'Believe It or Not,' it's sold out!
I don't know whether to be depressed or amazed.
Last night, two friends and I ventured out to Best Buy on what I thought would be a simple outing: to purchase "The Greatest American Hero" on DVD. I had watched this program as a kid and had been anticipating the DVD release as a nostalgic trip back to childhood.
Little did I know, we were about to embark on an improbable adventure.
The show was an entertaining, if somewhat cheesy, comedy adventure starring William Katt as a high school special ed teacher, Ralph Hinkley, who is given a suit that contains special powers when he encounters aliens on a field trip to the desert.
Hinkley becomes an unwilling government employee, assisting agent Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp) by using the suit's powers for the forces of good. The only problem was that Hinkley quickly lost the instructions to the suit, so he was constantly running into buildings and creating havoc.
The program was the brainchild of prolific TV producer Stephen J. Cannell and ran on ABC's primetime lineup from 1981 to 1983. (Its theme song, "The Greatest American Hero (Believe It Or Not)," was a top five smash hit for Joey Scarbury in the summer of 1981.) The program debuted in March 1981 to big ratings and plenty of hype. It finished the season as a hit, although trouble was brewing from nearly the beginning.
DC Comics sued the producers of the program and attempted to prevent it from airing, claiming it was ripping off Superman. A judge ruled in the show's favor and it aired as planned. Then, just after the series premiere, a man named John Hinckley ( spelling with a "c") attempted to kill President Ronald Reagan. The nervous network had Hinkley's name dubbed "Hanley" and he was also referred to as "Mr. H" for a few episodes. (The name eventually reverted back to Hinkley.)
By the 1981-82 season, the ratings had begun to drop and when the show was renewed for a third season in 1982, ABC unwisely moved the show to Friday nights to compete with "Knight Rider" and "Dallas." The ratings tanked even further and the program was canceled in March 1983.
I was amazed when the announcement came that the show was being released on DVD. I suspected this would be a novelty item and would be purchased by a few collectors and the show's few (I thought) fans.
Much to my surprise as I walked to the DVD section at Best Buy last night, the show was sold out. Completely. On the first day of release.
Thinking that perhaps fans were attracted to Best Buy's sale price ($17.99), we headed to Target to find the set. Nothing.
What had began as a fun night out had become a quixotic search for a show none of us could believe was still this sought after.
Our next stop was Wal-Mart. Sold out.
Stops at Borders, another Target and two other Wal-Marts also proved to be wasted trips. We were beginning to feel like we were caught in an episode of "Seinfeld."
Stunned, we finally gave up and I returned home and ordered the DVD set on Best Buy's web site. Amazingly enough, Amazon.com as of this morning had the show listed as #22 in DVD sales. Who knew? Adding to the unbelievability, the show's second season is already slated for release on April 5.
Believe it or not, 20 plus years later, "The Greatest American Hero" is still walking on air...