The Greatest American Heroine?

Y’know, when I heard that the newest version of Doctor Who was going to be female, I had a somewhat mixed reaction. On the one hand, it seemed like a bold step, given the character’s long history as a male, and you know how I hate to mess with well-established characters. On the other hand, I don’t know enough about the Doctor to know if his/her/its species — he’s not exactly human, right? — can change genders or have no real gender or… something. So, maybe such a change isn’t unheard of for them. (This is science fiction, after all.) Also, I am a little bit familiar with the actress who will portray the new Doctor — Jodie Whittaker (“Broadchurch”, “The Assets”) — and I’m sure she’ll do a bang-up job. In the end, though, since I’m not a Whovian and thus not emotionally invested in the show or character, I don’t really care all that much, to be honest.

But, this is a different story. “This” being the announcement that the reboot-in-development for “The Greatest American Hero” will feature a female protagonist. Plus, other changes.

“I am open to there being less goofiness and a bit more seriousness, but keep the main elements that made the original successful. OK?” — me, previous post about the reboot

You may remember that I wrote about a planned reboot 3 years ago, wherein I expressed my affection for the original show from the early 1980s and my “cautious optimism” for the reboot. Not much was known (or decided) at the time, but it did sound like the producers were going for something pretty similar in both setting and tone to the original. Aside from wondering why they decided to rename the central character “Isaac”, this was welcome news.

The latest news, however, has me quite concerned….

The first issue is that the main character will now be female. Please, don’t assume I’m sexist or something when I say that I’m not crazy about this idea. It’s just that I generally don’t like drastic changes to established characters, even for reboots or “re-imaginings”. However, I have to admit that the original creators decided to go that way back in the day. The original series was canceled by ABC, and the last-filmed episode was not aired (though it did eventually air in 1986 and is included in the DVD set). Here’s the Wiki summary for that episode, which introduced Mary Ellen Stuart as “Holly Hathaway”, the new G.A.H. (see pic below):

“The aliens tell Ralph to find a suitable replacement for himself when his secret identity is revealed to the world. Much to Bill’s disgust he selects a woman to be his successor.”

It was supposed to be a backdoor pilot for NBC’s planned takeover of the property and spinning off “The Greatest American Heroine”. But, plans fell through.

Stuart in the super-suit (1983)

If 20th Century TV (who own the rights) had gone with this passing-of-the-torch (or “red PJ’s”) idea, keeping a similar tone & format as the original but with a female protagonist, I think I could have gotten on board. But, writer/producers Rachna Fuchbom and Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh Off the Boat), whose Fierce Baby production company will co-produce with ABC Studios, have decided to go a very different direction. (Mandy Summers and Tawnia McKiernan will also be executive producers.)

The new lead will be “Meera”, a 30-year-old Indian-American from Cleveland who “specializes in drinking tequila and singing karaoke. Great skills in the social realm, sure, but not exactly heroic.” Then, of course, aliens give her a super-suit and, presumably, hilarity and awkwardness ensue. Also,

“It will be a single-camera half hour project, and while it is going to have some of the comedic tones of its predecessor, it will also differentiate itself in some big ways.”

I’m not entirely sure if those “big ways” refer only to the “Meera” character or if there’s more, but I am concerned that this will be a complete screw-up of a great, fun concept. Where’s the “odd couple” pairing with a by-the-book agent? Plus, it sounds more like a sitcom than anything. On the other hand, we don’t really know all that many details, and there hasn’t been any casting, yet. It might actually work, I suppose. Let’s just say, I’m not holding my breath on this one.

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