The Greatest American Hero

The Greatest American Hero

When I was around 6 or 7, the local neighbourhood kids and I used to run around pretending we were our favourite super heroes. We wore towels around our necks but many of us weren’t trying to be Superman or Batman. We were the bumbling Ralph Hinkley, better known at the time as The Greatest American Hero.

I’ve recently been fortunate enough to acquire from ‘the Internet’ the whole of season 2 of the Stephen J. Cannell cult TV series. For those who aren’t quite sure, the show was about a humble school teacher who was given a super hero-type power suit by some aliens (of course), but the suit came without a manual. Hilarity ensues. If you’re still not sure, it was best known for it’s theme song “Believe it or Not (I’m walking on air)”. The program featured awkward and often not so funny in-an-80s-way humour, along with many doses of low budget blue-screen special effects of Ralph trying to fly (and inevitably crash landing).

Ralph was played by William Katt, also known for the House series of supernatural thrillers. The Greatest American Hero also starred Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell. Incidentally, Robert Culp starred opposite Bill Cosby in the original I Spy TV series (1965) and (for the game nerds out there) is a voice character in the much hyped Half-Life 2.

Anyway, here are more screen caps – I particularly like the last image featuring Ralph’s hero footwear. Part space boots, part rubber K-mart thongs.

Update (26/10/04): A piece of trivia I just stumbled across regarding The Greatest American Hero, as mentioned earlier, the main character’s name was Ralph Hinkley until it was changed to Ralph Hanley after President Ronald Reagan was shot by gun-toting nut John Hinckley, in a surprisingly unsuccessful attempt to impress Jodie Foster.

The Greatest American Hero

The Greatest American Hero


  1. now, i just saw a quick advert for the new t&a film – harold and anus – coming out soon, and i am preeety sure that the older side-kick guy in ‘greatest american hero’ who gets injured in every episode is making a come-back…i may be wrong, though – it was a very quick shot…

  2. is it just me or does everyone always get William Katt and Christopher Atkins confused. Atkins was the guy in Blue Lagoon… for years I thought they were the same person .. and that guy from ‘zapped’ & ‘charles in charge’ looks kinda similar…

  3. Yeah, that early 80s blonde mop top/afro thing will do it, but I really think it was Willie Aames, as you mentioned, from Zapped and Charles in Charge that really gets me confused with Christopher Atkins. Especially because he did that bad Blue Lagoon rip-off, Paradise. Incidentally, Pheobe Cates played the Brooke Shields equivalent in Paradise.

  4. Atkins also did an awful film called Shakma about a killer babboon… the guy in Carrie had the same afro style also…

  5. We’ve come full-circle as William Katt (Greatest American Hero) is the dude in Carrie.

  6. oops.. that was William Katt.. just checked the link above to his database entry

  7. feel like sharing? been trying to get GMH material for two weeks with little success!

  8. You could try your local P2P network, like say, BitTorrent.

  9. Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.

  10. Yep. Thanks for that relevant comment. Just for good measure I’ve removed the link to your link farm.

  11. man, he is the best and nastiest hero I have ever seen.

  12. This show had the most catchy theme song and I still find myself singing it. I remembered the song but forgot the name of the show!