The Greatest American Heroine
The Greatest American Heroine 1986
I often go back and forth on what I decide to include on my site as to what is a superhero movie and what isn’t. The question on this one is whether or not it should be considered a movie or an episode of television. It’s technically the final episode of the TV series The Greatest American Hero which ran for three seasons, but it didn’t air in its original run, instead it was only included later when it went into syndication and on later DVD releases. But it also did get its own separate DVD release under its own title. I was aware of the concept of the Greatest American Hero, but I had never actually seen any episodes before now. It felt a little on the campy side and I could tell that I was missing some things even though they included some recaps.
If you have never seen the Greatest American Hero, the basic concept is that some random schlub who is pure of soul or something along those lines is approached by aliens and given a superhero suit. Unfortunately, he loses the instruction manual and has to figure out how to work it over the course of the next three seasons. In an earlier episode, his secret identity was revealed and he has become a celebrity. Now the aliens have returned and because his identity was revealed, they are going to erase everyone’s memory of him being a superhero and pass the suit on to a successor. But they’re not giving him another manual because they only had two.
The episode does a decent job of getting a new viewer up to speed with a bit of a clip show style recap of the series to date via the sidekick cop giving a report of the situation. It’s interesting to see how the dynamic has obviously changed by making the main character a recent celebrity. With only a little bit of context, it’s quite clear that he’s reveling in it while the other characters have noted his change in personality.
The episode does get a little problematic once it switches over to the training of the new Greatest American Heroine. First off, when it’s revealed that the new candidate is a woman, the police sidekick scoffs in a very sexist way, calling her a “skirt”. And the woman herself is portrayed as rather an 80’s era super-environmentalist bubblehead. She’s introduced in the suit by first complaining about the shoes. And when she goes on her first mission about some whaling ship, she ignores all of the seasoned cop’s advice and just goes by her feminine instincts which is to be direct and to the point, followed by challenging one of the guys in a bar to an arm wrestling contest while her suit is on underneath her clothes. Once it gets into the action, there’s a fun bit of fighting but then it’s really over all too soon.
This would have benefited from being at least a two-part episode instead of just a single 40-some minute episode. With all of the catch-up required in the beginning of the episode it just took too long to get around to the heart of the story. The training montage felt way too rushed and we barely got enough time to spend with the new woman in the suit, so much so that a few days later I don’t even remember anybody’s name. And all it took for the cop to finally warm up to the new girl is that he overheard her talking him and the responsibility up to her foster daughter who also happens to be one of those too-smart-for-their-own-good style characters that tend to be more annoying than cute. It’s an interesting experiment that could have led to a good show, but as it is, there just isn’t enough development for it to be anything more than a curiosity. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.