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The Greatest American Hero - Season One



DVD Release Date: February 15th, 2005 (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
color/approx. 417 minutes
MSRP: $29.98
Number of discs: 3
Number of episodes: 8
Languages and subtitles: English, Closed Captioned
Special features: The unaired pilot for The Greatest American Heroine spin-off series; Brand-New Interviews (75 Mins.) with: Stephen J. Cannell, Willliam Katt, Robert Culp, Connie Sellecca, and Michael Pare


Believe it or not - The Greatest American Hero is on DVD! William Katt stars as mild-mannered high school teacher Ralph Hinkley whose close encounter with aliens leaves him with a super-power suit that only he can control. But when Ralph loses the instruction manual, the safety of mankind is left in his fumbling hands. Now with the help of his attorney girlfriend Pam Davidson (Connie Sellecca) and FBI agent Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp), the world's most unlikely flying crime fighter is ready for action. It's a bird! It's a plane! It's... The Greatest American Hero! Michael Pare and Faye Grant co-star in the Emmy-nominated '80s hit created by Stephen J. Cannell. This collection features every first season episode - including the Emmy-nominated pilot - plus all-new interviews with the show's stars and the unaired pilot for the proposed spin-off series The Greatest American Heroine.

The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC on March 18, 1981 and would run until February 3, 1983. A total of 44 episodes were produced during the 3 seasons the show was on the air. I don't think it can really be called a sitcom. It was a hour long drama with some comedy. Some would call it a dramedy. The series, and writer Stephen J. Cannell received an Emmy nomination in 1981 for "Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series," Stephen J. Cannell, for the pilot episode. The show was nominated a total of 4 times in the comedy category. William Katt's character's last name was changed during the series run, from Hinkley to Hanley, because of the name's negative connection with John Hinckley's attempt on the life of Ronald Reagan. It was changed back during the second season after the furor over his last name died down. In the summer of 1981, the show's theme song "Believe It Or Not" by Joey Scarbury went to #1 on the Billboard charts.

Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

All 8 episodes are included from the 1st season which ran in the spring of 1981. The episodes are presented in their original broadcast order and include: Pilot (2 hour episode), The Hit Car, Here's Looking at You Kid, Saturday Night On Sunset Boulevard, Reseda Rose, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, Fire Man, and The Best Desk Scenario. Some notable first season guest stars included Richard Herd, Kene Holliday, June Lockhart, and Danny Glover as a patrolman several years prior to hitting it big in the Lethal Weapon series.


The dvd cover art features a photo of Connie Sellecca, William Katt, and Robert Kulp with The Greatest American Hero symbol with a glossy all red background. The back of the box gives a brief summary of the show and lists the special features along with 3 smaller photos of Katt, Culp, and Sellecca. There are 2 slimcases that house the 3 discs. The first slimcase has a photo of William Katt and Connie Sellecca while the second features Robert Culp. Both cases have various alien symbols on the bottom and have an overall black background. Short episode summaries and the titles are listed on the back. The inside of the cases are just plain white. This seemed like a lost opportunity. I think they could have put in some interesting trivia about the show or cast to add to the set. The actual discs are red, white, and black and feature the Greatest American Hero symbol. The first slimcase holds discs 1 and 2. Disc 1 contains the first 3 episodes and disc 2 contains episodes 4-6. Disc 3 has episodes 7-8 along with The Greatest American Heroine pilot and the 75 minutes of brand-new interviews with the creator and cast of the show. Also, included in the case is an eight-page insturctions manual which gives some background information on the show and features a photo of Sellecca, Katt, and Culp and another solo shot of Katt.

Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are very sharp looking and easy to navigate. When you play the discs, they start with the Anchor Bay Entertainment logo followed by a recent Stephen J. Cannell logo. I'm sure you all remember the logo where he is at the typewriter and he throws the paper over his head. Several seconds of video clips from the pilot episode where Ralph and Bill are in the car and they see the spaceship are shown before a ray of lights shines down. This leads to the main menu where there is a flying saucer at the top of the screen and below it some scenes from various episodes are played. On the right side of the screen, there is a red and white Greatest American Hero logo and the episode titles are listed vertically. The show's "Believe It Or Not" theme song is played in the background for the duration of the menu (1 minute, 33 seconds) and then it loops and starts again. There is a Play All button or you can play the episodes individually. A red, white, and blue Greatest American Hero logo flashes briefly during transitions in the menus. There is a sub-menu with scene selections for the episodes. There are 7 scene selections for the pilot and 5 for the rest of the episodes. The sub-menus features short video clips from a scene from the episode while a portion of the theme song is played in the background. The scene selections are highlighed with a red box that turns blue when you select a scene.

Video and Audio Quality:

The video and audio quality seemed great for a series from 23-24 years ago. The last time I can remember seeing the show in syndication was around 1995 on fX. These episodes certainly look much better than some syndication prints that I've seen in the past. There is some occasional dust and debris that you see with shows shot on film, but there doesn't appear to be any major problems with these discs. Many scenes were shot on location outdoors and they look very colorful and vibrant. The audio is in dolby digital stereo and it sounds fine. Believe It Or Not has never sounded better. All episodes appear to be uncut running around 49 minutes with the 2 hour pilot clocking in at around 1 hour, 35 minutes without commercial interruption. I am really not familiar with the original music used in the show, but from what I've read on several fan sites there are several music changes on these episodes. This is probably due to licensing costs to obtain the rights to the original music. I don't think the changes will affect your viewing pleasure of this set. Closed-captioning is available for all of the episodes.

Special Features:

Several nice bonus features are included with this set. In 1986, they made the pilot "The Greatest American Heroine", where Ralph hands over both the suit and Bill to student/foster mother Holly Hathaway (played by future soap star Mary Ellen Stuart). William Katt and Connie Sellecca appeared in the first half of the episode and Robert Culp appears during the whole show. Also starring in the episode were Mya Akerling, John Zee, Jerry Potter, and Wayne Grace. This episode never aired on ABC, but has aired during the syndication run of the show at the end of the series. I found that the audio is not as loud and there is a slight hiss in the episode that I didn't notice in the other episodes on the set. Whitney Houston's song "Greatest Love of All" is used in the episode. Mary Ellen Stuart looked cute in the suit, but somehow I don't think this show would have had a long run. The chemistry William Katt and Robert Culp had was just not there.

There are 75 minutes of brand-new interviews with the cast and crew on disc 3. You can play the interviews all together or individually. The sub-menus are similar to the episode selections. Stephen J. Cannell's segment runs 20 minutes, 4 seconds. He talks at what appears to be his office. He gives some background information on how he was asked to do a superhero series by ABC. Other topics include the casting, the design of the suit, the budget of the pilot episode, and other various production details. He mentioned that he is developing a Greatest American Hero theatrical movie at Disney which would be great to see. William Katt talks for 10 minutes, 35 seconds. He is in a studio where they conducted the interviews with the cast members that has a red, white, and blue background. William talks about how he was cast in the show, how he didn't like the suit, how the work was very physical and they used a stunt double, and that most people remember him as Ralph. He still has his hair, although it is not as curly. Robert Culp talks for 16 minutes, 6 seconds. He looks great at age 74. He talks mostly about his Bill Maxwell character. It seemed he genuinely liked his time on the show and was disappointed that the show was cancelled. Connie Sellecca is interviewed for 16 minutes, 17 seconds. She still looks as gorgeous as ever. She talks about how she started out modeling and audtioned for the show. She was pregnant in the first season which they tried to keep hidden. She loved the on location shooting and watching the shows and how they used special effects. Finally, Michael Pare talks with Connie Selleca during his 12 minute, 18 second segment. He mostly tells various stories about his time on the show and about his favorite episode. Overall, these interviews were fun to watch. I think time permitting, it would have been nice to see them all reunited and interviewed together, but perhaps their schedules didn't allow that. It also would have been great to see Faye Grant interviewed as I was a big fan of her on the "V" mini and tv series.

Final Comments:

I was surprised The Greatest American Hero had such a short run. I thought it had maybe 5 or 6 seasons, but it really ran less than 3 seasons. The show featured a unique blend of comedy, action and science fiction. The sight of a man in red pajamas and a cape flying around and crashing into things was always very funny! Overall, this is a fine effort by Anchor Bay in releasing the first season. Although there were only 8 first season episodes, the spinoff pilot and the interviews were fun to watch and this set is priced very affordably. There are talks of a theatrical movie in the works by Disney, and I think it would look great on the big screen. Believe it or not, there will be a very quick turnaround with season 2 set to be released on April 8th with the third and final season flying to dvd sometime later in 2005.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Video quality: 4.3/5
Audio quality: 4.4/5
Special Features: 4.6/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 02/12/05

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