Action shows have had plenty of cop and detective heroes, but somehow, the ever-humble stuntman usually got left out of the picture. This imbalance was corrected in the early 1980’s when The Fall Guy hit the airwaves. This show was the brainchild of the ever-prolific Glen A. Larson, the television producer behind such colorful fare as B.J. And The Bear, Battlestar Galactica, and Knight Rider. Like those classics, The Fall Guy blended a comic-book-style premise with plenty of action and humor.
The focus of The Fall Guy was Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stuntman. This character was brought to life by Lee Majors, a macho actor best known to viewers as The Six Million Dollar Man. Majors also sang the show’s witty country-pop theme song, “The Unknown Stuntman,” which chronicled the woes of your average, everyday stuntman.
But Colt was much more than an ordinary stuntman. This man’s man supplemented his rough-and-tumble day job by moonlighting as a bounty hunter. Of course, this side gig turned out to be every bit as dangerous as his movie and TV work.
Colt also had two assistants to aid him in his quest for justice and profits. The first was his nephew Howie Munson, an aspiring stuntman who usually seemed pretty hapless in the derring-do department. The other assistant was Jody Banks, a foxy stuntwoman who added plenty of moxie and eye-candy to the show’s proceedings. Colt and crew’s assignments were doled out by series of bail-bondswomen: the first was Samantha “Big” Jack, later to be followed by Terri Michaels and finally Pearl Sperling in the show’s final season.
Each week’s episode began in fine James Bond fashion, with Colt performing a death-defying stunt on a movie set. This would be followed by a visit to the bail-bondswoman for an assignment. She always painted the week’s assignment as an easy score, but it never quite worked out that way for poor Colt. Inevitably, the quest for an easy bounty would lead Colt and his team into a predicament that required him to put his stuntman skills to use. Usually, the stunt he used to escape danger used elements of the stunt he performed at the beginning of the episode, keeping a karmic balance to our man Colt’s wild double life.
The Fall Guy never disappointed in the “colorful villain” arena, pitting Colt and his team against a diverse group of foes that included everything from rampaging bikers to evil UFO’s, along with the familiar thieves and smugglers. Even more colorful than these villains was the guest star who made an appearance in each episode: the laundry list of famous guest faces included the likes of Buddy Hackett, Elvira, and Richard Burton (!). There was also the occasional music-themed episode that would include acts like Sha Na Na or The Temptations.
The result was a splashy, good-natured adventure that blended thrills, laughs, and a bit of glitz into an audience-friendly package. Thus, it was no surprise when this very commercial creation became a ratings hit. The Fall Guy ended up enjoying a five-season run that carried it into the spring of 1986.
Theme song lyrics
“It’s a death defyin’ life I lead,
I take my chances.
I die for a livin’ in the movies and TV,
But the hardest thing I ever do
Is watch my leadin’ ladies
Kiss some other guy while I’m bandagin’ my knee…”
“I might fall from a tall building,
I might roll a brand-new car,
Cause I’m the Unknown Stuntman
That made Redford such a star…”
USA / ABC – TCF / 101×50 minutes / Broadcast 4 November 1981- 2 May 1986
Creator/Executive Producer: Glen A. Larson / Music: Stu Phillips / Theme Music: David Somerville, Gail Jenson, Glen A. Larson / Sung by Lee Majors
LEE MAJORS as Colt Seavers
DOUGLAS BARR as Howie Munson
HEATHER THOMAS as Jody Banks
JO ANN PFLUG as Samantha “Big Jack” Jack (1981-1982)
MARKIE POST as Terri Shannon/Michaels (1982-1985)
NEDA VOLZ as Pearl Sperling (1985-1986)