Look at what's happened to me-ee. . .
I can't believe it myself.
Suddenly, I'm up on top of the world.
Should've been somebody e-e-e-e-lse. . .
Are you singing along yet? Then you know what today's subject is, don't you?
I recently returned to the magic of my youth by re-watching all of the episodes of The Greatest American Hero television show from the 80s. It was my favorite television show for the two to two-and-a-half years that it aired.
I was seven when the series first aired, so I was most drawn to the bright red suit, the flying, the throwing of bad guys into the air, and Connie Selleca. (I was seven, not a eunuch.)
Watching it now, I realize that there was a hidden meaning to the title The Greatest American Hero. Ralph worked as a special education teacher at the high school and he struggled to get through to his class of outcasts (Michael Paré and Faye Grant, among others) to help them turn their lives around. He was an idealist and an all-around decent guy, which is probably why he was chosen to wear the suit. Bill Maxwell represented the other side of America. A bit rough around the edges, Bill was a Korean War veteran and had committed his life to catching bad guys and bringing them to justice. Through the series, we find that Bill's got a pretty big heart himself.
Seeing the episodes again some 30 years later, I find that I am now more drawn to Ralph's struggles of trying to save the world and his corner of the world at the same time, Robert Culp's complex characterization of Bill Maxwell, and Connie Selleca. (Some things are not meant to change.)
I suppose when I was a kid, those were my favorite stories, because there was more flying and more super-powered stuff, but now my favorites are the stories where Ralph explores the ramifications of wearing the suit and where having the ability to fly and crash through walls can't solve every problem.
The cast most enjoyed those stories as well, and not just because William Katt hated the suit. (He really hated the suit.) Katt and company definitely understood that The Greatest American Hero wasn't really about the super-suit, and I now understand that, too.
There was talk of a movie a few years ago, but nothing seems to have materialized. Perhaps that's for the best. I worry that new writers and producers will focus more on the campiness of the costume than the
story of a man who suddenly becomes a superhero.
If you're feeling nostalgic for The Greatest American Hero, I think it's best to just stay with the original series.