The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982)


Well-Known Member
Jan 19, 2007
Dr. David Banner: physician; scientist. Searching for a way to tap into the hidden strengths that all humans have. Then an accidental overdose of gamma radiation alters his body chemistry. And now when David Banner grows angry or outraged, a startling metamorphosis occurs. The creature is driven by rage and pursued by an investigative reporter. (Bixby: "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."--a clip from the first pilot) The creature is wanted for a murder he didn't commit. David Banner is believed to be dead, and he must let the world think that he is dead, until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him.

The Incredible Hulk is an American television series based on the Marvel comic book character of the same name. The pilot episodes were a pair of TV movies on the CBS network beginning on November 4, 1977; the series soon followed, airing from March 10, 1978 to May 10, 1982. It starred Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. The concept was developed for television by Kenneth Johnson. The series still has a fanbase around the world, making it a cult classic.

In early 1977, Frank Price, head of Universal Television, offered producer and writer Kenneth Johnson a deal to develop a TV show based on any of several characters they had licensed from the Marvel Comics library. Johnson turned down the offer at first, but then, while reading the Victor Hugo novel, Les Misérables, he became inspired and began working to develop the Hulk comic into a TV show.

Johnson saw fit to change the name of the Hulk's comic book alter ego, Dr. (Robert) Bruce Banner, to "Dr. David Banner" for the t.v. series. This change was made, according to Johnson, because he did not want the series to be perceived as a comic book series, so he wanted to change what he felt was a staple of comic books, and Stan Lee's comics in particular, that major characters frequently had alliterative names. On the DVD commentary of the pilot of The Incredible Hulk, Johnson also says that it was a way to honor his late son David. However, according to Stan Lee, Universal changed the name because "Bruce Banner" sounded, in the eyes of the network, like a "gay character" name, and David sounded much better ("Bruce" ultimately became the TV Banner's middle name, as it had been in the comics. It is visible on David's tombstone at the end of the pilot episode).

Johnson also omitted the comic book's supporting characters from his TV adaptation. Instead, he opted for a variety of more realistic, 'regular person' characters -- most of whom changed with each episode. Additionally, Johnson changed the character's origin story. Rather than being exposed to gamma rays while saving someone who had wandered on-grounds during a botched atomic testing explosion, "David" Banner was gamma-irradiated in a laboratory mishap. Yet another significant change was altering Banner's occupation, from nuclear physicist (in the comics) to medical researcher/physician. Although the comic-book Hulk's degree of speaking ability has varied over the years, the television Hulk did not speak at all -- he merely growled and roared repeatedly. Finally, despite its Marvel Comics roots, fantasy and science fiction themes were minimized in the series. In the majority of episodes, the only supernatural element was the Hulk himself.

For the role of Dr. David Banner, Johnson cast veteran television actor/director Bill Bixby -- Johnson's first choice. At first, Bixby resisted accepting the part; but, after reading the script, he quickly signed-on. Next, character actor Jack Colvin was cast as "Jack McGee", the series' recurring antagonist. Modeled after the character of Javert in Les Misérables, "Mr. McGee" was a cynical, tabloid newspaper reporter who relentlessly pursued the Hulk after personally witnessing the "urban legend" in action. Though initially skeptical of the Hulk's existence, McGee comes to endure endless ridicule from both his peers and the authorities for believing that "the Jolly Green Giant" is real. The most daunting task, however, was finding someone to play the Hulk. Arnold Schwarzenegger auditioned, but was rejected due to his inadequate height (according to Johnson in his commentary on a DVD release). Actor Richard Kiel was hired for the role, and production commenced on the pilot movie. However, during filming, Kenneth Johnson's own son pointed out that Kiel's tall-but-under-developed physique did not resemble the Hulk's at all. Soon, Kiel was replaced with professional bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, although a very brief shot of Kiel (as the Hulk) remained in the pilot (according to Johnson, in his DVD commentary).

Doctor David Banner (played by familiar actor/director Bill Bixby) is a physician/scientist who is traumatized by the tragic car accident that killed his beloved wife Laura. Haunted by his inability to save her, Banner studies incidents of people who, while in danger, summon superhuman strength in order to save their threatened loved ones. He concludes that high levels of gamma radiation from sunspots are the cause. In a tragic twist, it is revealed that while his own body would have been the most receptive to the sunspot augmentation, the car accident that claimed his wife occurred on a day with the least sunspot activity. To test his theory, he bombards his own body with gamma radiation. Unknown to Banner, his equipment has been upgraded, causing him to administer a far higher dose than he intended. During a rainstorm later that evening, he suffers a flat tire and injures himself while trying to change it. The anger resulting from the pain triggers his first transformation into the Hulk (played by bodybuilder/character actor Lou Ferrigno), the first sign of which is Banner's eyes turning greenish white. The Hulk destroys Banner's car and wanders through the woods all night. The next morning, the Hulk stumbles upon a girl who is camping with her father, and attempts to befriend her (a la The Monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein). In the ensuing confusion, the Hulk is shot by the girl's father, but manages to escape. Once calm and unharrassed, he eventually transforms back into Banner -- who has no memory of the tire-changing incident, or the events thereafter. Unsure of how to proceed, Banner seeks out his research partner, Dr. Elaina Marks (played by Universal contract player Susan Sullivan). Her amazement at Banner's healing powers (his gunshot wound is nearly healed) is replaced by shock and horror when Banner tells her that he bombarded himself with gamma rays.

While Banner and Dr. Marks (the only other person who knows what happened to him) try to reverse the process, the interference of a reporter named Jack McGee (played by Universal contract player Jack Colvin) results in the fiery destruction of their laboratory. Elaina dies from injuries she sustained in the explosion; McGee witnesses the Hulk carrying her away from the burning building, and surmises that the Hulk started the fire and killed both Banner and Marks. Banner, now presumed dead, is forced to go into hiding while trying to find a cure for his condition. In a manner vaguely similar to the popular series The Fugitive, this forms the basis of the TV series: Banner endlessly drifts from place to place, assuming different identities and odd jobs to support himself. Along the way, Banner finds himself feeling obliged to help the people he meets out of whatever troubles have befallen them. Often Banner's inner struggle is paralleled by the dilemmas of the people he encounters, who find in Banner a sympathetic helper. As Kenneth Johnson states, "what we were constantly doing was looking for thematic ways to touch [-on] the various ways that the Hulk sort of manifested itself in everyone. In Bixby and his character, David Banner, it happened to be anger. In someone else, it might be obsession, or it might be fear, or it might be jealousy or alcoholism! The Hulk comes in many shapes and sizes. That's what we tried to delve into in the individual episodes."[1] Despite his attempts to stay calm no matter how badly he is treated, Banner inevitably finds himself in dangerous situations that trigger his transformations into the Hulk. Meanwhile, Mr. McGee continues to pursue the incredible story of the mysterious monster, whom he believes got away with a double-murder. Ultimately, Banner changes (or even saves) someone's life for the better. Nonetheless, he (almost always) flees town, scared that publicity over the Hulk's 'rampages' will eventually bring unwanted scrutiny of him from the local authorities and/or McGee. The story (almost always) ends with Banner hitch-hiking down some outbound highway or road -- a strikingly haunting and sad piano song playing in the background (as the ending credits visualize). The mood conveys Banner's inner sense of hopelessness: the quest of a man desperate to one day find the cure that will bring him peace, an end to his endless running, and the ability to reclaim a normal life.

Unlike Marvel's Hulk, the television Hulk was not bulletproof. However, he possesses a accelerated-healing ability which allows him to recover from injuries very quickly.

This is probably my favorite TV show right now. I think it's very underrated....It's probably the best TV series based on a Marvel Comics property, ever. I've bought the first two seasons, I've seen the movies (the one with Thor and the one with Daredevil), and I'm watching the episode "Prometheus: Part II" right now on MySpace/Fancast. There's some unintentionally-funny things about the show, like the corniness of the Hulk's metamorphosis, but that's just because it was made in the '70s....It's one of the first TV shows to take comic books seriously, when most people's perception of comics/superheroes at the time was of the 1960s Batman show and stuff. The premise for this show is awesome, Bill Bixby is awesome, Lou Ferrigno's awesome.
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I love the episodes where the Hulk was in the city, like the Trial of the Incredible Hulk, because Lou Ferrigno was clearly wearing green slippers on the city streets.
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