For tv viewers of the 1980s, being a superhero wasn’t all rescues and dangerous situations – sometimes it came with laughs like on The Greatest American Hero.
Produced by Stephen J. Cannell, the series launched with a two hour movie, introducing William Katt as Ralph Hinkley, a teacher who is given a red superhero suit by aliens after being in the desert.
FBI agent Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp) is saved by Hinkley and together the two discovers the suit has superhero powers. Hinkley loses the instruction booklet and has to figure out the powers on his own with the help of Maxwell, who were told by the aliens to save the world.
Pam Davidson (Connie Selleca) is Hinkley’s friend, then girlfriend, then wife, who also helps the two figure out how to save people, and aids in the comedy side of the weekly capers.
Debuting in March 1981 on ABC TV, the series did well, with its theme song, Believe it or Not by Mike Post landing on the Billboard Hot 100.
Due to the assassination attempt on US President Reagan by William Hinkley, the character’s name was changed to Hanley, and his students often referred to him as Mr. H to avoid any connection in the public’s mind.
For three seasons, the silliness of being a superhero was shown on the weekly series – but by 1983, the ratings weren’t as good and the series was cancelled.
I knew so many who watched this show – loving the mix of superhero power and comedy. And for the early 1980s, this series snuck into the schedule, allowing the satire to be the focus instead of the drama.