The Greatest American Hero (1981 – 1983)
The Greatest American Hero was a lighthearted drama and another one of those underrated eighties gems that doesn’t get the love it deserves. It’s biggest claim to fame is probably the fact that it had one of the most memorable theme songs of the era, but the show beneath the music is worth remembering too.
William Katt plays Ralph, a school teacher whose students appear to defy the regularities of society, because they are all at least five years removed from having any right to appear as such. Ralph is accosted by a spacecraft while he is leading his unfortunate (or perhaps, not so) class trip of young adults into the desert. He is then given a special alien suit imbued with superpowers and instructed to use it to fight crime on Earth… because, of course he is.
To be fair, as TV premises go, it’s a little on the hokey side and fairly rough around the edges, but it’s enough to get the show off and running. The Greatest American Hero benefits from a good supporting cast including Robert Culp as an FBI agent and unwilling partner, and the aesthetically appealing Connie Sellecca as his lawyer and long-running love interest.
On one hand it’s fall into relative obscurity is understandable: The Greatest American Hero only lasted 40 episodes, so it had probably been and gone before a lot of people even realised. On the other hand it was really the first original show to tackle (and poke fun at) the ‘everyman superhero’ idea that now seems to be commonplace.