In the world of TV science fiction and fantasy, we all pretty much know what defines a hero. The traits of reassurance, confidence, strength, ability, instincts and courage are among the main ingredients requiring a hero to act accordingly when he/she is out to save the world from evil forces.
Still, the question remains: does your treasured savior always have to be straight-laced, contemplative and dignified? Who says a sci-fi and fantasy-oriented hero has to be well-spoken and accomplished such as Star Trek leaders Jean-Luc Picard or Benjamin Sisko or brooding and conflicted as The Incredible Hulk’s Dr. David Bruce Banner?
Sometimes a hero can maintain shades of inconsistency and be flawed, comical, offbeat and uncertain. In Try My Hero Sandwich: An Unlikely Taste, Huh? we will take a look at some of television’s unconventional and wacky heroes that invite a broad smile on our faces with their usual methods of crime-fighting and rescuing society from undesirable riff raff. Whether they may be superheroes, spies, gifted children or animated wonders these dedicated misfits are as celebrated as their serious-minded counterparts in ensuring the safety of their fellow citizens.
Frank’s top TEN unlikely and unorthodox TV sci-fi/fantasy heroes are:
Stanley Beamish/Mr. Terrific from MR. TERRIFIC: Gullible gas station attendant Stanley Beamish was a pill-popping specimen…but not of the illegal narcotics variety. His particular pills were super-powered and top secretive motivators to allow him to become a kooky caped crime-fighting machine for the government agency Bureau of Secret Projects (BSP) in the short-lived silly-minded 1967 sitcom Mr. Terrific. Stanley was affable but dense especially in the workings of his specialized pills that would only give him his superpowers for a mere hour before they wore off and he turned back in a normal man.
Carter Nash/Captain Nice from CAPTAIN NICE: Much like the aforementioned Mr. Terrific, Captain Nice was a similar blueprint in that it was a short run 1967 sitcom that parodied the superhero genre. From the co-creator of the immensely popular spy spoof Get Smart, the gimmick behind Captain Nice told the tale of shy and reserved police chemist Carter Nash that developed a potent liquid that miraculously turns him into inept superhero Captain Nice. Donning a shabby-looking red-white-blue costume, Captain Nice was a true momma’s boy and only got into the crime business because his nagging mother urged him to do so. Meek but not sleek, Captain Nice is just a forgotten footnote from the late 60’s attempt on hero-worshipping ridicule.
Chandler Smythe and Henry McNeil from GOOD VS. EVIL: The short life span of the exaggerated 1999 occult series Good vs. Evil focused on a murdered reporter in flippant Chandler Smythe who is recruited from eternity to work as an agent for The Corp, an organization devoted to haunting down mischievous mortals that bargained with the Devil. The mortals that were too late to be saved were turned into deadly Morlocks. Partnered with a black sidekick named Henry McNeil, Chandler roamed around the shady region of hedonistic Hollywood (naturally) looking for demonic activity while slaying Morlock monsters and other creepy cretins that threaten the interests of The Corp’s anti-Faustian deal-making mission. The over-the-top, nonsensical campy insanity soon overstayed its welcome on Good VS. Evil (originally titled “GvE” on the USA Network).
Ralph Hinkley from THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO: When Los Angeles- based high school teacher Ralph Hinkley inherits a mysterious red flying suit from the generous gesture of aliens after a field trip to the desert, he becomes the epitome of an unlikely champion of justice in the early 80’s ABC-TV action-adventure fantasy The Greatest American Hero. Ralph joins forces with his FBI contact Bill Maxwell to track down criminals in klutzy fashion while figuring out how to adjust to his superhero garb in the process. Constantly Ralph was awkwardly slamming and bumping into walls and was the architect behind rough landings. Sure, Ralph was uncomfortable in his clumsy crime-fighting capacity but he had heart and high regard for his new found role as a hero of society (as opposed to his being a hero of young academic minds as an educator).
Maxwell Smart (Agent 86) from GET SMART: The late actor-comedian Don Adams won multiple Emmy Awards playing the dim-witted yet strangely effective Agent 86 Maxwell Smart in the 1965-70 satirical spy spoof Get Smart. The insufferable and exasperating Smart worked for the government agency CONTROL alongside his sensible lovely sidekick (and future wife) Agent 99. Despite Max’s hapless capabilities and frustrations he causes his boss the Chief, somehow the knuckleheaded spy manages to get the best of CONTROL’s rival in the evil-minded KAOS always looking to take over the world with their sinister gesture. Armed with snappy catchphrases (“Would you believe…”, “Sorry about that, Chief”, “And loving it…”) and self-deprecating humor, Maxwell Smart was a governmental goofball that got the job done.
THE MIGHTY HEROES: Ralph Bashki’s 1966 animated television series The Mighty Heroes only had an abbreviated stay back in the day but it was still enjoyable kitsch for the kiddies in syndication years later. These Heroes protected the city of Good Haven from pesky supervillains looking to do some major harm. The spry opening credits to The Mighty Heroes were quite infectious and catchy as it boasted a pulsating theme song that made for a rousing introduction. When Good Haven was in doom and needed assistance from the villainous element, explosive fireworks are set off as a means to summon the Mighty Heroes into action. Soon, Strong Man, Rope Man, Diaper Man, Tornado Man and Cuckoo Man were joined at the hip to fight adversaries such as The Monsterizer or The Enlarger. Cheeky and featherweight, The Mighty Heroes was bubblegum escapism.
THE WHIZ KIDS: In 1983, CBS decided that it wanted to exploit the appeal of two commodities: children and computers. Thus, the network hatched the concept of The Whiz Kids where these technological tykes used their high-tech skills to track down white collar criminals and other violaters in the Californian community of Calabasas. These “whiz kids”, led by young computer hacker Richie Adler (“Little House on the Prairie” alum Matthew Laborteaux) and his trusty computer Ralf, gathered clues and examined evidence as they assisted the authorities of thwarting the illegal efforts of law breakers.
Xena from XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS: No TV heroine has been so complex, calculating, cutthroat or courageously conflicted as the combative Xena from the action adventure period piece fantasy Xena: Warrior Princess. Originally a villainous vixen from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena spun off into her own show where she vowed to change her ways by abandoning her diabolical past. Instead, Xena (accompanied by her young blondish sidekick Gabrielle) wandered the mythical ancient Greek countryside helping others while battling the dastardly gods, demons, spirits and monsters. Xena was a sexy Amazon of a woman as she donned a black leather outfit while brandishing a sword and chakram (a sturdy steel discus resembling a metallic Frisbee) to fight off her feisty foes. In search of redemption and a sense of resolution, Xena’s savagery and acrobatic spirit was finally used in an effort to maintain the quality of civilization and not to destroy it.
THE MISFITS OF SCIENCE: Oddball and freakish superheroes is what made up the wacky foursome force in the short-lived 1985 NBC fantasy adventure The Misfits of Science. As director of the Humanidyne Institute, Dick Stetmeyer could not quite get his gifted rag tag bunch to concentrate on the affairs of his experimental projects. Leader Dr. Billy Hayes and his cockeyed crew wanted to concentrate on using their weird super powers in body morphing, electrocution and telekinetic resources to benefit the world from nasty-minded opportunists looking to create havoc. Young and idealistic, the sideshow shenanigans of The Misfits of Science were on display for a brief time in the mid 80’s until television audiences dismissed them hastily off the airwaves.
Simon McKay from THE WIZARD: As the pint-sized protector of the people, Simon McKay a caring and thoughtful inventor of peculiar toys, gadgets and other contraptions that were designed to assist needy individuals as well as government agencies. The four foot tall Simon was an unselfish Samaritan that tried to make a difference in his artistry of designing devices to benefit his fellow man. Because Simon was so invaluable the governmental bigwigs assigned no-nonsense Agent Alex Jagger to work with the chipper Simon so that foreign evildoers cannot get hold of him to manipulate and take advantage of his brilliance and wizardry with technological toys. Sadly, the TV viewers rejected this 1986 CBS intrigue adventure series after a handful of episodes were broadcast to the indifference of sci-fi/fantasy-based boob tube watchers.
Just think…all the mentioned sources above only wanted to do one thing and one thing only…be like Mighty Mouse in coming to save the day!