From 1981 to '83, The Greatest American Hero made a generation believe a man could fly — even as he often crash-landed. William Katt starred as the neurotic schoolteacher who gained superpowers from "the magic jimmies" bestowed upon him by aliens. Robert Culp played Bill Maxwell, his crusty FBI partner, and Connie Selleca was his wry and beautiful girlfriend. "I think it spoke to the Everyman," Katt says. "Stephen J. Cannell created this fabulous character who was the reluctant hero. He had a great sense of humor and humanity about him."
While not a massive hit (unlike its theme song, "Believe It or Not," which climbed to No. 2 on the charts), the show's enduring appeal is evidenced by Syfy's 20-hour Independence Day marathon, beginning Sunday at 9am/ET. It's a bittersweet salute, though, with Culp's passing in March at age 79 from a heart attack. "It's a great man and a good friend that we lost, but I will think back on him fondly," Katt says. "I think Stephen's going to do a Greatest American Hero feature film eventually and I'm sure he'll pay homage to Bob in some way or another."
Katt, who went on to a variety of roles, including recent guest stints on Heroes, House and Numb3rs, has stayed in touch with the character by co-writing a Greatest American Hero comic book and contributing to the show's Facebook page. "[The show] was certainly a watermark in my professional career," he says. "It changed everything, and my life has just been terrific."