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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Greatest American Hero - The Complete Series
The Greatest American Hero - The Complete Series
Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // October 3, 2006
List Price: $99.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Crichton | posted November 8, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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A mere two months after releasing the third and final season, Anchor Bay has just released a "complete" collection of the 80's cult hit "the Greatest American Hero". In addition to all three seasons of the hit TV show, they've decided to throw a few extras in the set that any fan of Ralph and the gang would appreciate. All three seasons are here, in addition to the original insert booklets. In addition, they've included an iron-on decal, a replica of the suit's direction and a full-size cape.

the DVDs:
The DVDs in this set are the exact same thing that was previously released in the individual season sets. There are 44 episodes, spread across thirteen DVDs housed in black thinpacks. Here's what I wrote about the first season:

"I was a fan of this show from the beginning, and being able to watch it again after all this time instantly brought me back to my childhood. The special effects aren't up to today's CGI standards, but the charm of the show is definitely still there. Sure, I wish the effects technology that exists today was available back then (and available on a television show's budget), but the suit was only part of it for me - I thoroughly enjoyed the natural chemistry between Katt, Culp and Sellecca. When it comes to older, less "media-savvy" television shows of the past, a common question seems to be whether it "holds up" by today's standards. For me, it did. Music changes notwithstanding, Anchor Bay has put together a great set that i'm going to give a Highly Recommended. For a brief moment, I thought about knocking it down to a Recommended because I felt that AB stumbled a bit as far as some of the original songs were concerned, but in all honesty, I had too much of a good time revisiting this show to care. Bring on season two!"

I had the fondest memories of season two, particularly the season premiere where Ralph joins a baseball team. However, fellow reviewer Holly E. Ordway was the one who reviewed it for our site. Here's what she said:

"The Greatest American Hero is a surprisingly entertaining show whose quirky charm has stood up to the passing of several decades. It's certainly in the category of "fluffy fun," but then, who says everything has to be serious and dramatically powerful? It's worth watching both for those who were big fans of it in its original run, and for viewers who may be seeing it for the first time. Recommended."

I had the pleasure of reviewing the third season for DVD Talk. I wrote:

"As I stated in my review for the season one, I was a fan of this show from the beginning. However, it really seemed to stumble during the third season. The chemistry between Connie, Robert and William is still there and stronger than ever, but the writing was uneven. It was great to see what the inside of the spaceship looked like, and it would've been great if Ralph actually had the instruction book for the suit for more than 20 minutes, but overall i'd have to say I was disappointed by this season. Two episodes on disc 3, "This Is the One the Suit Was Meant For" and "the Newlywed Game", were the lone standouts as far as storytelling was concerned. The majority of the time, it seemed as if the writers (two of the thirteen episodes were written by Stephen J. Cannell) had a dartboard in their offices which they'd use to shape the elements of whatever episode they were working on at the time. Thanks to this scattered writing, i'd have a hard time recommending this set if you weren't a fan or a completest who already owned the first two seasons. I am very grateful to Anchor Bay and Cannell Productions for putting this show on DVD (and so quickly, too!), but i'd have to recommend that casual viewers unfamiliar with the show Rent It.

the Extras:

the Iron-On Decal:
This replica of the insignia on Ralph's suit measures 3½" x 3½". I was pretty disappointed it wasn't larger. I mean, how am I going to complete my costume?

the Directions For the Suit:
Measuring 6½" x 4¾", i've tried to take a picture to illustrate what the inside looks like. To the right is the booklet from the series. After flicking a switch on the back, the clear tabs, along with the spine and the multi-colored symbols in the book light up. The "page" to the left of the symbols is lenticular and changes from English to the "Little Green Guy's" language. I think it looks pretty darn cool, but very fragile.

the Cape:
The pièce de résistance is a full-size replica of Ralph's cape. It measures 46" x 28" and was made in China. I'd love to tell you what it's made of, but I can't figure it out. However, it's pretty darn sturdy.

the Tin:
All of these items come in a tin box that measures 8"x 6" and is close to five inches thick. The suit's logo is embossed on the front cover, and the back also opens up.

Video: The Greatest American Hero is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The picture was sharp and clear with a color palette that was bright in some episodes and slightly muted in others. Holly found that some of the outdoor shots tended to be a bit grainy, and we both agree with that Anchor Bay did a great job with the transfer. However, it's a shame they couldn't do anything with the terrible-looking cheesiness of Ralph's flying scenes.

Audio: All three seasons of the Greatest American Hero have a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack. While Holly and I found the tracks to be clean and natural-sounding, we thought seasons one and two to be a bit flat. However, season three sounded a bit livelier. It should also be pointed out that there are some instances where the original music has been replaced on some episodes.

Supplements: Since the discs are the exact same thing as the individual releases, season one is where you can find a 75 minute interview with with Stephen J. Cannell, William Katt, Robert Culp, Connie Sellecca and Michael Paré. It also contains the unaired pilot for the Greatest American Heroine. Season two contains a 84 minute interview with Cannell and Mike Post, along with a Japanese dubbed version of the second season premiere. Curiously, they choose to repeat the entire episode on disc 6 instead of adding the Japanese dub as an alternate track to the episode on disc 1. Weird, I know. Rounding out the extras on season two is a photo gallery, as well as DVD-ROM content containing Cannell's script for "the Two-Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Fastball". Unfortunately, the extra from season three, a sound clip playing a clip of Joey Scarbury's "Theme From the Greatest American Hero (Believe It Or Not)" doesn't make the transition.

Conclusion: I'm torn when it comes to these "special, limited edition" box sets of TV shows that seem to be becoming the norm. Fans of the show, to whom these special LE sets are clearly marketed to, get screwed because chances are they've already purchased the individual season sets. Personally, i've been pretty lucky since this has only happened to me with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. However, Homicide: Life On the Streets and Alias are on the horizon, so i've got to scramble to ditch the individual volumes (at a possible loss) or just buy the set (at a definite loss). I think that's unfair. Particularly since the only people that a full-size replica cape or light-up instructions would matter to, have already spent their hard earned money on the individual sets. As you can see, the whole sordid situation is an enormous conundrum that i've already spent too much time talking about. Regarding this set, if you haven't already bought all three seasons or can unload the ones you've purchased, by all means, grab this. The extra items aren't cheaply made and would be definite conversation starters - imagine running around your house wearing the cape when company is over! If you already own all three seasons and can't unload them, i'd recommend hanging on to the individual seasons. For fans though, it's a no-brainer. Highly Recommended.

Oh, and in case you were wondering - the "Contents do not actually grant the user flight, super strength, invulnerablity or any other super power!"

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