Cult TV: The Greatest American Hero

The Greatest American Hero ran for three seasons (1981-1983) and is mostly remembered for its theme tune and special effects which even at the time looked cheap. The concept was of a fairly wimpy do-gooding liberal school teacher (Ralph Hinkley, then Hanley after a guy named Hinkley shot President Reagan) played by William Katt who was given a special suit by aliens which gave him special powers.

He then went and lost the instruction book (Yeah. It even had “Instructions” on the front page in “spacey” writing) and so spent most episodes discovering new things the suit could do, much to the annoyance of his FBI agent mate Bill Maxwell (played by Robert Culp) and that stalwart of 1980s TV, Connie Sellecca. Sellecca, who interestingly was married to that other TV hero of the time, Gil Gerard of Buck Rogers fame, was one of the few women on telly who could give Erin Gray (Wilma in Buck Rogers, she of the shiny lycra) a serious run for her money in the dreams of teenaged boys of the day.

The show was only alright, although one episode set in a hunted house was genuinely creepy. Watching it once again reminds how bad TV actually was in the 1980s, with very dumb formulaic stories and the assumption that the audience couldn’t follow anything too complicated. Hill Street Blues, which debuted at the same time, was about to change all that.

The theme song sung by Joey Scarbury is very catchy though, and apparently Fox are looking to make a new series.

You can find episodes on Youtube.

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