Ralph Hinkley was minding his own business, a teacher on a field trip with his high school students, when the bus he's driving mysteriously drives itself out into the desert. A startled Ralph is soon visited by aliens, who had decided to endow him with superhuman powers to fight the battle against injustice and crime. To this end, they gave him a special suit and an instruction manual. Unfortunately, Ralph managed to lose the instruction manual, and the aliens have a nasty habit of never being around when you need them.Written by
Murray Chapman <email@example.com>
Two years after the show's cancellation by ABC, NBC picked up the series, and aired its reruns in a Sunday night, post-primetime time slot. This led to speculation that NBC was looking to revive the series, but their efforts only resulted in The Greatest American Heroine pilot. See more »
And so we went to NewFOUNDland to make friends with all the whales and a bunch of little fishies
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Throughout the show's production, save for the original pilot, the copyright disclaimer toward the end of each episode's credits had an error, spelling the name of the United States as "THE UNTED STATES" See more »
In 1986, three years after the series ended, a pilot film entitled "The Greatest American Heroine" was produced which reunited the original series cast. The pilot was not broadcast, so the film was reedited as an episode of "Greatest American Hero" (complete with original opening credits) for syndication. It was also included on the 2005 DVD release. See more »
This show did a great deal of changing over it's three year run. Starting as a spring replacement show, it starred relative newcomer William Katz as the tragically named Ralph Hinckley (I'll get to the tragedy in a minute), a high school teacher with lots of troubled kids in his class. Hinckley is in the middle of a custody suit with his exwife, and is falling in love with his lawyer, Pam Davidson (Connie Sellecca).
Things are looking OK for Hinckley until one night, in the California desert, he encounters aliens who give him a suit that endows upon him superpowers when he wears it. Then he loses the instruction manual. Nothing can throw a monkey wrench into your divorce/custody/employment plans like running around in what looks like red footie pajamas with a cape claiming you are saving the day. Ralph is instructed by the aliens to work with FBI agent Bill Maxwell (Robert Kulp), and this part is easy because Maxwell is there when the aliens give them the suit in the person of his recently deceased partner, who is going with the aliens but gives Bill the "live long and prosper" hand movement through the car glass window a full year before "The Wrath of Khan". Hmmmmmmm.
Thus Bill and Ralph form this sort of good cop/bad cop duo, except Ralph is no cop. Bill is the formal law and order type. Ralph is the give peace a chance type. For all of his super powers, Ralph didn't seem to notice that his son, who brought him and Pam together in the first place, disappears after four episodes, never to be mentioned again. Maybe this invisibility was inherited from the ex-wife, because we never see or hear about her again either.
The tragic naming of our protagonist that I mentioned? Well 12 days after this show debuted President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley. In a typical case of overreacting, the show had Ralph renamed "Hanley" or "Mr. H" for the rest of the first season, as though just being named Hinckley somehow made you an untouchable. Then, he magically went back to Ralph "Hinckley" at the beginning of the second season.
As for the "bad kids" in Ralph's class, among them there was Michael Pare in his first role, and apparently a role that got him noticed because he was making movies at a pretty frenetic pace for the rest of the 1980's, though he stuck with the show for the rest of its run. There was also Faye Grant as Rhonda, who is supposed to be a troublemaking rather loose girl. Hey, it was 35 years ago and double standards still applied.
The first season was a delight, as was part of the second season, but then the network suits wanted to advertise it more as children's fare over producer Steven J. Cannell's objections, and it never could escape that pigeon-holing. Overall though, I remember it fondly.
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