The Greatest American Hero “The Hit Car” (part 6 of 9)

So now the three of them are in a car, which should still be the rental, but which looks suspiciously like Bill’s maroon fedmobile. They’re all crammed into the front seat, because that’s normal behavior.

Starlet inquires about the book Ralph’s reading by flashlight, which turns out to be the script for The Taming of the Shrew. Starlet shrieks, “I saw that movie! With Liz Taylor and Richard Bourbon! And also, I caaan’ staaan’ ‘em!” Hey, after the bit with Tony early on, that makes the whole wrong movie thing a running gag! And you know how we feel about running gags.

Caption contributed by Mark

”Hey, is that one of them Twilight books? Are you Team Jacob or what?”

Ralph tries to tell her she’s thinking of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but she goes on about how she thinks Virginia Woolf is a great actress, and Bill looks ready to shoot himself, and boy I can’t blame him. Eventually, she gets it through her thick skull that Ralph is reading Shakespeare, which impresses her to no end. Ralph grins bashfully at all the attention he’s getting from this unlettered boob.

Starlet: You know, between you and me, I think intellect is very sexy.
Ralph: I was hoping you’d feel that way.

Bill, desperately trying to avoid having his soul sucked out of his body by the insipidity of this dialogue, suggests stopping for the night at a safe house in Salinas. But Starlet pulls out the old bit about her astral chart, saying they can’t stop for the night until Santa Barbara. Bill insists on Salinas, even though Starlet says she’ll refuse to testify if they don’t do things her way.

Ralph says he has an idea, and berates Bill for not listening to anyone. But Bill, god love him, says, “I can’t stand listening to drivel, it makes my eyes water.” Ralph nonetheless floats his plan, which is to borrow Pam’s boss’s beach house in Santa Barbara. Wow, and I thought this plot was already as stupid as it could be.

First problem: If they’re already at Salinas, they’re two hours into their trip. Santa Barbara is another three hours down the road, and L.A. is only another couple of hours beyond that. They’re going to go through all that trouble to borrow a house from a stranger, in a city that’s most of the way to their destination? If they’re going another three hours before stopping, they might as well keep driving to L.A., right?

Second problem: Without thinking twice about it, Ralph now expects Pam to drop everything, ask a huge favor from one of the partners at her law firm (“Hello sir, would you mind if two unwashed men and a brazen hussy sully your beach house?”), and drive two hours to meet them in the middle of the night so that she can let them into the borrowed digs. Just how much of a doormat is Pam, anyway? Boy, I gotta say, women sure are useful to have around. I may not have fully thought out this whole gay thing.

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Cut to Ralph in a phone booth. Pam growls that she hates this plan but, as a doormat, has no choice but to accede to the whim of the Male Lawgiver. Then they chat about the horrific B plot. It turns out that Tony the Hoodlum wants to play Petruchio in the manner of Marlon Brando. Hold on, let me just email that tidbit to

Okay, I’m back. Ralph and Pam seem inclined to continue yammering on about the play, but Bill honks the horn, impatiently pulling us back into the sinkhole of stupidity known as the A plot. I don’t know whether to be grateful or not.

Caption contributed by Mark

”And then she ripped off Tony’s face, and it turns out he’s been a lizard all along!”

And then—holy shit. You know what comes next? A musical interlude. That’s right, the breathtaking tension of the gang’s eight-hour road trip is being cunningly relieved by a custom-written pop song so banal, it makes the works of Mark Barkan & Ritchie Adams seem like ”Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Here’s something that most people don’t remember about GAH: The format was meant to include a song break halfway through. Give Steve Cannell points for this: his show comes with the filler baked right in! There are 44 episodes of Greatest American Hero, and something north of two dozen of them have a song folded in, like that Serbian Christmas bread where you bake the big old coin inside and everyone grabs a hunk of the bread all at once and whoever ends up with the coin accidentally eats it and dies and is supposed to be exceptionally lucky the following year. Wait, I think there needed to be an “or” back there somewhere.

Actually, a couple of episodes have two songs.

All of the original songs are written by Stephen Geyer, Mike Post’s collaborator, and because they’re all based on the threadbare plots of Greatest American Hero episodes, they’re all colossally lame. This one is called “Hang On Sister”, and it’s about Starlet. I’m gonna give you the lyrics, because you’re not going to believe how crap they are, but before we get that far we get a big warning sign in the form of the trumpet synth intro—dit dit! dit dit! dit dit! dit dit!—which was clearly lifted whole from ”Philadelphia Freedom”. Because when you steal musical riffs, why not steal from songs everyone knows, so your lack of originality is immediately obvious? Hey, Vanilla Ice did it!

The entire song is performed over exciting footage of the ugly sedan driving down the highway in total darkness. Man, they should have started driving earlier. They’re totally going to miss the Look-Alike Contest.

As promised, the complete lyrics to “Hang On Sister”:

”Hang On Sister”
Written by:
Stephen Geyer
Performed by:
Stephen Geyer

She fell in with a hard-nosed crowd
They drink too much and they talk too loud
They speak their minds with a .44
But she ain’t gonna take no more, no!

She’s runnin’ away from the life she led
There’s a contract out on her head
With a lotta luck, and a little song,
She’s gonna put ‘em where they all belong!

Hang on sister! Things are gonna be just fine
Ride on sister! Right to the end of the line

I think this song was the inspiration for that poster with the cat. The lyric about “a little song” unsettled me, because I was trying to picture Starlet singing and was already putting my hands over my ears. But then it dawned on me that this is a mob story, in which case “sing” means “testify”. So: whew!

[Note from the Future: Oh, and this song is a complete and utter lie. Which brings up an interesting point: Don’t we assume, normally, that even when the characters in the story are being snookered, the incidental music is more or less omniscient? Or at least not deliberately trying to trick us? I mean, can you imagine if the soundtrack to The Crying Game featured a chirpy number halfway through called “That Gal Is So Hot, She’s Got a Vagina and Everything”? Which I’m now picturing being performed by Lou Reed for some reason. Go figure.]

So. They arrive at the beach house. Pam is already there, dressed in a track suit and a pristine white sweater tossed over her shoulders, because this is 1981. I’m expecting John Cusack and Rob Corddry to stumble in any minute.

Pam’s checking her watch. She’s pissed. Probably because Ralph dragging her into the A plot is taking time away from the B plot that Ralph already dragged her into. And also, from her own job, which, once again, ladies and gentlemen, is a lawyer. And also, from sleeping. And also, from filling the super-suit with flesh-eating lice. Wow, what a final episode that would’ve been!

Bill, Ralph, and Starlet finally show up. Pam and Starlet are introduced, and they size each other up like hungry pterodactyls. Starlet asks if Pam was ever a dancer (“You got a real cute shape!”) and says she can hook her up with a gig in Reno.

“Of course, you gotta work topless—but the pay’s okay!” I think that’s what they told Taylor Lautner. Pam tries to explain her real job to Starlet, but has to descend by ranks of synonyms from attorney to lawyer to mouthpiece. Ah, what a rich and fertile language is Engl—hold the phone, Starlet doesn’t know the word lawyer? Okay, sister, I demand to see some identification as a sentient human being, right now!

Caption contributed by Mark

Few people know that Ralph actually introduced Tonya Harding to Nancy Kerrigan.

Bill returns from the kitchen and starts yelling at Pam about how there’s nothing to eat or drink, which prompts Pam to seethe for a moment and then march off-screen with a shrill “Ralph, I’d like to talk to you, please!” Whoa, when did this become an episode of The Honeymooners?

Mark "Scooter" Wilson

Mark is a history guy, a graphics guy, a guy for whom wryly cynical assessments of popular culture are the scallion cream cheese on the toasted everything bagel of life. He spends his time teaching modern history at Brooklyn College, pondering the ancient Romans at the CUNY Graduate Center, and conjuring maps and illustrations for ungrateful bankers at various Manhattan monoliths. Readers are welcome to guess at reasons why he's nicknamed Scooter, with the proviso that all such submissions are guaranteed to be rather more interesting than the truth. Mark lives in the Midwood section of Brooklyn with a happy-go-lucky, flop-eared dog named Chiyo who is probably, at this very moment, waiting patiently for her walkies.

Multi-Part Article: The Greatest American Hero "The Hit Car"

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