Mar 30, 2021
The Greatest American Hero “The Hit Car” (part 8 of 9)
Ralph then walks through the whole setup: Johnny got Starlet to call Bill. She made up the stuff about the astral charts, not flying, having to stop in Santa Barbara, and so on. Bill listens to him, and then goes, “Noooo. Uh—no. No, nuh-uh. [pause] [whistles] Hello. [pause] Ain’t that something.” Which? Is actually a pretty neat way to show a relentlessly stubborn guy realigning what he thinks he knows.
What’s funny is that Bill’s “huh, go figure” reaction to the hit on him causes Ralph to blow a gasket, because Bill doesn’t know what he’s doing, and Ralph’s been running around like a freak for nothing. But Bill, in his inimitable hard-boiled Billspeak, skewers his tantrum with, “You’re plucked because the cupcake turned out to be a wrong number, and she was putting you on, too!”
Ralph, in turn, admits that he’s angry because he doesn’t like seeing Bill “dressed up like Lon Chaney in The Mummy’s Tomb”, and frustrated because he can’t use the suit properly.
For those wondering just how Greatest American Hero got off the ground, this is an instructive scene. This is the heart of the show, right here: the combative relationship between these two contrasting men who both want the same thing, for the suit to be used to do some good in the world. And there’s something very raw and exposed about this relationship, something you don’t see in the slicker types of buddy-cop formula shows. I think a lot of this has to do with Robert Culp’s off-the-cuff acting style. You can see onscreen the way Culp’s ad libs and unpredictable mannerisms force William Katt to keep pace with his partner and rise to the occasion. In his conversations with Bill, Ralph has an edge and a level of engagement you don’t always see in other contexts on the show, and this lends a note of credibility to the show’s central relationship.
In the car, Ralph follows up on earlier complaints that Bill gets off on telling him what to do, and doesn’t listen to what his partner has to say. Bill essentially says he doesn’t believe in partners. Man, those aliens picked just the right guys for this job, didn’t they?