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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Top 20 TV Theme Songs from Genre Series, part 2 of 2

Music is often an integral part of a TV show, especially the opening theme. Last week, I shared ten of my favorite, most memorable themes from sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure series of the past few decades. As promised, this week we continue by easing our way into the 1980s and up to the present. I hope you enjoy them, especially if you’re old enough to remember watching some of these yourself.

Are we ready? Continuing in chronological order…

11) The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982)

The “Lonely Man” ending theme was particularly poignant and memorable, too.

 

12) Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988)

 

13) The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983)

 

14) Knight Rider (1982-1986)

 

15) The A-Team (1983-1987)

 

16) Miami Vice (1984-1990)

 

17) Star Trek: TNG (1987-1994)

 

18) Quantum Leap (1989-1993)

 

19) The X-Files (1993-)

 

20) Game of Thrones (2011-)

 

There you have ’em! Wow, that brought back a lot of good memories, going through all of those plus several I left out! And, since I couldn’t even bring myself to stop at twenty, here are five more honorable mentions:  Return of the Saint (1978-1979), The Fall Guy (1981-1986), Airwolf (1984-1986), Babylon 5 (1994-1998), Alias (2001-2006)

Now, when am I gonna find the time to track down and binge-watch these shows again…?

“The Greatest American Hero” Gets a Reboot

“Believe it or not, I’m walkin’ on air…”

High-school teacher Ralph Hinkley (or, Hanley, briefly) was one of the most neurotic, unconfident, out-of-his-element heroes ever imagined, but we all loved him. (“We” being those of us who used to watch his bumbling exploits back in the 1980s.) Part of that affection may have been because, as with heroes like Peter Parker, we could somewhat identify with him. He was just a regular guy, who was given certain abilities and responsibilities against his will, and he is struggling to deal with them the best he can. Yeah. Sounds kinda familiar….

Pam, Ralph, & Bill

Pam, Ralph, & Bill

Of course, the “exploits” I’m talking about were chronicled in 44 episodes of the wonderfully hokey TV series “The Greatest American Hero” from 1981-1983, created by Stephen J. Cannell and starring William Katt as our reluctant hero. Robert Culp played Ralph’s federal agent handler, Bill Maxwell, and Connie Sellecca was his girlfriend, Pam. Supporting roles went to a small group of Ralph’s semi-delinquent students, including my faves, Michael Paré as Tony and Faye Grant (who went on to star in the original “V” series) as Rhonda.

Now, it sounds as if the show will be getting a reboot on Fox. Writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie) will be two of the executive producers and are writing the pilot, which will likely be a TV movie. (Cannell’s daughter, TV director Tawnia McKiernan, will also be an executive producer.) As usual, I have some concerns about casting and the overall tone & feel of the new show. Part of my apprehension is due to the juvenile nature of the 21 Jump Street movie. On the other hand, I understand that The LEGO Movie was quite clever and a lot of fun.

I’m not expecting clones of the original cast or duplicate plots for the episodes — that would be silly. (In fact, many of the original stories and plot-elements were rather silly.) I understand there will be differences, but I want to see and hear something familiar, too. I hope they can reproduce the humor in the characters, their relationships, and the predicaments Ralph finds himself in that made the original show charming and so much fun. For example, the fact that Ralph lost the user’s manual for the “red pajamas”, Agent Maxwell’s by-the-book uptightness (which gradually softens), the love and support between Ralph and Pam — these things should not be altered! The good news is that initial reports have at least the first two being preserved in the reboot. The central character will also still be an inner-city high school teacher. Although, for some odd reason, they’re changing his name to “Isaac”.

There was some good chemistry between the original actors that made even the goofiness enjoyable. I am open to there being less goofiness and a bit more seriousness, but keep the main elements that made the original successful. OK?

I am looking forward to the new show; though, as usual with such things, I remain cautiously optimistic. If the reboot is decent, let’s pray that it doesn’t fall to the Fox “curse” and get cancelled before it has a chance to find its legs and gather a following….

Here are the original series’ opening credits — with the hit theme song, written by Mike Post & sung by Joey Scarbury — to help put you all in the mood: