Some television series have heavy plots, involved story lines that require in depth analysis, others strive just to entertain the audience for an hour.
This series was in that later category. Now, there is nothing wrong with this at all, most of us really need a break from reality and a little side trip to the fantastic.
This series tuned right into the little kid in us all, back when we pretended to be Superman with a towel and a magic marker drawn ‘S’ on the chest. Greatest American Hero is a cult classic because it never pretended to be anything more than just a fun show.
For a couple of years now Ralph Hinkley (William Katt) has tried his best to help people on both a large and small scale. With his partner Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp) and his girlfriend Pam Davidson (Connie Sellecca) the trio used the magical powers of Ralph’s extraterrestrial super suit to always save the day.
As The Greatest American Hero: Season 3 begins there are signs of stress in the small group. Bill and Ralph are constantly arguing. Bill needs the suit to help him solve high profile cases that will advance his sagging career at the FBI. Ralph wants a more personal approach to saving people. When they break up it takes a return visit from the aliens to show them literal fate of the world is in their hands so they have to just suck it up and do their best.
This first episode of The Greatest American Hero: Season 3 set the stage for stories that where more concerned with the interpersonal relationships of the group. In a later episode Pam expresses her doubts that her relationship with Ralph can work as long as he has the burden of the suit. Eventually the pair become engaged and just before the series was cancelled, married.
William Katt’s real life mother Barbara Hale, reprises her part as Ralph’s mother.
The Greatest American Hero: Season 3 had the typical mixture of master villain plots and help for the individual. This did serve to keep the stories interesting although most of the plots where standard television faire.
The Greatest American Hero: Season 3 was at its best with scenes between the three main characters. There was a good chemistry in this bunch that never failed to entertain. Watching them cope with Ralph’s growing powers made The Greatest American Hero: Season 3. As Ralph discovered he could shrink, get holographic images and become invisible. Each new ability resulted in some form of tension in the little group. This grounded a basic fantasy with something the audience could relate to.
There was an emotional heart to The Greatest American Hero: Season 3 that without a doubt made it a cult favorite even after all these years. Kids watching would enjoy the fantasy aspect of the plot while the adults could easily forget the cares of the day to day world and return to that simpler time playing with that towel tied around out necks. While some of the stories presented in The Greatest American Hero: Season 3 are rather silly they are always fun to watch.
William Katt is a talented, working actor who while he never really hit it big always gave his all to any project he worked on. After The Greatest American Hero he joined his mother in a resurrection of the Perry Mason mysteries and he was excellent in the stage play brought to the screen, Pippin.
As Ralph he gave and idealistic twist to a man with super human powers. He was usually humble, likeable and always eager to help others. He represented a very human superman, one we all could identify with.
Robert Culp is another extremely talented actor that adds so much to The Greatest American Hero: Season 3. He was no stranger to television science fiction having been in a number of the best episodes of the original Outer Limits. His presentation of Bill is also a humanistic one.
The eighties where a time of layoffs, financial instability and many being afraid for their jobs. This was reflected nicely in Bill Maxwell. Culp presented him as a man who always wanted to be in the FBI but after many years of service have found his career stagnating. He will never get the attention he has worked so hard to garner and the suit is ticket to better things.
Culp and Katt create characters with a symbiotic relationship out of which a true friendship ultimately grows. Connie Sellecca provides the character that has to emotionally balance this odd couple, Pam. She approaches Pam as a young woman that wants both her career as a lawyer and a family.
Instead of being relegated to just the pretty face of the show Sellecca adds to the mix and helped the emotional tone of The Greatest American Hero: Season 3. By loving Ralph she also has to deal with the suit and Bill, something she never imaged as such an important aspect of her life.
While several directors took the helm for individual episodes Ivan Dixon was the most frequently to sit in the director’s chair. Most will know the name from Hogan’s Heroes but Dixon has a large resume directing television series such as The A-Team, Airwolf, Quantum Leap and Quincy. His episodes are among the best presented in The Greatest American Hero: Season 3 offerings.
He never takes the takes things too seriously; the treatment is lighthearted entertainment that the whole family can enjoy together. The last episode of The Greatest American Hero: Season 3, which went unaired, was directed by Robert Culp and he did a very good job at it.
Anchor Bay didn’t fall into the pattern so many studios have, making the fans wait up to a year between season sets. The Greatest American Hero: Season 1 came out in February with The Greatest American Hero: Season 2 following in April and now August brings The Greatest American Hero: Season 3.
The full screen video is fairly clean with only an occasional white speak marring the picture.
The Dolby two channel mono audio gets the job done with a reasonable audio range.
The real downside for the die-hard fans is the episodes are not presented in the original broadcast order. The placement on the four discs appears to be almost random. The DVD is plain vanilla, there is a little booklet included titled ‘How I Helped the Greatest American Hero’ by Richard Coyle, the prop maker for the show. The box plays the theme song when the cover is pressed, on the copy I received for preview this only worked the first time.
With that being said The Greatest American Hero: Season 3 is something that every fan will prize; we now have all the episodes on DVD.
As mentioned, the order on the DVD is not the original broadcast order. Here is how The Greatest American Hero: Season 3 should be seen:
by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com
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