The Pilot episode of the series. School teacher Ralph Hinkley meets FBI agent Bill Maxwell on a field trip to the desert, where they are met by a UFO that gives them a mission and a red costume with ...
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ralph's surname was changed near the end of the first season from Hinkley to Hanley because of the name's negative connection with John Hinckley (the man who shot President Ronald Reagan in an assassination attempt on March 30, 1981). Ralph's last name was changed back to Hinkley in the first episode of season two ("The Two Hundred Mile an Hour Fastball"), after the furor over his name subsided. Interestingly enough, the unaired 1986 "Greatest American Heroine" pilot includes a scene in which Ralph Hinkley meets the President of the United States (who was still Ronald Reagan in real-life in 1986). See more »
During the opening credits of the pilot "Greatest American Heroine", the three-note NBC theme is heard as the letters "i-n-e" appear one at a time on screen. (An in-joke as NBC was the network the series was being pitched to at the time) See more »
So much potential wasted with one of the greatest American theme songs EVER
`The Greatest American Hero' is a textbook case of a television show being a victim of `the powers that be.' I was in grade school during the time of its run, but I remember most of the behind the scenes drama. Though its initial debut was well received, it wasn't long before the show met an ill-fated course. First, it was an unfortunate victim of the 1981 Reagan assassination attempt, resulting in the horrific `Hinkley/Hanley' overdub. This event, followed by constant time changes, late season debuts, pre-empts, and the never-ending lawsuit with Warner Brothers and DC comics over its supposed `Superman-like' premise, kept it from reaching its full potential with viewers. Then, like those aliens in the desert, the show disappeared without a trace.
There are several theories as to why this show never reached its full potential. I personally think Warner Brothers and DC Comics made ABC executives nervous, hence the delays and time changes. While I can certainly understand their motives (the Superman movies were popular at the time) I considered each character to be a separate entity. I never thought William Katt was an exact clone of Christopher (or George, for that matter) Reeve's famous role. Superman (I thought) was a strong, supernatural hero from another planet who masqueraded as a human being. The Greatest American Hero was just an ordinary guy who stumbled upon good fortune and tried to utilize it in the best way he could to help mankind. It could have been anyone that night instead of Ralph Hinkley, for all we know (the lyrics of the theme song attempted to explain this). Katt simply provided a handsome, lovable example of the `imperfect hero.'
My mother and sister absolutely loved this show. I was the youngest, so I watched it mostly because they did! `The Greatest American Hero' did grow on me, though so I, too, have fond memories. I was in love with the theme song, however, from the debut! Even if you didn't like the show, you have to admit that the theme song, `Believe It Or Not,' sung by Joey Scarbury, is one of the greatest of all time. The earlier comments were correct. `Believe It Or Not' is awesome.
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