The 1980s was a simpler time. With simpler ideas of what a hero should be, and how TV should be too.
The Greatest American Hero was an 1980’s action comedy that centered around Ralph Hinkley, an unassuming high school teacher, who one day is given a suit from a race of aliens that grants him a wide range of super abilities, including flight, super strength, speed, invisibility, and E.S.P. (And Ralph would often discover a new power, as episodes needed.) The suit came complete with all the trappings of a super-hero, Big emblem on the chest, a cape, and it even came with instructions… which Ralph promptly lost.
If part of this story sounds familiar, it should. It’s Green Lantern (the Silver Age, Hal Jordan version) with comedy. Created by 80’s TV icon Stephen J, Cannell (The A-Team, Hardcastle and McCormick, Hunter) the show starred Broadway actor William Katt (not to be confused with Katt Williams, the comedian) as Ralph, Connie Sellecca as his lawyer girlfriend, Pam Davidson, and I-Spy star, Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell, who discovers Ralph, and uses him to solve his cases.
The series was never a big hit, only running 2 1/2 season on ABC between 1981 and 1983, and brief attempt to reboot the series a few years later with a young woman taking over the suit from Ralph. But it to this day it still has its fans. It was even finally turned into a comic book in 2008. The show was campy, fun, and a little naïve. Over its run Ralph and Bill took on crooks trying to fix baseball games, rock promoters who are also terrorists, and is probably best remembered for its theme song, rather than any one episode.
Now film producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie, 22 Jump Street) are developing a new series based on the show. According to Deadline, a 1 hour pilot has been written by one of 22 Jump Street’s screenwriters, Rodney Rathman. He, Lord, Miller and original producer Cannell’s daughter, Tawnia McKiernan will all be Executive Producers. The pilot reportedly follow the basic premise of the original series. School teacher, Issac, discovers supersuit with no instructions, will team up with a Federal Agent, and try to use the suit to help people. The series has a put pilot order from Fox, which shows the network has confidence in the concept and the producers, since they would have to pay penalties if they don’t pick up the show.
Now as a fan of the original, I do hope that Lord, Miller and company keep some of the series’ optimism. A little more Lego Movie, than 22 Jump Street, please.