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)
...
 Tony Villicana (30 episodes, 1981-1983)
...
 Rhonda Blake (28 episodes, 1981-1982)
...
 Cyler Johnson / ... (21 episodes, 1981-1983)
Don Cervantes ...
 Paco Rodriguez / ... (20 episodes, 1981-1983)
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Storyline

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 <muzzle@cs.uq.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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


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Details

Official Sites:

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Release Date:

18 March 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El gran héroe americano  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (43 episodes)

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Quotes

Bill Maxwell: And so we went to NewFOUNDland to make friends with all the whales and a bunch of little fishies
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Crazy Credits

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 »

Connections

Referenced in The Cinema Snob: The Body Shop (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

Believe It or Not
Written by Mike Post & Stephen Geyer
Performed by Joey Scarbury
(theme song)
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User Reviews

Smart and Entertaining...
12 September 2004 | by (Sacramento, CA) – See all my reviews

I remember The Greatest American Hero, I adored this hilarious series about ordinary guy Ralph Hinkley getting a magical supersuit from aliens (little green-guys) back in the 80's. Conceived by the legendary TV giant Stephen J. Cannell, this is the kind of show that when you think back on it gives you all kinds of warm and fuzzy feelings inside. It just makes you feel good and reminds you how wildly imaginative and cool television was in the 80's. I'm glad to see I'm not alone in remembering this show that was cut down way too early. 2 years on the air just wasn't enough. The Greatest American Hero was made in the early 80's, when the trials and tribulations of the 1970's were still somewhat fresh on peoples minds. After the Vietnam War, high gas prices, Nixon-Watergate, and two more lousy presidents, the very idea that a man in underwear and flaky cape could run around saving the world like Superman or Batman was seen as a complete joke. This was an original and great idea to explore. One word to describe the way the series approached this idea would be "smart", like Star Trek this show seemed to have a definitive intelligent and creative force behind it. It was more of a human drama/comedy then a straight up conventional superhero show. What would happen to a regular person if they were given a magical superhero outfit? What would happen if they lost the instruction manual and didn't know how to use the goofy looking costume? The way people treated Ralph (they thought he was a nut) when they saw him in his super suit is probably the way people would react in real life if they came across a man dressed as a superhero. This series never seemed to get its just dues back in the early 80's, OK so The Greatest American Hero wasn't Mozart or The Great Gatsby. It was middle brow entertainment like many other crime and adventure shows, but it was very well made middle brow entertainment. It was smart and the witty dialogue in this show rivals any of the "more adult" TV shows from it's time. I do remember getting grief from my older siblings and cousins who never got the joke of The Greatest American Hero for liking it, they would purposefully sing the theme song 'Believe it or Not' off key to annoy me, "Look at what's happened to me...". I so wanted to hit my older sister when she did that. Ralph wasn't a wimp he was an ordinary man put into extraordinary situations, so he reacted like a regular guy would. Hence his screaming like a banshee would he couldn't control the suit in mid air. Others here have pointed out the many problems The Greatest American Hero had to put up with during it's brief 2 years on the air, one I would like to mention was it was constantly yanked around on its schedule. It may be cliché to repeatedly call ABC or any other network 'villains' when talking about how they shafted a particular TV series, but in this case it really is true. In the beginning the series was perfectly aired on Wednesday nights, but then for whatever reason the network moved it to Thursday nights, and then finally it was shifted to the death slot of Friday nights were it was beat up in the ratings by the real kids shows like The Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider. The Greatest American Hero was written with children in mind but was not soley targeted at kids. Without a teenage to adult audience to sustain it, the series died a quiet death at the hands of ABC. I hope that one day we see a return of The Greatest American Hero.


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