Saturday, July 29, 2017


My 12 year old nephew is a big fan of 'The Big Bang Theory', which at least weans him away from the Disney/Nickelodeon teen sitcoms for the sake of everybody else's sanity who's forced to watch it with him.  But the level of suggestive discourse in any given episode does make me feel a little uneasy about him watching it.  However, it's certainly better than having him watch that puerile '2 Broke Girls'.

Anyhoo, my sister texted me with a question from both of them about a small trivial matter in the show - the matter of Sheldon's tee-shirts.  Specifically, this one:

(Her picture, not mine)

And... I'm ashamed to admit it, but even though it looked familiar, I just couldn't place it.  (I fear my dotage is close at hand.)

So I found a click-bait site about fifty of Sheldon's tee-shirts and slogged my through page after page until I came to Number 47.  As most of Team Toobworld long since figured out, it's the emblem on "the suit" worn by Ralph Hinkley in 'The Greatest American Hero'.

Most of Sheldon's tee shirts feature the emblems, logos, and artwork associated with various comic book superheroes.  I think most of them might even be of the DC variety.  Many of those superheroes have had televersions in the greater Toobworld Universe, but usually in alternate TV dimensions like those shows on the CW and the growing stable of series to be found on Netflix.  

But there are a handful who have existed in the main Toobworld, including the heavy-hitters from both DC and Marvel:
  • 'The Adventures of Superman'
  • 'Batman'
  • 'Wonder Woman'
  • 'The Flash'
  • 'The Amazing Spiderman'
  • 'The Incredible Hulk'

And we've seen Sheldon Cooper wearing most of the chest symbols for those characters - the "S" and the Bat, but especially the lightning bolt for the Flash.  And in each of the cases for those Earth Prime-Time superheroes, they are no longer active on the Toobworld stage; in fact, some of them have already died.  (Being immortal, Princess Diana has retreated from the mortal world.)

However, their exploits became news in the Toobworld free press and the facts about the lives of those superheroes became common knowledge to the general public.  (Like Detective Goren knowing about the Batcave and Jerry Seinfeld using the name of Superman's father - Jor-El - as his pin code.)

So an off-shoot of that knowledge would be people looking to cash in for a fast buck.  Hence, the tee-shirt market which has been enriched by nerds like Sheldon Cooper.

'The Greatest American Hero' would follow that same line of reasoning, even though it was a TV show that should be sharing the same TV dimension as 'The Big Bang Theory'.

From Wikipedia:

'The Greatest American Hero' is an American comedy-drama superhero television series that aired for three seasons from 1981 to 1983 on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, it premiered as a two-hour pilot movie on March 18, 1981. The series features William Katt as teacher Ralph Hinkley ("Hanley" for the latter part of the first season), Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell, and Connie Sellecca as lawyer Pam Davidson.

The series chronicles Ralph's adventures after a group of aliens gives him a red and black suit that grants him superhuman abilities. Unfortunately for Ralph, who hates wearing the suit, he immediately loses its instruction booklet, and thus has to learn how to use its powers by trial and error, often with comical results.

During 1986, the original principal cast reunited for a pilot movie for a new NBC series to be named 'The Greatest American Heroine', which did not result in a new series, and the pilot was never broadcast by NBC. Ultimately, the pilot was re-edited as an episode of the original series (complete with original opening credits and theme), and added to syndication sets of the original series, for which it is the final episode.

The pilot movie reveals that several years after the final episode, Ralph's secret identity was finally revealed to the public, resulting in his becoming a celebrity. This angers the aliens who gave him the suit, and they charge him with finding a new hero to wear the costume and use its powers for fighting evil. Once the transfer is made, they explain, all memory of Ralph's exploits will be purged from the world's memory and remembered only by Ralph, Pam, and Bill.

Bill begins their search by researching people with desired hero qualities, but Ralph finds a young woman named Holly Hathaway (Mary Ellen Stuart), an elementary school teacher who spends her off-hours time looking for lost kittens, raising environmental awareness, and serving as a foster mother. Bill, Pam, and Ralph meet in the desert, where Ralph tells Bill about Holly. He reacts visibly to his new partner being a "skirt" before Holly arrives, flying in wearing a new version of the suit made for her, and she pledges to help Bill. The original trio say their final farewells, and even the stoic Maxwell reveals his true emotions as he says goodbye to Ralph and calling Pam a trooper - " of the best!" Holly reacts emotionally to the fond farewells, but breaks the somber mood as she accidentally pulls the door off of Bill's sedan.

The rest of the episode deals with her learning how to use the suit with Bill Maxwell's guidance, and the pair trying to develop a working relationship. It ends with Holly talking to her foster daughter about Bill, saying he is a good person; Bill, overhearing what she says about him, speaks into a recorder he uses as his "diary" to suggest that maybe she is the right person to wear the suit after all.

As far as Toobworld Central is concerned, the aliens' plan for the world to undergo a collective amnesia didn't work.  O'Bviously.  That's why some enterprising tee-shirt company started cranking out the t-shirts.

(BTW, a side note about Ralph Hinkley - during the course of the series, we met his mother who was played by Katt's own mother, Barbara Hale.  It was assumed that his father was dead, but in fact he spent most of Ralph's formative years lost at sea.  Ralph's father was Roy Hinkley, "the Professor" of 'Gilligan's Island'.)

With the original series, the spin-off sequel movie, this acknowledgement of the superhero's existence and that theory of relateeveety with the Professor, I think it likely that Ralph Hinkley will one day be inducted into the Television Crossover Hall of Fame.  I'm thinking it should be as part of the Christmas Honors list rather than for the Birthday Honors.  After all, we are talking about a guy in a red suit......

I'm not sure if my sister is planning to purchase the tee-shirt for my nephew; it is available from several online stores.  But after writing up this article, I'm certain of one thing - I'm going to get one for myself!

And speaking of my sister and nephew, my thanks go out to them for inspiring this post......

Up, up, and away!

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