The Greatest American Hero 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, featured William Katt as teacher Ralph Hinkley, Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell, and Connie Sellecca as lawyer Pam Davidson.
After the assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr., on March 30, 1981, the character's last name was hurriedly changed to "Hanley" in two episodes. In "Saturday on Sunset Boulevard", aired within days of the incident, this was accomplished by overdubbing dialogue ("Hinkley" to "Hanley") whenever the character's last name was spoken aloud. For the rest of the first season, the character was generally referred to as either "Ralph" or "Mister H", although in "The Best Desk Scenario" where Ralph is given a promotion and his own office space, we see the name "Ralph Hanley" on the door plaque. By the season 2 premiere, "The Two-Hundred-Mile-an-Hour Fast Ball", the show's producers returned the character's surname to the original Hinkley.
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. The theme song, "Believe It or Not", was composed by Mike Post (music) and Stephen Geyer (lyrics) and sung by Joey Scarbury. It debuted in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 on May 9, 1981, eventually peaking at No. 2 during the weeks of August 15 and August 22, and spending a total of 18 weeks in the Top 40. It also peaked at the No. 1 position on the Record World Chart.