked the idea around with some of his staffers and decided that it might make a fun show after all, but only if it was handled in a more down to earth manner so to speak. He wanted the main character …
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Believe it or not, he’s walking on air! William Katt is back as reluctant flying crime fighter Ralph Hinkley, who would know exactly how to use the red superpower suit given to him by aliens if he hadn’t lost its instruction manual. In this season, Ralph pitches in the World Series, prevents World War III, suffers amnesia, joins the circus, battles bad bikers, voodoo vengeance, a fast-food mascot and much more, all with the help of his attorney girlfriend Pam Davidson (Connie Selleca) and FBI agent Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp). Who could it be? Believe it or not, he’s THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO!

This collection features all 22 Second Season episodes with such guest stars as Markie Post, Joe Mantegna, Barbara Hale, Keenan Wynn, Dixie Carter, Don Drysdale and more, plus all-new Extras that include revealing and fun career-retrospective interviews with creator Stephen J. Cannell and music composer Mike Post.

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DVD Release Date: February 15, 2005
Runtime: 417 minutes
Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
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