The Greatest American Hero “The Hit Car” (part 7 of 9)

Back in San Francisco (clang! clang! clang!), Johnny the Dancer tells the thug following Starlet that he wants this “ended”. Now, if you’re really paying attention here, you might notice that Johnny the Dancer has studied at the Telly Savalas School of Ambiguous Villain Dialogue, because he keeps talking about “this” being ended, and wanting to read about “it” in the papers. Hmm. Maybe he’s not talking about a hit. Maybe he’s merging operations with Jimmy Fingers. We then get three seconds of some no-name brunette leering at Johnny for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

Next, it’s morning (huh? the thugs didn’t try to move in during the night?), and we get more priceless Billspeak dialogue. I’m guessing that Steve Cannell dissolved into fits of giggles at his typewriter whenever Bill started talking.

Pam: What have you got there?
Bill: What I have here is a half a box of stale biscuits that would float in a tub of spit forever. [hands her the box] See, a good backup man plans in advance because he knows that speed and efficiency depend on keeping the field operatives sharp and steady.
Pam: [holding up the box, which is clearly labeled “dog biscuits”] An army moves on its stomach, right, Bill?
Bill: [checking out the windows] You did good on the house, but you run a real sloppy feed kitchen, kiddo.
Pam: Bill, these are dog biscuits.
Bill: I know, what do you think I’m cryin’ about? Where’s Ralph?

Okay, two points for not doing the most obvious thing with the situation. Oh, and check out the Milk-Bone Brand X dog biscuits!

Caption contributed by Mark

”Huh, there’s even a prize inside! You, uh, don’t want to know what it is, though.”

Bill and Pam talk about how Starlet is coming on to Ralph, and Bill essentially gives Pam permission to punch Starlet in the face if she gets out of line with “our boy”. Interestingly, this is played as a minor early bonding moment for Pam and Bill, even though neither of them believes the other lives in “this century”.

Ralph is putting on the super-suit in the bathroom while Starlet, naturally, is banging on the door (“C’mon! I don’t mind sharesies!”). But Ralph has a suit-induced vision of the thugs waiting outside and quickly pulls on a robe, getting ready to bolt out of the bathroom. But then Starlet barges in wearing only her slip and starts going on about how she’s never been attracted to a “Fed” before. The suit is visible where the robe isn’t covering it—which means, cutely enough, it’s actually masquerading as pajamas for once.

Caption contributed by Mark

”Thank you for the offer, Miss Wild, but I like to brush my own teeth.”

Starlet starts to move in on Ralph, but he flees out the other door. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood first thing in the morning, you know? Plus, I’m pretty confident the woman has morning breath that smells like Hoboken.

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In the living room, Bill cooks up a plan in which Pam gets Starlet down on the floor in the bathroom (“Maybe that should be Ralph’s job!”), Bill goes out the front “John Wayne style” to draw their fire, and Ralph flies around from behind and “drops a house on them.” Ralph tries to protest that he’s “spooked with flying”, but Bill, continuing his trope of not listening to Ralph, won’t hear any of this, and is already out the door.

As the thugs start shooting at Bill, leading to a gunfight right there on the always empty and unpopulated Santa Barbara beachfront, Ralph drops off the back porch and says, “Well, here goes nothing again!” without moving his lips. Ralph does this a lot in the series. Is it a symptom of low self-esteem if you have constantly dubbed-in self-deprecations? Is there a pill for that, like Dubilex? (Side effects include dry mouth, constipation, impaired motor skills, and thinking with your red-jammy-clad dick.)

Bill gets shot in the hand, finally rousing Ralph to anger. The thugs flee from the costumed loon, but Ralph catches up with them easily, by means of some really fake shot-from-the-knees-up super-speed that makes it look like Ralph is cross-country skiing on a flatbed truck. Though, even in our day they have trouble not making super-speed look totally bogus.

Ralph tosses one thug aside, and chases after the other one as he drives away. This scene provides lovely fodder for internet geeks who feel it’s important to try to quantify Ralph’s abilities, since the van’s speedometer reads 50 MPH, and then 80 MPH, while Ralph, shouting “Pull over!”, runs frantically alongside with the sound of a locomotive engine dubbed in [?]. Eventually, he grabs the van and drags it to a stop.

Caption contributed by Mark


During the latter segment, we get our first really obvious instance in this episode of Stunt Ralph, a guy with his back to the camera wearing an anglo-fro Ralph wig that’s even bigger than William Katt’s fro, and not the slightest bit convincing at all. This is Ralph’s stunt double, Dennis “Danger” Madalone, who was also the stunt coordinator for the show (and later, several Star Trek series), but is now more famous for writing, producing, and singing in a hilariously cheesy post-9/11 uber-patriot Stand-By-Your-America music video. Fame sure is a wild and wonderful thing, ain’t it?

Caption contributed by Mark

…and Stunt Ralph.

Bill and Ralph argue about Ralph needing to fly in order to avoid being nabbed as a psycho by the soon-to-arrive cops, and Ralph reluctantly takes off—giving us a very brief but perfectly obvious shot of Dennis Madalone. The giveaway is that he’s not even wearing his Ralph Hinkley wig [!].

Caption contributed by Mark

At tonight’s performance the role of Ralph Hinkley, normally played by William Katt, will be played by Randolph Mantooth.

Ralph flies off, and seems to be doing okay at first, but then he loses altitude and plows into the ocean. Bill shakes his head and advises the thugs to forget what all the stuff with the flying dude in the red PJs. But the thugs are idiots, which we learn when we cut away to a raving Johnny the Dancer, who’s found out his goons are now in the “nuthouse” because they talked about some “super guy” breaking up the hit.

Creepy Thin Guy says the hit car is in L.A. now, and he hired two new guys—”L.A. talent!” (Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?) “It’s gonna happen!” Creepy Thin Guy promises. What is? You know, “it”! The thing! You know, the thing!

Now we’re on some street in sunny Los Angeles. Ralph and Pam pull up behind Bill’s fedmobile in Pam’s cute white VW bug convertible, and Ralph and Bill have a long conversation about Ralph once again refusing to fly, and Bill promises to help him “get the kinks out”. Starlet slinks up and hands Ralph her phone number if he should ever “need a friend”, leading to an exchange of bitchy lines with Pam that’s too lame to talk about. Is this episode over yet?

Caption contributed by Mark

”Here’s the info you asked for, babe. If you really want to dance topless in Reno, just call this number.”

Bill and Starlet head up toward the courthouse building. Suddenly, the hit car roars straight up into the plaza and, right there in broad daylight, starts shooting wildly in Bill and Starlet’s general direction. They manage to hit Bill in the lower leg and then zoom off, having attracted the attention of absolutely no police whatsoever. But then, courthouses almost never have any kind of law enforcement types around, do they?

Caption contributed by Mark

”Holy shit! It’s the car that canceled Star Trek! And now it’s after us!”

Ralph and Pam run up and start treating Bill’s wound, and a few minutes later an assistant district attorney runs up flanked by a couple of cops, ready to hustle Starlet into the grand jury. And the guy playing the ADA is Kene Holliday, whom I remember from Carter Country, but is probably more well-known as Hudson from Matlock. Starlet seems nervous (”Those guys ain’t foolin’!” What, were they using chocolate guns before?), but goes inside anyway.

Bill, ignoring his (unseen) bloodgushing leg wound, gloats about his success (“If that was a success,” says Ralph, looking over Bill’s injuries, “I’d hate to see one of your failures!”), but when we cut inside to the grand jury, Starlet is pleading the fifth for the whole schmear. And the incidental music actually goes dunh dunh dunh!

Caption contributed by Mark

”So what if I did eat the canary? You ain’t getting her back!”

The ADA stomps out to excoriate Bill, since he promised a witness. And Bill has apparently already been to the hospital and back, since he now has dressings on his leg and a crutch. That’s some efficient medical care they have out there in southern California!

Bill yells after the ADA that “she called me!” Now it’s up to Ralph to put the pieces together, bringing up the three encounters with the thugs in which Bill was wounded each time, while Starlet didn’t get a scratch. Bill protests that they just “took a little gas” stopping the thugs killing Starlet, but Ralph counters with, “Or, they were trying to kill you, Bill.”

Ralph: Fifteen years of pulling on Johnny Damanti’s chain. Fifteen years of weekends in the library. Maybe you finally got to the Dancer’s gag reflex!

Hey, whoa, that’s Creepy Thin Guy’s job!

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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