February 11, 2023



(NBC, September 10-December 3, 1977)
Farmhouse Films



Muhammad Ali – Himself
Casey Carmichael – Damon
Patrice Carmichael – Nicky
Frank Bannister – Himself


Muhammad Ali is considered one of the most important sports figures of the 20th Century, as well as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. until changing his name after converting to Islam in the 1960s, Ali took up boxing at the age of 12 after being encouraged by Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin and inspired by seeing amateur boxers on a local televised program called Tomorrow’s Champions.

Ali standing over Sonny Liston.

Ali made his amateur boxing debut in 1954, winning against Ronnie O’Keefe by split decision. He went on to win six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union national title, and the light heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics. Ali’s amateur recorded ended up being 100 wins with 5 losses. He then went professional in 1960, taking on the likes of Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Chuck Wepner (whose bout with Ali inspired the creation of the Rocky franchise), Ron Lyle and Joe Bugner. In the early years of his professional career, Ali adopted the personality of a self-described “big-mouth and bragger”; engaging in trash-talk with free-style rhyme schemes and spoken word poetry that often made him regarded as influential in the world of hip hop music through his quick, confident and smooth deliveries. This was inspired and encouraged by professional wrestler “Gorgeous George” Wagner as a means to bring in more people to bouts who either wanted to see him win or really lose. Of course, they got a lot more of the former with a career record of 56 wins and 5 losses. His fights were some of the world’s most-watched television broadcasts, frequently setting viewership records.

Speaking about his draft refusal alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

He became an icon for the counterculture movement of the 1960s when he refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War because of his religious beliefs and personal ethical opposition. Guilty of draft evasion, he was stripped of his boxing titles and denied a boxing license in every state. As a result, he didn’t fight from 1967-70 until he was finally able to get the decision appealed and overturned in 1971. In the meantime, Ali was touring colleges speaking out against the war and advocating African-American pride and racial justice (he had grown up during the period of segregation). He also participated in a fictional boxing match with retired champion Rocky Marciano, which had them sparring for about 75 one-minute rounds with several potential outcomes; with the winner chosen by a computer. Edited together and released to theaters in 1970 as The Super Fight, the American version had Ali losing the fight in a knockout while Marciano lost in the European version to cuts.

Promotional poster for Ali's first album.

Outside of fighting, Ali pursued several other interests. In 1963, he released a comedy album of spoken word music through Columbia Records titled I Am the Greatest (regarded as an early example of rap music), and in 1964 he recorded a cover of the song “Stand by Me”. In 1976 he recorded a spoken word novelty record through St. John’s Fruit and Vegetable Co., The Adventures of Ali and is Gang vs. Mr. Tooth Decay, meant to raise awareness of tooth decay in children. Ali participated in professional wrestling several times; including being the special guest referee at the inaugural WrestleMania event in 1985. He was also an amateur artist, making dozens of drawings and paintings throughout the 1970s.

Ali in Buck White.

Then there was Ali the actor. He would appear—mostly as himself—in shows like Vega$, Diff’rent Strokes (whose title was inspired by one of Ali’s sayings), and Touched by an Angel, made a cameo in the 1962 film Requiem for a Heavyweight, appeared in the 1972 documentary Black Rodeo, and played himself in the 1977 film The Greatest, which was adapted from his autobiography. Actual character roles included the titular lead of the short-lived 1969 Broadway musical Buck White and former slave and Civil War soldier Gideon Jackson in the 1978 film Freedom Road. Somewhere in between all that, it was decided to try and take advantage of Ali’s popularity with children and create an animated series centered around him.

The animated version of Ali.

Created by Fred Calvert, Kimie Calvert, Janis Diamond and John Paxton and produced through Calvert’s Farmhouse Films, I Am the Greatest!: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali followed Ali (voiced by himself) on his trips around the world as he participated in fights and exhibitions. Along the way, adventure would seem to find him in the form of saboteurs, poachers, thieves and other forms of trouble that would plague the locals of wherever he was visiting. Ali, being the man he was, couldn’t just sit idly by when there was a possibility he could help. Despite the violent nature of Ali’s well-known occupation, being on Saturday morning meant the resolutions to the programs leaned more into non-violent solutions. Situations and mysteries were solved through Ali’s worldly knowledge and with words, and moments of physicality were generally relegated to minor grappling.

Ali's "entourage": Bad News, Damon, Frank and Nicky.

Joining Ali on his adventures were his niece and nephew, Nicky (Patrice Carmichael) and Damon (Casey Carmichael), and their dog, Bad News. Additionally, Ali’s real-life public relations agent and hype man, Frank Bannister, came along for the ride also voicing himself. While the kids were always deep into the adventures, Frank was more of a reluctant participant. He was focused on making sure Ali met his obligations and set up the next one, and was exasperated trying to keep up when he would run off on an escapade.

Ali wrestling an alligator.

I Am the Greatest!: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali debuted on NBC on September 10, 1977. The series was written by John Bates, Carole Beers, Booker Bradshaw, Ellen Christianson, David Christianson, Joseph R. Henderson, Bryan Joseph and Gene Moss. The music and sound effects by were done by Charles Blaker and Robert V. Greene (as Corky Greene). The entire cast recorded in Hollywood with the exception of Ali; whom Calvert would fly out to meet in Philadelphia to record his lines. Each episode also featured a brief live-action segment at the end where Ali would deliver some personal words of wisdom to the audience.

Ali addressing the viewers.

Despite Ali’s larger-than-life presence and popularity, the show failed to generate significant ratings and was cancelled after a single season of 13 episodes. Reruns would air on El Rey Network, who aired them in a marathon following the death of Ali in 2016.  To date, the series ahs never seen an official home media release; although bootlegs are floating around the internet. The El Rey airings have been preserved as part of the Internet Archive.



“The Great Alligator” (9/10/77) – A pair of thieves use alligator attacks to terrorize a local swamp village.
“The Air Fair Affair” (9/17/77) – A pair of dirty pilots sabotage their competition in an air race.
“The Littlest Runner” (9/24/77) – Ali and the kids try to get a runaway to stop living in the woods and return home.
“Ali’s African Adventure” (10/1/77) – While on an African safari, Ali gets involved in trying to help stop a poaching operation.
“Superstar” (10/8/77) – Ali’s sci-fi movie shoot is disrupted by the crew’s boat exploding and the giant alien robot seemingly developing a mind of its own.
“The Haunted Park” (10/15/77) – Ali is participating in the grand opening of a haunted park in London where people seem to disappear from the roller coaster after it passes through a tunnel.
“Caught in the Wild” (10/22/77) – A plane malfunction leaves Ali and his crew stranded in the wilds of the Yukon.
“Volcano Island” (10/29/77) – A storm leaves Ali and his crew stranded on an island with a crazy hermit and an active volcano about to blow.
“Oasis of the Moon” (11/5/77) – Ali and his crew investigate the disappearance of an oasis with an archaeologist in Egypt.
“The Great Bluegrass Mountain Race” (11/12/77) – Ali proposes a race between a locomotive and a truck for a shipping contract.
“The Werewolf of Devil’s Creek” (11/19/77) – Ali investigates the report of a werewolf scaring people away from a mine in a small town.
“Sissy’s Climb” (11/26/77) – A need for a mountain rescue allows an exchange student to show women can be just as capable as men on treacherous peaks.
“Terror in the Deep” (12/3/77) – A sea monster disrupts a scientific experiment of moving food production to the bottom of the sea.

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