Tubesday: The Greatest American Hero

Every Tuesday I write about the television shows I watched growing up and I watched a LOT of tv. Ask my retinas.

Greatest American HeroLike most boys, I was enamored with things like athletes, martial artists and, yes, comic book heroes. When The Greatest American Hero hit the airwaves, I was immediately hooked.

GAH ran from 1981-83 on ABC and starred William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie (John Tesh) Sellecca. The show creator was the prolific Stephen J. Cannell, who created other action-oriented 80’s shows like The A-Team, Hunter and 21 Jump Street.

GAH told the story of Katt, a school teacher, who discovers a suit from outer space that gives him super powers when he wears it. The only problem is he didn’t get the manual and learning to use his powers, which include flying, invisibility, super strength among other things, is a disaster, particularly the flying part. Think Jackie Chan in The Tuxedo.

On second thought, don’t think of that. In fact, just erase that from your memory. Whew. That was close.

Culp, a veteran tv actor most recently seen playing Ray Ramano’s father-in-law on Everybody Loves Raymond, is a tough FBI agent who is with Katt in the desert when they find the suit. The two are told by aliens via the car stereo to use the suit to save the world. This entails fighting bad guys and looking like total jackasses, apparently.

Katt played your typical late 70’s shaggy-haired sort-of hippie do gooder. He was a good guy who wore square knit ties and tried to teach his students, a bunch of at-risk kids led by Michael Pare, right and wrong, but he certainly isn’t cut out to be a hero. I wondered years later if Katt’s character was at all modeled on John Ritter’s character from the terrible movie Hero at Large, where Ritter, an out of work actor, accidentally foils a robbery wearing a superhero costume that looks an awful lot like the GAH costume and ends up fighting crime…badly. Katt and Ritter’s characters were pretty similar in personality and their names each had two t’s in them – coincidence?

See, this is what happens when you watch too much tv and have cable at an early age. You watch entirely too many television shows and bad movies. I have an entire list of B movies from that era I want to get on DVD. You don’t want to know.

GAH only made it a couple seasons before ABC pulled the plug. Ironically, the show’s theme song “Believe It or Not” went to #2 on the Billboard charts and stayed in the top 40 for 18 weeks, a much more successful run than the show itself, which must be incredibly rare. The theme song even got a nod on Seinfeld when George recorded used the theme for his answering machine greeting:

Believe it or not, George isn’t at home.
Leave a message at the beep.
I must be out or I’d pick up the phone.
Where could I be?
Believe it or not, I’m not home.

GAH hit in that perfect era of television viewing for me, the early 80’s. I was too young to care about girls (or do anything about it even if I did), but old enough to stay up past 8pm. Sweet!

To this day, I have really fond memories of GAH and, let’s face it, Connie Sellecca was HOT!

Get Yourself a GAH T-Shirt or, better yet, GET ME ONE!!! (XL please!)

  5 Replies to “Tubesday: The Greatest American Hero”

  1. February 24, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I’ve already tweeted that this was one of my favorite shows as a kid but it bears repeating. And oh man, they don’t make theme songs like that any more.

    And ROBERT CULP. How could you not LOVE him? Bill was such a perfect foil for Ralph.

    This makes me want to have a VHS marathon next time I’m at my parents’ house.

    You must do a post about Scarecrow and Mrs. King. for SRSLY.

  2. Katya
    February 24, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Alright, alright…can’t do this without a more complete “where are they now” section. William Katt found himself on another short-lived television show a decade later, one that, for better or for worse, I watched on regularly — Models, Inc. He also continued to do television bit parts, most recently, playing “Jim McCann” in the first episode of “Heroes.” Interestingly enough, he’s currently in pre-production on a horror flick — “Room and Board.” And because it ain’t Hollywood if it doesn’t come full circle — he’ll be starring alongside fellow GAH alum, Michael Pare. How’s that for post-script!

  3. Jeff
    February 24, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Scarecrow and Ms. King was one my mom watched so, as a result, I watched it too. Not sure if it will make the first batch, but I’m sure Bruce Boxleitner will make it eventually. 🙂

  4. Jeff
    February 24, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Good stuff. I forgot the Greatest American Hero was on Heroes. Ironic. I think I’ll add a Where are They Now section to future posts.

  5. February 25, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Believe it or not, it’s just me.

    Wow – this, along with Air Wolf, was one of my abfav shows to watch as a kiddo. I still love it.

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