I recently started rewatching The Greatest American Hero, and I was especially impressed with the pilot episode. As any good pilot episode does, it presents our hero’s situation so that we can appreciate the difficulties our hero faces in his new undertaking.
Near the start of the ep, a child is watching the SuperFriends (with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.) which almost foreshadows what’s to come, that is, the man becoming a superhero. At the same time, the superhero cartoon creates a nice juxtaposition that sets up our story: what if an ordinary man was suddenly given extraordinary powers? To say the least, this suddenly extra-ordinary man would face the same challenges that our hero did:
– A flashy costume looks great in the comic books, but actually wearing one on any given city street might just get you committed.
– Family responsibilities are likely to suffer because of your frequent and unexplained absences. (Can’t very well tell ’em you were out saving the world.)
– The hazards inherent in your new career could take a toll on your relationships as well as your real-life job.
– Perhaps the biggest challenge of all: you discover that superheroing is not as easy as it looks on television. Even if you did have the instruction book, doing supernatural things would take some getting used to.
Having experienced all of these challenges, not to mention losing the instruction book, it’s even more remarkable that Ralph remains willing to accept the job. It says a lot about his character. Then again, we saw that same part of his character when he accepted the less-than-plum assignment of teaching the remedial class. He truly wants to help, and he doesn’t bail even when he knows that continuing won’t be easy. I think this is one of the reasons he was chosen to receive the suit.
Having watched almost all of the season one episodes now, I’m still appreciating not only the story presented by this show but the way it’s told. For example, the suit and the super-heroing aren’t the main focus. Instead, what’s important is the real-life stuff, Ralph, Bill, Pam, the way they feel about things, the things they want, the relationships they’re developing. It just goes to show that, while we need heroes to rise to the really big moments, we don’t need a super-suit to live the best life we can. We just have to stick with it.