THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO
2 Hour Pilot Episode Production # 6788
Air Date: March 18, 1981
Written By: Stephen J. Cannell
Directed By: Rod Holcomb
Guest Cast: Richard Herd (Adam Taft), G.D. Spradlin (Nelson Corey), Bob Minor (John Mackie), Ned Wilson (Shackelford), Robby Weaver (Buck), Edward Bell (David Knight), Jeff MacKay (police officer), Hank Salas (Brother Michael), Robert Dunlap (accountant), Jeff MacKay (Cowan, Jason Corbet, Robert Jean Williams, Jody Lee Olhava, Robbie Kiger, Carol Jones, Ed Deemer, James King, Corkey Ford, John Caliri, Lydia Fernandez, Cheryl Francis
Schoolteacher Ralph Hinkley and F.B.I. Agent Bill Maxwell are brought together in the desert and encounter a alien spaceship whose occupants give them a red super suit and book of instructions. Ralph losing the book hinders then in stopping a takeover attempt of the U.S. government by a crazed rich industrialist and corrupt vice president.
Before the pilot premiered ABC, impressed with the rushes, had already ordered the series as a mid-season replacement. The network promoted it in every imaginable timeslot, both with promos made up of lifted scenes from the movie, and with speciality shot spots featuring Katt and Culp.
Due to its heavy on-air promotion the pilot scored sky high ratings. For example, it was reported that in the Los Angeles overnight ratings, the pilot scored a 45 share. That's more than double the share top rated series pull in today. Network audiences have dwindled so much in the past few years, so a series with numbers as high as the "TGAH" pilot movie would be an overnight smash.
The well-written script by Cannell, top notch acting by the cast, and spot on direction by Rod Holcomb make this number one on many fans' list of favorite "TGAH" episodes. Behind the scenes all was not well. Warner, owner of DC Comics, was stopping at nothing to keep the pilot from airing claiming the series would be infringing on the Superman copyright. A judge ruled the pilot could air, but Warner/ DC continued legal action well into "TGAH's" second season and beyond.
During the pilot's teaser funky super-hero type music is heard before the regular theme starts.
At the end of the ABC broadcast teaser a shot close-up of Katt is featured as he holds the light while flying. This shot is not seen in the finished pilot.
When we hear the "GAH" theme for the first time in the opening credits, there's no lyrics, just music.
When John Macke beams back up into the spaceship it is the beam down ran backwards (look at the reflection of the suit's case in his hand).
In the script of the pilot dated July 16, 1980, William Maxwell is named William Alexander, and John Macke is John Backe.
The belt on the suit looks shiny, as opposed to the duller felt-like appearance of the belt in the series. Also this suit's belt is the only one that the flap appears on the outside.
This is the only time the full suit with the gray/silver trim on the collar appears.
The alley where Ralph makes his first flight was located in Pasadena, but most of the background used in the flying scenes were shot with a alley miniature.
In the same flight there's a shot looking from the ground up. As Ralph passes over the camera this appears to be Dennis "Danger" Madalone not Katt, check out the dark hair.
Notice the bum that gets Ralph's street clothes as he's taken away by the police. It's the first of several sets of clothes he loses during the series run.
Check out the insert shot of Ralph's arms as he's strapped down by the orderlies. The cape is over the stand-in's stomach instead of behind his back and one arm isn't wearing the suit, it's a sweatshirt sleeve!
This is the only time the outside edge of the holographic vision is made up of moving interlocking shapes. The rest of the first season the holograph's outside edge is made up of rainbow colors. The second and third seasons the edge is a wavy black line.
Ralph also grabs Pam's arm during a holograph and asks her, "Can't you see that?" She says no, but in later episodes someone could touch him and see what he does.
After Ralph is knocked down trying to crash through a wall to save Bill, you can clearly see it's Dennis Madalone subbing for Katt as he gets up.
The skinhead that's standing closest to the wall when Ralph crashes through it gets clobbered by one of the concrete blocks and is still standing!
It's a dummy of Culp that Dennis Madalone is carrying as he takes to flight over the wall. Same with the full body effects shot of Katt holding the dummy as he twists and turns during the same flight.
The close-up of Ralph evesdropping on the plot between Nelson Corey and the vice president is a repeat shot used earlier in the pilot. It's optically tinted dark to simulate the darkened room. It appears to imply in this scene that the suit also gives Ralph super-hearing, this scene is not any drafts of the pilot that I own. We never see this power again.
The unconscious skinheads Ralph drags into the room are dummys.
Different helicopter footage is used at the end. One style of chopper is used as it flies past the moon, another style is used for the mock-up the pilot is sitting in, and yet another for the full body effects shot of Ralph flying past it.
Pilot says "launching pad in site" instead of "landing pad in site."
Watch in the "Get outta here dummy!" shot, as it appears Katt flies in front of the chopper cockpit. Katt was actually stationary, and the camera locked down with the platform the helicopter mock-up was on as it turned to simulate Ralph flying past. If you have a clear, sharp, print of the pilot notice in the last second or two of the shot a studio light on a stand appears in the background back past the pilot's head.
Ralph hovers for a moment after he warns the chopper off, it's the only time he hovers during the series.
When the skinheads are shooting at Ralph, it's entire cartridges with bullets hitting the suit not just bullets.
When Ralph and Tony are shooting hoops, Ralph tosses the ball to Tony, the scene switches to over Tony's shoulder and Ralph again has the ball without Tony throwing it back.
Ralph breaks Bill's hand for the first time at the end.
THE HIT CAR
Air Date: March 25, 1981 Production #9601
Written By: Stephen J. Cannell
Directed By: Rod Holcomb
Guest Cast: Gwen Humble (Starlet Wild), Gianni Russo (Johnny Damanti), Kene Holliday (Arnold Turner), Ernie Orsatti (Bob Baron), Bob Goldstein (maitre d’), Virginia Palmer (woman), Quin Kessler (hat check girl), W.T. Zacha, Anthony Charnoto (Mike), Arnold Turner (Billings), Ernie Orsatti (Bob Aaron), Melvin F. Allen (man), James Arone (waiter)
Bill and Ralph travel to San Francisco to bring a federal witness back to L.A., the fact she refuses to fly and mob threats against her life make the job a little harder.
Great first episode! It's jam packed with so much going on, Ralph
dealing with Bill, and Pam, mobster's girlfriend, the suit's powers, his class, and the souped up hit car. The rocky relationship between the 3 main leads makes for some awesome moments in this episode. Rod Holcomb directs this episode after helming the pilot, and helps establish the series direction even more.
When Ralph speed runs to catch the thugs who shot Bill the flying sound effects are heard.
In one shot, the van that drives by the camera trying to escape Ralph is NOT the same style of van actually used with the actors.
Watch the close up when Katt runs up beside the van. If you look at the van's passenger window it has been blacked out. That is to conceal the fact the van is actually standing still and Katt is running in place, with a bit of a smoke effect blowing by to simulate Ralph and the van's movement.
Dennis Madalone who skids along side the van is wearing a huge blond wig; Katt's hair was never this big or bushy.
After stopping the van and after Bill cuffs the bad guy, Ralph takes to the air. Notice the takeoff is performed by a stunt man WITHOUT a blond wig; he has short very dark straight hair. Unless it's Madalone with his hair pulled back, I can't tell.
In the scene at the courthouse with Ralph, Bill and Arnold Turner, you can see that underneath Ralph's street clothes Katt is wearing the tunic with the silver/gray collar that was used in the pilot. This is the last time this tunic appears (except for stock footage) in the series.
The shot where you can see just the very top of the hit car pulling up outside the double doors of the school was shot with miniatures.
Notice when the gunfire comes through the glass of the doors it makes BB size holes.
When Ralph is trying to change into the suit to take on the hit car, he pulls a pant leg off and you can see he does not have on the baseball sock type boots on. There is no silver/gray boot top trim on his leg.
Shots of Ralph's flight down the alley from the pilot are used during his flight towards the hit car.
As Dennis Madalone crashes into the pavement in the same scene you can see the shadow of the camera at the bottom of the screen.
Footage again from flying down the alley in the pilot is used again right before Ralph crashes into the bush. The bush crash looks like it might be an alternate take not used in the pilot, in the scene where Ralph runs too fast and cannot stop himself before he flips headfirst in what looks like the same bush.
In new prints of the episodes that were made in the late '90s the end battle with the hit car has had its audio changed slightly. All gunfire sound effects are different than what originally aired on ABC and in mid-'80s syndication. Also in portions of the battle, the music has been brought up louder in different areas than what was heard on the original broadcast and in mid-'80s syndication.
Portfolio head shots is what it looks like was used for the pictures of Rhonda and Tony for the "Taming of the Shrew" sign.
HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU, KID
Episode 2 Production #9602
Air Date: April 1, 1981
Written By: Juanita Bartlett
Directed By: Bob Thompson
Guest Cast: James Whitmore, Jr. (Gordon McCready), June Lockhart (Mrs. Davidson), Bob Hastins (Harry Davidson), Red West (Cliff), Thomas W. Babson (Colvin), Will Gill, Jr. (African representative), Gerald Jann (Asian representative), Eric Forst (European representative), Roger Etienne (captain), Daniel Chodos (aide), Al Dunlop (mechanic), Nick Ginardo (consul person), Bert Hinchman (bus driver), Blake Clark (policeman), Zitto Kazann (consul general), F.J. O’Neil (Van Kamp), Laurence Haddon (Gen. Morehead), Denise Halma (Carrie)
Bill includes Ralph in a search for a missing jet fighter with a top
secret gunsight aboard. Also, Ralph has to deal with meeting Pam's visiting parents on top of the fact that the suit has given him the uncontolled ability to turn invisible..
In the opening credits, for the first time we hear a shorter version of the theme. A version made by not recording Believe it or Not over, just editing the credits down.
Ralph uses the suit's power of invisibility for the first time in this episode.
Faye Grant does not appear in this episode.
Ralph's last name is totally removed starting with this episode, either covered by silence or sound effects.
Bill gives Ralph a communicator in this episode.
After Ralph's first crash while he's sitting on the ground, you get a great look at how the baseball sock type boot strap goes under his boots. Notice the pointy toe of his boot/shoe, this style of footwear didn't stay with the suit for long. This first crash is also the crash you see in the credits, with Katt rolling down the mound of dirt. But the actual close-up seen in the credits of Katt rolling down is never used in this, or any other episode. The shot stays with Dennis Madalone all the way down, and picks up with Katt after the tumble.
During Ralph's search for the plane, the same shot of Katt getting up and brushing himself off preparing to fly is used three times.
In what looks like a bad take with stuntman Dennis Madalone is used in the same flight sequence. Instead of having his arms and legs stretched out as he takes to the air, it looks more like a bunny hop he makes over the scrub brush. I'm assuming he tried again because a better take of a leap over the same brush is used next.
During the restaurant scene Ralph tells Pam he's going to have to "run the gauntlet" past her parents to leave. Yet between them in the background is a doorway marked with an EXIT sign.
The estate where the gunsight is to be auctioned off is the same location used for Nelson Corey's in the pilot.
The gunsight prop turns up in The Theory Of Revolution, a 5th season episode of The A-Team.
Notice in these first few episodes that most of the time Ralph uses a mirror when he's getting a holograph.
Ralph's flight with Bill over his shoulder is footage from the pilot, tinted optically to make it look dark out.
Finally, after Pam's parents meet Ralph you would think they could have recognized him from the restaurant.
SATURDAY ON SUNSET BOULEVARD
Episode 3 Production #9603
Air Date: April 8, 1981
Written By: Stephen J. Cannell
Directed By: Rod Holcomb
Guest Cast: Alexa Hamilton (Theresa), Kai Wulff (Serge Valenkov), David Tress (Mikhail), Mal Steward (Sherman), Ian Teodorescu (Russian official), Lev Mailer (Frederic), Will MacMillan (Kerner), Christopher Thomas (Craig), Lawrence Benedict (Hellinger), Richard R. Holley (helicopter pilot), Glenn Wilder (Kavolstock), Joseph Warren (Harlan Cain)
Bill faces getting kicked out of the FBI for failing a polygraph test
because of Ralph and the suit, but uses the defection of a Russian couple as a way to get around the bad test.
As usual with the 1st season, this episode has it all, trying to beat the Russians hit squad to the couple, Bill and the polygraph, the students are involved, etc. The Rod Holcomb directed script goes in many different directions weaving different situations and characters together, and it works.
We are introduced to Agent Carlisle, who has the first name of Norm; it later changes to Les.
After taking the FBI file from Carlisle, Ralph's leap out the window is stock footage from The Hit Car.
The close up of Ralph crashing into the ground and getting up is footage from the pilot movie tinted dark.
The "Help Me Rhonda" bus ride from the pilot is used again. Except in the DVD release, in that case the entire song has been replaced with alternate music.
Connie Sellecca is very pregnant in this episode.
During Ralph and Tony's "pick your friends carefully" conversation, watch for a dark haired man, who is probably a crew member, stop a tall black man who is about to walk into the shot. (The crew member has a red shirt sticking out from under the back of his vest, could this be a red GAH crew shirt?) Plus after that, two other guys keep following Katt and Pare' trying to get on camera.
The location of Dennis Madalone running before slipping on the banana peel does not match the alley that Katt was filmed in. Plus, why is he punching the air as he runs?
Also the background that's used in the flying after the banana slip looks like it was shot at the Madalone location, not the alley used by the main unit.
Nice touch adding the wind effect blowing Pam and Teresa's hair after Ralph runs past them.
Episode 4 Production #9606
Air Date: April 15, 1981
Written By: Juanita Barlett
Directed By: Gabrielle Beaumont
Guest Cast: E.J. Peaker (Rose Black), Simone Griffeth (Alicia Hinkley), Peter White (Semenenko/Simpson), Kurt Grayson (Vladimir Zorin), Jens Nowak (submarine seaman), Don Dolan (Technitron guard), Georgo Ganchev (submarine captain), Dave Shelley (Manny), Al White (station attendant), Nicholas Worth (Leonard), Stephen Kahan (Merv)
The disappearance of Rhonda's mother leads to the uncovering of a plot by Russian spies to steal super secret U.S. weapon plans.
We see Ralph's house for the first time since the pilot. It's no longer the 2 story style home, but more of a ranch style of house. No explanation for the change was given.
Ralph's house number is 13216.
This is the only appearance of Ralph's ex-wife.
In this episode, Hanley is now Ralph's last name.
When shooting point blank at Ralph, actor Nicholas Worth, for safety reasons, aims the gun just slightly to one side of Katt so as not to be firing blanks directly at him.
In the original broadcast version of this episode, Ralph flies Lenny up the side of the Technitron building, then leaps backwards onto the ledge above. During the backwards leap the flying sound FX play too long, and can still be heard even after Katt has stopped moving and is sitting on the ledge. Current prints of this episode have fixed this, and the sound FX stops as he lands.
Before crashing at the gas station, during Ralph's flight several close-up shots are used of Katt on the blue screen stage without any backgrounds matted in. In a couple of these shots one of the pipe looking arms of the flying rig can be seen in the bottom left corner of the screen. The same pipe is also visible for a split second before Ralph's crash into the trash dumpster.
In the original broadcast version and mid-80's syndication prints, "John Smith" pulls the gun out of the drawer, and there is a silencer attached to the barrel. Yet when he turns to fire at the door and Ralph, normal loud gunshot sound FX are heard. In new prints made in the late 90's the sound FX have now been changed to correctly simulate televisions version of a silencer.
Not much is shown of the submarine exterior mock-up that Ralph lands on, probably due to the episode's limited construction budget. The new prints of episodes made in the late 90's have a much better brightness than the originals. Because of this, in the new prints you can now see a large black tarp stretched over the sub tower to simulate the night sky as Katt rocks the mock-up back and forth.
MY HEROES HAVE
ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS
Episode 5 Production #9607
Air Date: April 29, 1981
Written By: Stephen J. Cannell
Directed By: Arnold Laven
Guest Cast: Jack Ging (Tracy Winslow) John Hart (himself), Ferdy Mayne (Abe Figueroa), Frank McCarthy (Edward McAstelli), William Woodson (announcer), Brandon Williams, Joseph Chapman (Tim Carson), Robert Gooden (Sam Watson), Bruce Tuthill (Norm Woods), Glen Wilder (Pete King), William Woodson (announcer), Charles Walker (man), David Clover (policeman)
Bill tries to prevent an old war pal, now a cop, from going crooked. Ralph decides to retire from the super-hero business after his last attempt hits the skids. That is until a chance meeting with a silver age hero gives him encouragement.
In the first action scene, you can see very clearly that it's Dennis Madalone that crashes and makes two attempts at flight, while two cops stare.
In the original broadcast of this episode, Ralph speeds past a motorcycle cop, as he's running a train whistle sound FX can be heard. In the current version of this episode that now airs, the train FX are significantly toned down, and the running footstep FX brought up.
After saving the tour bus, Dennis Madalone as Ralph runs and leaps over the camera. Notice the mini-trampoline not quite hidden at the bottom of the screen.
During the car chase, and on Ralph's flight to Bill, the same flying FX shot showing Ralph diving down, wobbling, then back up over a hill is used.
David Clover that plays the motorcycle officer returns as a gate guard in the 2nd season episode Now You See It.
When Ralph looks at the Lone Ranger ad a close up insert of the newspaper is used. As scene continues and he looks at the ad again the insert is NOT of the newspaper ad, but a shot of the photo the Ranger gives him that takes place a few minutes later!
When the stuntman (Madalone?) as Ralph saves the eldery lady during a chase scene, look at the cars in the background as he scoops her up into his arms....they are driving backwards! Which means this scene was shot in reverse, the Katt stuntman was holding the eldery lady's double while going backwards, and dropped the lady double to the ground. When ran in reverse for the final cut of the episode, it looks like he flys towards her and scoops her into his arms.
When Ralph flies up to the rooftop to spy on the bad guys, notice the shot of Katt as he flies away from the camera. The image of him is flat, like the shot of him didn't composite right.
Look at the FX shot of a flying Ralph as he dives down and his arm smacks a tv antenna, breaking it off. The antenna and rooftop it's attached to are miniatures added to the background plate.
Before Ralph crashes at the jewel heist, some stock flying footage from the pilot is edited in.
Also of note is that ABC aired TWO versions of this episode!! The first ABC broadcast included slightly more flying footage of Katt and a bit different dialogue from Culp as they follow the bad cops to the jewel robbery. On the 2nd ABC broadcast, some flying & dialogue was trimmed and music changed a little. This is very unusual, as episodes don't normally change in any way before networks rerun them.
Air Date: May 6, 1981
Written By: Lee Sheldon
Directed By: Gabrielle Beaumont
Guest Cast: Sandy Ward (Lt. Rafferty), Timothy Carey (Cameron), Woody Eney (Moody), Mark Withers (Shaeffer), Raymond Singer (Kaufman), Steven Hirsch (Lane), Paul Cavonis (Thompson), Henry Sanders (policeman), Duane Tucker (fireman), Scott Thompson (young boy), Gayle Vance (young lady), Mercedes McCloskey (woman), Danny Glover (Joyner), Robby Weaver (Ray Buck)
Tony is accused of torching a federal records building when he is picked up in a car he repossessed which had been spotted at the scene of the crime. It's up to Ralph, Pam and a somewhat skeptical Bill to prove he's innocent.
Take a look at the 1st two cops that try to bust Tony, one is Danny Glover of Lethal Weapon fame.
In the original ABC broadcast and early syndication prints, when Ralph calls police about the hot car ring, when dialing you can hear what sounds like Katt just tapping plastic with his finger. In prints currently airing of this episode touchtone sound FX have been added.
When the agent spying at Ralph's house is running back to the car, look at the background; you can see Ralph's shadow as he's pacing back and forth. The shadow should have the hood of the fire man suit on; it doesn't. The scene right before this one shows Katt putting it on.
Does everyone with an attic have a huge shiny door that opens up to their roof?
In prints currently in syndication and in the DVD release, you can now see, due to the better contrast and brightness, that after picking up the bag lady in the burning theatre Ralph carries her up a set of stairs, before flying with her over the side of the building. Before now in all other prints from 1981 up through the episode airing on FX, the stair scene was always way too dark to see what was actually happening.
Once again stock footage of Ralph's flight and crash over the wall from the pilot is used tinted dark.
In the scene that shows Maxwell's car flip, notice the hand held camera inside the car shows Culp pulling up slowly almost to a stop in front of the car he is to crash into. The scene then switches to a wide shot of Maxwell's car speeding fast, then hitting the flip car and rolling.
Also the hand held camera inside the car with Culp, never rolls in a circle to simulate the rollover of the car. It just turns upside down and kinda shakes around. On a side note this same turning upside down footage of Culp inside the car quickly appears in the 1st season episode of Hardcastle & McCormick titled The Crystal Duck. Culp does NOT appear in the episode. When his shot is used it's supposed to be another actor!
When Katt lands in front of the fire man, there is a pane of glass between him and the flame. When the flame shoots out towards him, it hits the glass and spreads out, making it look like it's hitting him. It was a cool effect making it appear the suit was protecting Ralph, plus keeping Katt from the dangerous flame at the same time.
This is Bill's 1st trashed car.
THE BEST DESK SCENARIO
Air Date: May 13, 1981 Production #9610
Written By: Juanita Barlett and Stephen J. Cannell
Directed By: Arnold Laven
Guest Cast: Eugene Peterson (Clarence Carter), Duncan Regeher (Palmer Bradshaw), Michael Ensign (Principal Kane), Tom Pletts (Agent Genesta), Eric Server (Kyle Morgan), Rod Colbin (Theodore Svenson), William Frankfather (Chet Kanaby)
Bill is so depressed after being passed over for younger agents that he decides to quit the FBI after one last mission with Ralph: rescuing Pam from the clutches of her boss's mob connections.
A nice finish for the 1st season, with developments for all three characters. Although this one is short on action, it more than makes up for it with outstanding writing. Plus Sellecca gets to do more than just show up with the burgers and cokes. The adult themes and more complex character driven plots found in the 1st season episodes would not continue on in all the remaining episodes.
Ralph gets the power of pyrokinesis.
A clue that something was going to happen to Bill's car, was him having an older model than he usually drove.
Bill's actual onscreen trashed car count is now up to 2, although Ralph and others state that this one is the 3rd.
By this time it was getting very hard to hide the fact that Connie Sellecca was going to have a baby.
We learn Bill's family were sharecroppers.
The flying sound FX in this episode are more muffled than the ones normally used in the other episodes.
This is one of the rare episodes that the FBI office scenes were actually shot in a real building, as opposed to offices built on a set.
Pam works for the law firm of Carter, Bailey, and Smith.
We didn't get to see many large scale live effects like Ralph throwing the junk car; it was a great idea on someone's part to use the junkyard crane to accomplish this.
The Long Fall at Ten, Two, and Four Production #9609
Production numbers are not always the order in which episodes are produced, but the order in which script assignments are given out. The first season goes up to #9610, so I assume 10 script assignments were handed out. Seven scripts were produced, one we know about was not. We have missing numbers of #9604 & #9608, I've no information on if those two ever made it to any completed drafts