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The Greatest American Hero - Season Two



DVD Release Date: April 5th, 2005 (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
color/approx. 1085 minutes
MSRP: $44.98
Number of discs: 6
Number of episodes: 22
Languages and subtitles: English, Closed Captioned
Special features: Brand-New Interviews with Stephen J. Cannell and Music Composer Mike Post; DVD Rom: Screenplay for "The Two-Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Fastball" written by Stephen J. Cannell; Japanese Language Track on "The Two-Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Fastball"; Photo Gallery


Believe it or not - The Greatest American Hero is on DVD once again! William Katt is back as reluctant flying crime fighter Ralph Hinkley, who would know exactly how to use the red superpower suit given to him by aliens if he hadn't lost its instruction manual. In this season, Ralph pitches in the World Series, prevents World War III, suffers amnesia, joins the circus, battles bad bikers, voodoo vengeance, a fast-food mascot, and much more, all with the help of his attorney girlfriend Pam Davidson (Connie Sellecca) and FBI agent Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp). Who could it be? Believe it or not, he's The Greatest American Hero!

Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

Season 2 (1981-1982) was the only full episode order of the series. Season 1 premiered in the spring of 1981 with 8 episodes while the 3rd and final season had only 13 episodes (4 never aired on ABC). Season 2 had a number of memorable episodes. Ralph and Bill must stop World War III by defusing a corrupt military leader's plans to launch a suprise missile attack against Russia in "Operation: Spoilsport." When Ralph tries to deliver the will of a dead man who is alive, he finds himself in th middle of a close encounter of the strange kind in "Dont Mess Around With Jim." Ralph finds a window into the 4th dimension while scouting an old house in "The Best In The Black." Ralph suffers amnesia when he gets knocked out while trying to stop a hijacked train in "Train of Thought." When Ralph uses the suit to help his associates realize their dreams, it complicates all their lives in "Dreams." There were many notable guest stars in the second season. Markie Post, Bruce Kirby, Mike Douglas, and Don Drysdale appeared in "The Two-Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Fastball." Joe Mantegna appeared in "Now You See It." Keenan Wynn appeared in "The Good Samaritan." William Katt's mother, Barbara Hale, appeared in "Who's Woo in America." Dixie Carter guest starred in "Lilacs, Mr. Maxwell."


The dvd cover art has red and silver foil packaging and features a photo of Robert Kulp, William Katt, and Connie Sellecca with The Greatest American Hero in the center. It's a similar look to the season 1 set which I liked. The back of the box gives a brief summary and some highlights of the 2nd season with a listing of some notable guest stars, and lists the special features along with a small cast photo and a solo shot of William Katt. There are 3 slimcases that each hold 2 discs. The first slimcase with discs 1 & 2 has a photo of William Katt in a business suit holding the red suit. The gorgeous Connie Sellecca is featured on the 2nd slimcase which has discs 3 & 4. A smiling Robert Culp is pictured on the 3rd slimcase which contains discs 5 & 6. All of the cases have various alien symobls 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 black. Some interesting trivia about the show or cast would have been nice to see inside the cases. The actual discs are red, white, and black and feature the Greatest American Hero symbol. Disc 1 contains episodes 10-13 of the series, Disc 2 has 14-17, Disc 3 has 18-21, Disc 4 has 22-25, Disc 5 has 26-29, and Disc 6 has 30-31 plus the bonus features. A 4-page booklet is also included that has 16 season two trivia questions. Some difficult trivia I'd say for someone not all that familiar with the show!

Menu Design and Navigation:

Season 1 had some very sharp looking and easy to navigate menus, and Season 2 has what looks to be the exact same setup. 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. A sub-menu for the Bonus Features section features a flag background with a photo of William Katt on the right hand side of the screen.

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, but it really sounds like a mono track. It generally sounds good except for some scenes that have a hiss. Believe It Or Not has never sounded better. All episodes appear to be uncut running around 49 minutes with the exception of "Classical Gas" and "Who's Woo in America" which run 46:38 and 47:24 respectively. It's possible a few scenes are missing. 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 as there were on the season 1 discs. 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 if you are a new fan or don't have a great memory of viewing the episodes. Closed-captioning is available for all of the episodes.

Special Features:

Once again there are some nice bonus features on this set. The interviews weren't really as interesting as the first season set as they don't mention The Greatest American Hero that often. There is a total of 1 hour, 25 minutes of interviews that are divided into 4 sections. You also have the option of playing them all together. Show creator Stephen J. Cannell is interviewed in 2 parts. In part 1 (24:11), he talks about his father who was his hero, his early writing, his wife Marcie of 40 years, his writing for Adam-12, and his first producing work on Toma and The Rockford Files. In part 2 (26:07), he mentions that The Greatest American Hero was the 3rd show that was produced by his company. He talks in some depth about his company which was the 3rd largest studio in television which had 2,000 employees. Other topics included the Stephen J. Cannell logo which was often updated and the development of some of his other tv series. He discusses the development of The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, The Commish, Silk Stalkings, and Renegade. He talks about how he sold the studio and has become a novelist and film writer. Overall, the interviews with him were enjoyable as he is a great storyteller.

Music Composer Mike Post is interviwed in 2 segments. In the first segment (17:20), he talks about his early music career and he got involved with tv scoring. He discusses his friendship with Pete Carpenter who would team with him on many tv shows (over 1,800 hours of tv work) to do the music. Mike Post has done tv composing for 34 seasons. An amazing fact that he mentioned is that he has done 6,000 hours of composing for TV and that 2 pieces of his music are playing every second in the world - making him the most performed composer. Besides his work on many Stephen J. Cannell shows, he has worked quite a bit with Steven Bochco. In the 2nd segment (17:20), he reminisces with Stephen J. Cannell. He talks about how he almost got a fight on a beach in 1968 and how he met Cannell. They discuss how Cannell would give an idea, and then Post would write the music for it. Many themes that Mike Post created are discussed including The Rockford Files, The A-Team, Wiseguy, Renegade, Silk Stalkings, and The Commish.

A handful of other bonus features are also included. There is a script for "The Two-Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Fastball" that you can play on your DVD Rom that is found on disc 6. There is a Japanese language track for that same episode. This was an interesting idea, but I think they should have included some subtitles so you could follow along the dialogue. You don't see alternate language tracks on very many tv show releases. I think I would have preferred to hear some audio commentaries from Stephen J. Cannell or the cast members. There is a Photo Gallery section that has 34 cast and behind the scenes type photos set against a flag background.

Final Comments:

Overall, this is another nice set in The Greatest American Hero series. The interviews were interesting, but there was very little mention of anything directly related to the show. They were more like generic Stephen J. Cannell interviews that could be on some other tv show sets that his company has released. I think the cult fans of the series are going to be upset with the music changes. My biggest pet peeve for tv show dvd releases are edited episodes. Music changes would probably be second. I can accept lower quality video and audio as long as I'm getting the complete, original unedited broadcasts. I think in most cases fans would be willing to pay more to help cover the music licensing rights. Look for the 3rd and final season to be released on August 9th.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Video quality: 4.4/5
Audio quality: 4.3/5
Special Features: 4.0/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 5/5
Overall: 4.0/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 04/04/05

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