#8. The Greatest American Hero--ABC (1981-1983)
High school teach Ralph Hinkey is given a red flying suit by aliens during a field trip to the desert. Why the aliens chose to give him an enormously powerful weapon is never explained. Its human-scale equivalent would be giving a flamethrower to a monkey, which"¦ Oh, of course. Entertainment value.
Anyway, instead of using the suit to harass women who had spurned his sexual advances, he chooses to fight crime-a more noble, if less realistic goal.
#7. The Master--NBC (1984)
The Master is the story of the first white ninja (Lee Van Cleef!), who uses his deadly martial arts training to train the second white ninja. Together they use their dark powers to roam the country in a van, helping strangers fight injustice. You know, protecting orphans from greedy land developers. Think The A-Team but with less improvised metalwork.
#6. The Misfits of Science--NBC (1985-1986)
Yet more crime-fighting, this time by a team of wacky mutants with powerfully stupid abilities. For example:
One guy is seven feet tall. That isn't his power, but it is cooler than his actual power, which is the ability to become seven inches tall.
One guy has the ability to channel electricity after an accident with some guitar amplifiers. But water causes him to short circuit.
One guy's power was-we're not kidding here-being very cold. This sounds great, except that he would melt and die if it got too warm out. He-and again, we're not fucking kidding here-spent most of his time in an ice cream truck.
One girl's power was being a young Courtney Cox, which wasn't terribly useful at the time, but opened up a lot of doors for her in later years.
#5. Out of This World--Syndicated (1987-1991)
This show was about Evie, a 13-year-old girl who developed amazing powers due to her unusual heritage. It turns out that on a lonely night 13 years before, her mother did the intergalactic horizontal tango with a visitor from another planet. This seems completely unexplainable until you realize the alien was played by Burt (motherfucking) Reynolds, at which point it just seems awesome.
According to the show's synopsis, despite being the most powerful being to walk the Earth, Evie uses her newfound abilities to do nothing more exciting than get into your typical teenage mischief, then try to get out of it again. Cleaning up after keg parties and dealing with unwanted pregnancies, we suppose.
#4. BJ and the Bear--NBC (1979-1981)
This show was about a trucker called BJ who traveled around the South in his big rig with his pet chimp, "The Bear." Together, they had all sorts of adventures roaming the highways and running into trouble with the law. But by the end of every episode they always managed to find time for a laugh, a lesson learned and a sexual misadventure with a drifter.
We may have made up that drifter bit. The chimp thing is true though.
#3. The Man from Atlantis--NBC (1977-1978)
Patrick Duffy has webbed toes and gills, and together with a beautiful doctor and a team of government agents, he roams the seas fighting undersea crime. (Okay, technically it was the character played by Patrick Duffy who had webbed toes, but we wanted to see if we could mess up some search engines this way.)
When he wasn't foiling evil aquatic-based schemes, Patrick Duffy also managed to travel back in time to the Wild West and Medieval Italy. The Medieval Italy episode was particularly remarkable, due to the fact that he managed to meet famous Italians Romeo and Juliet, who didn't seem the least bit surprised to find out they were non-fictional characters.
Also, in another episode the polar ice caps melted, but in Man from Atlantis canon it turns out that this isn't that big a deal, and is in fact easily fixed within an hour of plot (including commercial breaks) if you have webbed toes.
#2. Quark--NBC (1977-1978)
Quark was about the wacky crew of an interstellar garbage truck. The ensemble consisted of the dour captain, two sexy twins, a hermaphrodite, a plant creature-who, thriftily, looks exactly like a human-and the saddest-looking robot you've ever seen. Throughout the show's short run, the crew traveled the interstellar garbage lanes getting into mishaps, and, we're guessing, probably solving some manner of space-crime as well. Astoundingly enough, this preposterous show was nominated for an Emmy. What could it possibly have been nominated for, you ask?
That's right. Costume design.
#1. The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage--NBC (1991)
In order to escape a lifetime of eternal torment, 17th century pirate Black Jack Savage must save one life for every one he's taken. Left to haunt a Caribbean fortress until the present day, he teams up with a Wall Street con artist on the run from his own demons. Together they must use their wits, guile, and a high tech speedboat to save 100 lives-and in the process, both of their souls. (Think My Name is Earl, but with pirates and no writing staff.) Sadly, they came up a little short of the 100 necessary lives when the show was cancelled for being stupid.
Little-known fact: series co-star Roma Downey would later take this idea, remove the pirates and re-pitch it to CBS as Touched by an Angel. Longtime fans of TBAA will recall the pilot episode featuring a high-tech speedboat chase and a cache of hidden gold.
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