Cult TV Essentials

Cult TV Essentials: The Greatest American Hero

The Greatest American Hero was an American comedy-drama television series that aired for three seasons between 1981 to 1983. It was created by producer Stephen J. Cannell. It starred William Katt as teacher Ralph Hinkley (“Hanley” for the latter part of the first season), Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell, and Connie Sellecca as lawyer Pam Davidson.

Ralph is a Los Angeles public school teacher of special education high school students who have behavioural issues. His class includes Faye Grant (V) and Michael Paré (Eddie and the Cruisers, The Philadelphia Experiment). Ralph is determined to teach something so takes them on a “geological survey” field trip to the desert. Coming back from the field trip later that night, the school bus breaks down. Ralph starts to walk back through the desert to get help and encounters a swerving car driven by FBI Special Agent Bill Maxwell (Culp) that stops just in time to avoid hitting Hinkley. Maxwell insists that he could not control the car.

An alien spacecraft appears and the aliens tell Ralph and Bill (by way of the car radio) that they are to work together to save the world from its own destruction and Ralph will be given the power to change it. They are given a black case. Ralph takes the case, but drops a component which later turns out to be the instruction manual. Later Ralph opens the case and finds a red suit (with cape), which endows him with superhuman abilities. Pam Davidson is an attorney who handled Ralph’s divorce and later becomes his wife. She often joins Ralph and Bill on their adventures.

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