The Greatest American
Hero: Season 2

The Greatest American Hero: Season 2

The stories in The Greatest American Hero:
Season 2 are more varied than the first

The Greatest American Hero: Season 2

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The Greatest American Hero: Season 2

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One of my personal guilty pleasures has always been Greatest American Hero. There was something appealing on an emotional level with this series, reminiscent of playing super hero as a child.

Almost everyone my age has done that as a kid, pull on a towel for a cape and pretend to be super powerful. With Greatest American Hero Ralph (William Katt) actually gets to make good on this fantasy when a race of aliens gives him a red suite that endows him with extraordinary abilities. The thing is he lost the instruction book, another humanizing trait! Ralph is partnered with a broken down FBI agent in the twilight of his career, Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp). Along with Ralph’s girlfriend Pam (Connie Sellecca) the trio take on crime and injustice.

After a brief first season of The Greatest American Hero the network bought in to a full twenty two episode second season. Now that the fan base was familiar with the basic back story of the main characters the writers where free to explore the growing interaction between them. Bill is constantly in trouble with his FBI superiors. Desperate to make something out of his waning career he wants to use the suite’s powers to go big, fight communism and other world threats. Ralph on the other hand wants to help the little guy, the regular person that is being victimized in some way or another. Since Ralph is the only one able to use the suite he does have a modicum of control over what is to be done. Caught in the middle is Pam, a lawyer and girl friend of Ralph, some of the best scenes are the comical disputes between her and Bill. The Greatest American Hero: Season 2 is a series that derived its comedy and its appeal through contrasts. Ralph is a true child of the love generation, looking at everything through humane eyes. Bill is straight and patriotic to a fault. He has spent his life in defense of his country and now wants to make a big splash. The thing is both men are more alike than they would ever want to admit. Both are driven by their ideals.

The stories in The Greatest American Hero: Season 2 are more varied than the first. In one episode Ralph and Bill meet a tycoon that once had the suite. He used his powers to gain power and money only to have it taken away by the little green guys. We see the dark side of such abilities here and how Ralph’s loosing the instructions was actually a good thing, preventing him from being corrupted by the power. We also get to see Ralph’s mother played by William Katt’s real life mom, Barbara Hale. This little inside joke created a new, recurring character for The Greatest American Hero: Season 2 one that just added more stress to poor Ralph’s life. There was also a touch of the paranoia about the government that was so prevalent in the early eighties. One episode took on the concept of MAD, mutually assured destruction, a doomsday weapon that would annihilate the Soviet Union in case they nuked us out of existence. There was also a stealth plane that Pam happened to be on. When it was taken over the government would rather destroy it then let it fall into enemy hands. There is also a great, very funny episode where Ralph is kidnapped by a gang of really stupid bikers. One tries on the suite and breaks bones jumping off the roof.

In The Greatest American Hero: Season 2 Ralph does get to refine some of his abilities. While he can fly better landings are still a problem. He also learns that he can turn invisible and receive holograms of events about to happen. Ralph also learns that he has telekinesis, the ability to move objects with is mind. Of course this usually leads to less than optimum results. This is typical of the super hero genre, adding new abilities and letting the old ones grow. Here it is treated with the same tongue in check fashion that created the now happy fan base.

The three main cast members really get a chance to shin in The Greatest American Hero: Season 2. Each is permitted a chance to grow with their characters. William Katt instills a quiet humanity to Ralph, almost always humble even though he was in possession of such great power. Culp plays Bill as a fully developed human being instead of taking the easy way out with a caricature of a bull headed FBI agent. He gives us a man facing the last job he will have before being forced into the inevitable retirement. He is afraid that he will not leave a legacy behind in the FBI. Sellecca could have just been the eye candy to balance out the male cast. Instead she epitomizes the professional woman of the early eighties. Smart, resourceful and self assured she can retain her femininity in a male dominated world. There was great chemistry between these three actors and it came across nicely on screen. One reason for the cult status of The Greatest American Hero: Season 2 is just how well these people sell their characters.

No one in Hollywood could take a premise that seems bizarre on paper and make it into a cult classic like Stephen J. Cannell. Between The Greatest American Hero, A-Team and 21 Jump Street he could take something simple and make the television audience embrace it whole heartedly. While many dismiss The Greatest American Hero: Season 2 you have to remember that it was nominated for Emmys in original music and editing. The Greatest American Hero: Season 2 was professional done with serious people handling the production. Speaking of music this was integral to the show in every episode. Original music was done by Stephen Geyer and Joey Scarbury, the later performing the title song and much of the music heard in The Greatest American Hero: Season 2.

It’s great that Anchor Bay seems to be behind bringing The Greatest American Hero: Season 2 to DVD. Many like my self have episodes on well worn tapes and are glad for the upgrade. The video does show some signs of wear, a few flecks now and again but nothing major. The re-mix for the original mono audio into Dolby two channel was done nicely providing a reasonable sound stage. Two down, one to go, lets just hope that after the first two seasons of The Greatest American Hero being released in rather rapid succession we get the third season, including the unaired episodes, soon so we can have the complete series.

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