The fondly remembered 80’s ABC series The Greatest American Hero is being rebooted and updated for a new generation. The show was a comedy-drama that spoofed superhero films and comics with an inept everyman hero who couldn’t control his powers. Now ABC is looking to develop a reimagined version with a female lead.
The Greatest American Hero aired for three seasons of 40 episodes on ABC, running from 1981 to 1983. It starred William Katt as normal LA teacher Ralph Hinkley, although this was later subtly changed to Hanley after the Reagan assassination attempt. He encounters aliens on a field trip who hand him a suit that bestows a wide variety of superpowers on him. But he loses the instruction manual and the show concentrates in his attempts to discover and use his new abilities for good. The show looks goofy now and with endearing awful special effects, but it came from the highly successful producer Stephen J. Cannell, who also brought iconic shows like The A-Team and The Rockford Files to the small screen. Whilst it never generated the impact of his other shows, it’s generally regarded as a cult classic now.
Now Deadline reports that a “reimagining” of the show is in development with a number of twists to the concept. ABC have asked for a pilot for an updated version, which is being written and produced by Rachna Fruchbom, who has previously worked on the shows Fresh Off the Boat and Parks and Recreation. This new incarnation will reportedly change the gender of the lead and focus on a woman called Meera, who is a 30-year-old Indian-American woman from Cleveland and basically leads a slacker lifestyle. The central concept of aliens handing her a super-suit is said to remain the same though, as is her total inability to use it properly.
It’s not the first time that there has been an attempt to reboot Greatest American Hero. The Lego Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were linked to a movie of the show in 2014, and in 2015 Fox were also reportedly developing a reboot, but neither of those projects got off the ground. It’s also not the first time a gender switch has been attempted – back in 1986 the original cast reunited for a pilot aiming to revive the series for NBC. It was to have been called The Greatest American Heroine, after the original hero Ralph gives the suit to a young woman called Holly Hathaway (played by Mary Ellen Stuart). However, only a pilot was made and it ended up being the final episode of the original show when it later ran in syndication.
Now we’re in an era that’s swamped with superhero media, and spoofs like Deadpool and The Tick are embraced by audiences, it will be interesting to see what is made of this property. Hopefully people will be open to the gender change, and with some clever and relevant writing it could make for an interesting subversive take on the superhero genre, drawing on the history of its inspiration. No news on casting or filming yet, so we’ll watch out for further details on this reboot of The Greatest American Hero.
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