Saturday, May 30, 2015

Re-Post: The Greatest American Hero

  A comment to one of my recent posts referenced The Greatest American Hero, so I was inspired to re-post this, which originally appeared August 11, 2013. Enjoy.

One of my well remembered TV series from the early '80s was Greatest American Hero (1981-1983), a quirky super hero series which featured an unlikely and fumbling everyday guy as its protagonist. I think what made the series so likable was the sense that the "hero" was someone who never even sought the role, a well meaning person who had hero status thrust upon him and tried to deal with it as best as he could. Neither the hero nor the show took themselves too seriously.

William Katt starred as the unlikely hero, Ralph Hinkley, a schoolteacher assigned to a special education class. Connie Selleca stars as Pam Davidson, an attorney who handled Hinkleys divorce, but soon becomes his love interest in the show. Ralph's last name was changed to "Hanley" after an assassin whose last name was Hinkley attempted to kill President Reagan in March of 1981. 

The great Robert Culp played FBI agent Bill Maxwell, who somehow linked up with Ralph and Pam, and often provided the more hard-edged strategic mindset which the others lacked.

Together, the disparate trio repeatedly found themselves batting bad guys after an unexpected encounter gave Ralph his super powers.

During an trek in the desert, Ralph and Bill had a close encounter with space aliens. (I always thought the spaceship was cool.)

The aliens beamed down a special suit which only Ralph could use, and which was the source of his powers, which included such typical super hero abilities as flight, invisibility, strength and remote viewing.

But the mild mannered Ralph proved to be an uneasy superhero, which made him all the more likable in the role. More problematic was the fact that they lost the manual provided with the suit which showed how to properly use it. So, Ralph, with the help of Bill and Pam, had to learn how to use it by trial and error, with often funny results. Ralph's haphazard effort at flying was a frequent feature of the show..

Heres the intro, courtesy of

The theme song, written by Mike Post and Stephen Geyer and sung by Joey Scarbury, became a hit in 1981. I remember hearing it frequently on the radio back then.

 I was 11 years old that year, when the show premiered. Now, looking back, I see both the song and the TV show as reflective of that era. When the show premiered in 1981, the United States was just recovering from a rough period where hostages were held for over a year in Iran, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and the economy was in a bad state. Although the country was not yet out of the woods, by any means, there was the uneasy glimmer of hope and optimism. I think the portrayal of Ralph's uneasy hero status, and the song about being surprised at unexpected success, seemed to echo this mood.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dave Late Night in the 80s

David Letterman, the host who revolutionized late night talk shows back in the '80s, retired this past week. For a long time, he has been a fairly mainstream celebrity, that it is often hard to remember how truly novel his comedy was during the '80s. During that decade (more specifically between 1980 and 1993) Letterman was the host, on NBC, of Late Night with David Letterman.  His show during that era was a free wheeling, loosely structured, oddball affair, full of the quirky and sometimes strange humor that seemed to pervade the decade.

I mean, speaking from personal experience, back then I often found myself laughing uproariously at the off the wall humor that came at you from odd angles and which seemed to be everywhere: in comics like Bloom County and The Far Side, in stand up comedians like Stephen Wright and Gallagher (and you should have seen the early stand up Whoopi Goldberg), and in shows like Eddie Murphy/Joe Piscopo era Saturday Night Live.  There was a viewpoint that was just fresh, so quirky and so very funny, that has not been seen for quite a bit. (In the '90s, quite frankly, comedy seemed to take on a more hard edged quality, more "in your face" and less oddball, which was quite different.)

David Letterman's Late Night show was a prime example of the off the wall '80s humor, as exemplified by his experimentation with suits made out of different materials. Here's several clips over the years.

1984: Alka Seltzer suit

1984: Velcro Suit

1985: Human Sponge Suit

1986: Suit of Magnets

1987: Rice Crispies Suit

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bullying, Repentance and Forgiveness

Here's a non-nostalgia related post, but I feel its important to post.

Its a report about a high school bully who reached out to his victim 20 years later, and offered a long belated apology.  The former bully decided to apologize after talking with his own child about bullying, and realizing that he had to admit that he himself had been a bully. The apology, as late as it was, had a positive effect. 

I'm posting this because it struck a cord with me.  Bullying can leave wounds that last a long time. Its easy for those who have not experienced extreme bullying, or those who have done the bullying, to act like it was no big deal. But if you've been a victim of severe physical or psychological mistreatment, you know it stays with you for years to come.

It takes guts for a former bully to acknowledge past bad behavior, and to apologize to their victims.  This is hard when the behavior is recent, and maybe even more so when the behavior is long past and could be easily forgotten and "swept under the rug."  It also takes courage for the victims to forgive the mistreatment that happened to them.

If anyone reading this was a former bully, I encourage you to think back on what you did, and see if you can locate a former victim and apologize to them.  And if you are a former victim (as I was), I encourage you to forgive.


Here's an excellent video which gives accounts of bullying, and its effects. I found it on the site of one of the commenters to this post, and think it adds to the discussion about this issue.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tom Petty and David Bowie with '80s Psychedelia

Check out this 1985 Tom Petty video for the song "Don't Come Around Here No More," with an Alice In Wonderland theme.  A bit of '80s psychedelia which I remember being commented on by radio music station DJs.

And not to be outdone, here's David Bowie's Salvador Dali-esque video for "Loving The Alien."  This one actually came out a year before Petty's song, in 1984.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cop and Action Shows . . . For My Mom

Since its Mother's Day, I'm going to dedicate today's post to my mom. 

My mother used to be a major fan of cop and action type shows back during the '80s. So, my tribute to her comes in the form of memories from those shows she loved so much way back then. 

Magnum P.I.  was one of them. She used to avidly watch this show whenever it was on. The theme song and visuals bring back quite a lot of memories from the early '80s. 

Here's another one of my Mom's favorites... Simon and Simon.  I didn't watch this one so much, but I remember that catchy theme song.

And Hart to Hart.  My mom used to get so much pleasure out of the action and the good guys vs. bad guys plots of these. 

She was in her own life a much more down-to-earth woman, a schoolteacher at the local high school, devoted to her faith in God, and to her family.  I am blessed to have had so many memories of my mom . . . family memories when we were out doing things together.  There were also moments of misunderstanding and disagreement, as there always are among people who love one another. In the end, I focus on the positive, the good memories.

My mom passed away back in 2003, after a long struggle with cancer.  I dedicate this post to her, and take hope in my belief that we will be ultimately reunited.  Here's to you, mom.

I recommend support for the American Cancer Society, and suggest a donation to them if you could.

Friday, May 8, 2015

RePost: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

This is a re-post of a post which originally appeared September 29, 2011.

When I was a teen, growing up in the '80s, one of my most comforting memories was of the opening credits to the popular TV show Cheers. Although I sometimes watched the show, and enjoyed it, I was never as big a Cheers fanatic as so many other people.  

But the opening credits were always a must see for me. The theme song itself was part of the attraction. It begins by noting the taxing nature of modern life (in the '80s), which "takes everything you've got," and then segues into the catchy refrain about wanting to be "where everybody knows your name."

But just as appealing were the montage of images which appeared along with the song, a series of pictures of people seemingly enjoying the pleasures of being at a pub, with its drinks and social life. The pictures all have a historical quality to them, lending the sense that such activity has occurred through time, and continues to the time of the program . . . the '80s and early '90s.

There is one photo, for example, which has people in a bar with drinks, with one man holding up a newspaper which reads "WE WIN" in all captal letters. Growing up, I had thought that the headline referred to the end of World war II, but it in fact refers to the end of Prohibition. In restrospect, this seems all the more appropriate given that the show takes place in a drinking establishment. 

Another photo shows a group of young males of another era, perhaps college kids, all trying to look dapper and sophisticated.

I always thought that the combination of words and music put forth the idea that time passes, but certain things remain the same. That so many things have come and gone through time and history, and that here we were, in the '80s, taking our place in time. Yet, some things were constant, through it all. Through it all, don't we all really want to sometimes go to a place "where everybody knows your name."

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

Friday, May 1, 2015


In my two most recent posts, I described my '80s-era love of the comic strips Bloom County and The Far Side. As I noted, they were a part of my daily routine, and brought to my day some quirky, oddball humor that was distinctly '80s.

There was also one more comic that I read daily, except it was less cutting edge in its style.  The strip was the relatively mild, "down to earth" Garfield, which featured a lazy, fat lasagna-loving feline.  I found the strip's light humor enjoyable, however, especially since my own family actually had a cat (a Garfieldish yellow-orange striped cat, no less) which had a personality very much like the strip's protagonist. My mother, in particular, would comment that the strip so accurately captured the feline personality.   

Back in the '80s, Garfield  was very popular, and you saw the character everywhere. Here, for example, he's featured in a hotel commercial from 1987.