Every now and again a show comes along that on the surface probably isn’t that great. Still, something about it endears itself to you, and you might never completely understand it yourself. The Greatest American Hero is one of those shows. Created by the same man who created James Rockford, Stephen Cannell, The Greatest American Hero was a welcome change to the run of hero shows that preceded it. Robert Culp is pure genius as “by the book” FBI agent Bill Maxwell. Connie Sellecca delivers a little more than scenery or…sidekick value. William Katt is a nice fit for the quirky teacher turned superhero. Of course, who could forget the hit theme song “Believe it or Not”? It’s amusing to find Ralph Hinkley asking his students not to call him Mr. H. When John Hinkley shot President Reagan, the show’s producers decided to limit the character’s name references to Mr. H. Later the last name would be changed to Henley.
Ralph Hinkley (Katt) is in the desert with his troubled high school class and a depressed FBI agent, Bill Maxwell (Culp). A flying saucer delivers a superhero suit to Ralph and asks the two men to work together to fight evil. Ralph loses the instruction manual. Together they must fight the bad guys while trying to learn exactly how to use the superpowers of the suit.
The provided audio track is a muddled mono and stereo mix. There is a good amount of high-end hiss and distortion. The dialogue is easy to hear for the most part, but you will find an occasional line drowned out by overdriven background noises. The Joey Scarbury hit theme song comes through pleasantly in each episode’s opening credits. (The pilot does not contain the opening credit sequence.)
Each episode of The Greatest American Hero is presented in its original broadcast 1.33:1 full frame format. Unfortunately the prints must have been in pretty bad shape. There is a lot of grain and specks throughout the series. The colors are bright for the most part. The red suit looks pretty good. There aren’t any rich black details, mostly because of the grain. My guess is this is as good as it gets. The show is old and not particularly successful. I’d say we’re lucky to get what we have here.
The best feature is the inclusion of another pilot called “The Greatest American Heroine”. I was an original fan of the show but unaware this spinoff pilot had been made. It was a pleasure to see something new, at least to me.
There is over an hour of interviews, much of it pretty recent. All of the primary players are here: William Katt, Robert Culp, Connie Sellecca, and Stephen Cannell.
If you have seen the show, you probably already know if you want these DVDs or not. This was a very original premise. The stories were a bit quirky but always fun. The show lasted only about two and a half years on and off. The second and only full season is on the way. The show should also be noted for the lack of anything but comical violence. If anyone got killed it was not onscreen. This is definitely a show you can share with the little ones “Believe it or not”.
Special Features List
- The unaired pilot for The Greatest American Heroine spin-off series
- Brand new interviews (75 mins) with: Stephen J. Cannell, William Katt, Connie Selleca, Robert Culp, Michael Pare