First the premise: Ralph Hinkley, an idealistic high school teacher, and Bill Maxwell, a by the book FBI agent, have what seems like a chance encounter with each other in the desert. However, aliens have brought the two together and then give Ralph a superhero suit which gives it's wearer many of same powers as Superman. While wearing the suit Ralph has super strength and speed, can fly, can make himself invisible, can create and control fire, is bulletproof, and can see holographic images of things happening in other locations or times. The aliens gave Ralph an instruction book on how to use the suit, but Ralph loses the instructions within minutes of receiving them.
Bill Maxwell's role is to provide Ralph with guidance and problems to solve. As an FBI agent Maxwell is well suited for this job. Ralph was chosen by the aliens for his character and ideals. The aliens also state that the suit was made for Ralph only, which means Bill needs Ralph as much as Ralph needs Bill.
The loss of the instructions was the plot device that allowed this show to rise above an ordinary comic book tv show, as well as making it not a complete rip off of Superman. Not only does Ralph have to struggle with a new role in life that negatively affects both his family and work, but he has to try to figure out how to use the suit at the same time. Not knowing how to use the suit is also a major weakness in what would otherwise be an uninteresting invulnerable character.
Besides Ralph (played by William Katt) and Maxwell (played by Robert Culp), the next most prominent cast members are Ralph's love interest Pam (Connie Selleca) and Ralph's student Tony Villicano (Michael Paré) Connie is probably best known now for being married to John Tesh, and Michael's best known role was Eddie from both Eddie and the Cruisers movies. Connie does a respectable job in her role as the girlfriend / ‘third string utility man’ on the crimefighting team. But Michael's portrayal of punk Tony seems like a parody of John Travolta in Welcome Back Kotter, which makes little sense as the show is based in California and a surfer bum would seem more appropriate.
One thing I noticed even as a kid was that the flying scenes were especially fake, but considering that it was a TV show made in the early 80s I can let that pass. But watching the show as an adult you can't help but notice all the scenes where Ralph lands and then up pops William Katt in a much too obviously cut scene, usually this is from a different camera angle. But I will let that fly as well since it was 1981. One thing I can't let fly is the use of Katt's stunt double from behind in scenes where there was no stunt double necessary. You could see the double's real hair color under the $10 blond wig! Why wouldn't they use Katt for those scenes, or at least dye the guy's hair so it doesn't show up under the wig!
While those may be very obvious problems with the special effects, the most annoying thing about the show is the lack of sync between the video and audio. I wonder if this is from the remastering of the DVD or if it was like that in the first place. My guess is that this was a production issue, and not something that happened during the remastering process as it occurs quite frequently.
Forgiving the aforementioned issues, the show is still enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the use of original music written specifically for each episode. It may have been more common back then, but I can't think of other shows that used music with lyrics to add to the episode's plot. Season One's My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys and the Self Titled Pilot are both outstanding episodes. Cowboys was a tribute to heroes in law enforcement, the military, and even The Lone Ranger! I strongly recommend watching Season One to anyone who loved the show as a kid. You will gain a new appreciation for the show. As a bonus, the season one DVD contains the never aired pilot of The Greatest American Superheroine.