“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 ParĂ© 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: