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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #311: Ralph Hinkley

Believe it or not, George isn't at home.

Look at what's happened to me...I can't believe it myself...

I was six years old when The Greatest American Hero debuted on ABC. I'm sure a lot of what went on during the show's three-season run went well over my head, but the premise wasn't lost on me. Here was Ralph Hinkley (portrayed by William Katt, who was nearly cast as Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars films), an everyman, gifted by aliens with a cherry-red suit imbued with just about every imaginable super power. Strength, flight, invulnerability, you name it. Of course, Hinkley lost the instruction manual (not one, but twice during the show's episodes), and hilarity ensued.

While he figured out the suit's powers through trial and mostly error, Hinkley fought crime alongside Robert Culp's FBI agent and Connie Sellecca's lawyer. Campy, goofy, vintage early-80s gold. He seemed to discover new powers in each episode, and never seemed to develop any great control over any of them. It's how I imagine any of us would be if we were suddenly asked to get behind the wheel of a superpowered pair of crimson long-johns. There are probably a lot more Ralph HInkleys than Tony Starks out there, though let it be said Hinkley's day job was as a public school teacher working with special education students. He was a hero before the suit.

Believe it or not, what most people (including George Costanza) probably remember most clearly about the show was the absurdly catchy theme song by Joey Scarbury. As kids we had the single on seven-inch vinyl, and we wore out the needle with that thing. I think I'll go give it a listen right now. I bet you will, too.

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