The Greatest American Hero (1981–1983)

TV Series  |   |  Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 2,533 users  
Reviews: 55 user | 26 critic

A teacher is asked to be a superhero using a special alien suit with powers he can barely understand or control.

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3   2   1  
1986   1983   1982   1981  
Nominated for 4 Primetime Emmys. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete series cast summary:
...
 Ralph Hinkley / ... (44 episodes, 1981-1986)
...
 Bill Maxwell (44 episodes, 1981-1986)
...
 Pam Davidson / ... (41 episodes, 1981-1986)
Don Cervantes ...
 Paco Rodriguez (23 episodes, 1981-1983)
...
 Rhonda Blake (22 episodes, 1981-1982)
...
 Tony Villicana (21 episodes, 1981-1983)
...
 Cyler Johnson / ... (19 episodes, 1981-1983)
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Storyline

A pair of strangers, liberal high-school teacher Ralph Hinkley and right-wing FBI agent Bill Maxwell, have a close encounter in the Southern California desert one night with "little green men", who give our heroes a red superhero suit. The suit works only for Ralph, and the two, accompanied by Ralph's cute lawyer girlfriend Pam, reluctantly team up to battle criminals. Problems ensue when Ralph loses the suit's instruction book, so he had to master the suit's powers on his own. Written by Marty McKee <mmckee@wkio.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

What America needs is a super hero. What America got was Ralph Hinkley!


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Details

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Release Date:

18 March 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El gran héroe americano  »

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 »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (43 episodes)

Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Shortly after the first season ended in late Spring of 1981, the show's theme song "Believe It or Not", performed by Joey Scarbury was released as a single. The song became one of that Summer's biggest hit songs reaching Number Two on the Pop Charts in August, and spending 18 weeks in the Top 40. See more »

Quotes

Bill Maxwell: They give... and office like THIS to a kid... a GIRL? Come on now, counselor. I wasn't born yesterday.
Pam Davidson: No, it was more like 1880, wasn't it, Bill?
Bill Maxwell: That's very funny.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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 »

Connections

Referenced in Family Guy: Believe It or Not, Joe's Walking on Air (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Believe It or Not
Written by Mike Post & Stephen Geyer
Performed by Joey Scarbury
(theme song)
See more »

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User Reviews

So much potential wasted…with one of the greatest American theme songs EVER…
7 February 2002 | by See all my reviews

`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.

Absolutely awesome!


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