The Incredible Hulk (1978 TV series)
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|The Incredible Hulk|
Opening title screen
|Created by||Based on characters by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby|
|Developed by||Kenneth Johnson|
|Ending theme||"The Lonely Man Theme" (Joe Harnell)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||82 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Kenneth Johnson|
|Producer(s)||James D. Parriott|
|Running time||44–48 minutes|
|Original channel||CBS, NBC (post-series)|
|Original run||November 4, 1977 (pilot movie)
November 28, 1977 (pilot sequel)
March 10, 1978 – June 2, 1982
|Followed by||The Incredible Hulk Returns|
The Incredible Hulk is an American television series based on the Marvel Comics character, the Hulk. The series aired on the CBS television network and starred Bill Bixby as David Banner, Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, and Jack Colvin as Jack McGee.
In the TV series, Dr. David Banner, a widowed physician and scientist, who is presumed dead, travels across America under assumed names (his false surnames always begin with the letter "B", but he keeps his first name), and finds himself in positions where he helps others in need despite his terrible secret: in times of extreme anger, he transforms into a huge, incredibly strong green creature, who has been given the name "The Hulk”. In his travels, Banner earns money by working temporary jobs while searching for a way to control his condition.
The series was originally broadcast by CBS from 1978 to 1982, with 82 episodes over five seasons. The two-hour pilot movie, which established the Hulk's origins, aired on November 4, 1977. It was developed and produced by Kenneth Johnson, who also wrote or directed some episodes.
After the series ended, the fate of David Banner was a cliffhanger until 1988. The franchise was purchased from CBS by rival NBC. They produced three made-for-television films: The Incredible Hulk Returns (directed by Nicholas Corea), The Trial of the Incredible Hulk and The Death of the Incredible Hulk (both directed by Bill Bixby). Since its debut, The Incredible Hulk series has garnered a worldwide fan base.
Cast and characters
- Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner
- Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk
- Jack Colvin as Jack McGee
- Ted Cassidy, the voice of the Hulk (uncredited)
David Bruce Banner, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician and scientist employed at the fictitious "Culver Institute"—presumably headed by Dr. Benjamin Culver (Charles Siebert)—who is traumatized by the car accident that killed his beloved wife Laura. Haunted by his inability to save her, Dr. Banner, in partnership with Dr. Elaina Harding Marks (Susan Sullivan), who also works at the Culver Institute, studies a total of 78 incidents of people who, while in danger, somehow managed to summon superhuman strength in order to save their loved ones. Dr. Banner concludes that high levels of gamma radiation from sunspots are the cause, and the emotional stress experienced in these situations combined with the gamma radiation altered the body chemistry to cause an increase in strength. In a tragic twist, it is revealed that while Dr. Banner's own body would have been the most receptive to the sunspot-based gamma augmentation, the car accident that claimed his wife had occurred on a day with the least sunspot-based gamma activity. To test his theory, Dr. Banner bombards his own body with gamma radiation. Unknown to Dr. Banner, the equipment has been upgraded, causing him to administer a far higher dose of gamma radiation to himself than he had intended. Dr. Banner attempts to lift a heavy object to test his strength, but is unable to, so he leaves the lab in disgust, thinking the experiment failed.
Driving home in a heavy rainstorm, Dr. Banner's car (1971 Toyota Celica) has a flat tire and he injures himself while trying to change it. The anger resulting from the pain triggers his first transformation into the Incredible Hulk, a 7-foot-tall (2.1 m), 330 pound, green-skinned savage creature, with a sub-human mind and superhuman strength. The Hulk/Dr. Banner destroys his car and wanders off into the nearby woods. 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 Frankenstein). In the ensuing confusion, the Hulk is shot by the girl's father, but manages to escape. Once calm and unharrassed, the Hulk eventually transforms back into Dr. Banner, with little or no memory of the tire-changing incident or the events thereafter. Unsure of how to proceed, Dr. Banner seeks out his research partner, Dr. Marks. Her amazement at Dr. Banner's healing powers (his gunshot wound is nearly healed) is replaced by shock and horror when Dr. Banner tells her that he bombarded himself with gamma radiation.
Dr. Banner and Dr. Marks relocate to a laboratory isolated from the rest of the Culver Institute but still on its grounds, locking him in an experimental pressure chamber designed for deep underwater use; they hope that if Dr. Banner metamorphoses again, it will hold the Hulk. Dr. Banner initially suspects that his transformation had been caused by the lightning and/or rain, both of which he was experiencing at the time, and they simulate analogous conditions in the chamber. When this fails to induce a transformation, Dr. Banner lies down to get some sleep. Dr. Banner then has his recurring nightmare of the accident that killed his wife, which causes him to transform and the Hulk violently escapes from the chamber. Dr. Marks takes a blood sample from the Hulk's wounded hands and guides him to a couch, where he calms down and reverts to Banner. They then realize that the Hulk has a very high metabolism and healing rate and that the transformation is caused by strong negative emotions, such as anger. Banner summarizes the implications by saying, "That means it's uncontrollable but..."
While Dr. Banner and Dr. Marks try to reverse the process, a reporter for a fictitious tabloid called the National Register named Jack McGee, who was previously investigating Dr. Banner's research but is now investigating the reported sighting of the Hulk, intrudes on the lab. When the scientists refuse to speak to him, McGee suspects they know more than they are letting on and sneaks into the lab, hiding in a cupboard where he accidentally knocks over a chemical container. Dr. Banner catches McGee hiding and removes him from the premises, warning McGee with a smile, "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." (Dr. Banner was implying his transformation into the Hulk when angered.) But as Dr. Banner confronts McGee outside, the spilled chemicals (unseen by Dr. Banner) result in the lab catching fire. Dr. Banner rushes back into the lab to save Dr. Marks, and the stress of the smoke fumes triggers another transformation into the Hulk. The Hulk carries Dr. Marks away from the inferno into nearby woods. Dr. Marks reveals her love for Dr. Banner before she dies from injuries she sustained in the explosion. McGee witnesses the Hulk carrying her away, and surmises that the Hulk started the fire and killed both Dr. Banner and Dr. Marks. Although the authorities are skeptical of the existence of the creature McGee tells them about, he reports the creature to the police and publishes a front-page headline in the National Register that proclaims, "Incredible 'Hulk' Kills 2" before vowing to track down the creature so he can catch it and bring it to the law's attention. The series begins at this point. McGee vows to capture Dr. Marks' and Dr. Banner's killer. Dr. 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: Dr. Banner endlessly drifts from place to place, assuming different identities and odd jobs to support himself and sometimes to enable his research. Along the way, Dr. Banner finds himself feeling obliged to help the people he meets out of whatever troubles have befallen them. Often Dr. Banner's inner struggle is paralleled by the dilemmas of the people he encounters, who find in Dr. Banner a sympathetic helper. As Kenneth Johnson stated, "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 Dr. 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." Despite his attempts to stay calm no matter how badly he is treated, Dr. Banner inevitably finds himself in dangerous situations that trigger his transformations into the Hulk.
Meanwhile, McGee continues to pursue the incredible story of the mysterious monster, whom he believes got away with a double murder. Ultimately, Dr. Banner changes someone's life for the better or even saves a person's life. Nonetheless, Dr. Banner almost always flees the town, scared that publicity over the Hulk's rampages will eventually bring unwanted scrutiny of him from the local authorities or McGee; Banner explained to one girl the Hulk had helped in "Death In The Family", the second made-for-television film, "The creature is wanted for murder—a murder which I can never prove he or I didn't commit, and you would be harboring a criminal."
The episodes usually end with Dr. Banner hitch-hiking down some outbound highway or road, with a strikingly haunting and sad piano solo version of the series theme song, "The Lonely Man", playing as the ending credits visualize. The mood conveys Dr. 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.
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 made several changes from the comic book fantasy to translate it into a live-action show that was more believable and acceptable to a large audience who were not comic book fans. Johnson changed the character's origin story. Rather than being exposed to gamma rays during a botched atomic testing explosion, Banner was gamma-irradiated in a more low-key laboratory mishap during a test on himself. Another significant change was altering Banner's occupation, from nuclear physicist 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. Another limitation on the Hulk was his strength. In the comics, the Hulk is capable of surviving nuclear explosions and lifting mountains. The television Hulk could only take down bulldozers, hold a car compressor with some strain or smash down walls or doors. This Hulk could also be hurt, injured or killed, but still retained a healing factor. For instance, in one episode ("The Harder They Fall"), Banner was in a serious accident that severed his spinal cord, leaving him paraplegic, but his next transformation into the Hulk allowed the creature's healing power to repair the damage to allow him to walk within minutes while in that form and the succeeding transformation completely restored Banner's spine by the end of the episode. In the majority of episodes, the only science fiction element was the Hulk himself. Johnson also omitted the comic book's supporting characters, instead, opting for a variety of characters, most of whom changed with each episode.
Johnson changed the name of the Hulk's comic book alter ego, Dr. Bruce Banner, to Dr. David Banner for the TV 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. According to Lou Ferrigno, it was also changed because CBS thought the name Bruce sounded "too gay-ish", a rationale that Ferrigno thought was "the most absurd, ridiculous thing I'd ever heard." On the DVD commentary of the pilot, Johnson says that it was a way to honor his son David. "Bruce" ultimately became the TV Banner's middle name, as it had been in the comics. It is visible on Banner's tombstone at the end of the pilot movie, and that footage is shown at the beginning of every episode of the series.
In an interview with Kenneth Johnson on the Season 2 DVD, he explains that he had also wanted the Hulk to be colored red rather than green. His reasons given for this were because red, not green, is perceived as the color of rage, and also because red is a "human color" whereas green is not. However, Stan Lee, a co-creator of the Hulk comics—and executive at Marvel Comics at the time, said that the Hulk's color was not something that could be changed, because of its iconic image.
Stan Lee told Kenneth Plume on a June 26, 2000 Interview (part 3 of 5) that, "The Hulk was done intelligently. It was done by Ken Johnson, who's a brilliant writer/producer/director, and he made it an intelligent, adult show that kids could enjoy. He took a comic book character and made him somewhat plausible. Women liked it and men liked it and teenagers liked it... It was beautifully done. He changed it quite a bit from the comic book, but every change he made, made sense."
For the role of Dr. David Banner, Kenneth Johnson cast Bill Bixby—his first choice for the role. Jack Colvin was cast as "Jack McGee", the cynical tabloid newspaper reporter—modeled after the character of Javert in Les Misérables—who pursues the Hulk. Arnold Schwarzenegger auditioned for the role of the Hulk but was rejected due to his inadequate height, according to Johnson in his commentary on The Incredible Hulk – Original Television Premiere DVD release. Actor Richard Kiel was hired for the role. During filming, however, 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) remains in the pilot. According to an interview with Kiel (who sees properly out of only one eye), he reacted badly to the contact lenses used for the role, and also found the green makeup difficult to remove, so he did not mind losing the part.
Initially the Hulk's facial make-up was quite monstrous, but after both pilots, the first two weekly episodes and New York location shooting for the fourth, the design was toned down. The makeup process used to transform Ferrigno into the Hulk took three hours. The hard contact lenses Ferrigno wore to simulate the Hulk's electric-green eyes had to be removed every 15 minutes because he found wearing them physically painful, and the green fright wig he wore as the Hulk was made of dyed yak hair.
The opening narration was provided by actor Ted Cassidy, who also provided the Hulk's voice-overs (mainly growls and roars) during the first two seasons. Cassidy died during production of season two in January 1979. The Hulk's vocalizations for the remainder of the series were provided by actor Charles Napier, who also made two guest-starring appearances in the series.
One constant of the series was the opening narration, which goes as follows:
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. [Banner:] "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." 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.
Prior to the beginning of the series, a different version was used for the second pilot movie, Return of the Incredible Hulk (later known as Death in the Family):
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 interacts with his unique 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. [Banner:] "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." An accidental explosion took the life of a fellow scientist and supposedly David Banner as well. The reporter thinks the creature was responsible. [McGee:] "I gave a description to all the law enforcement agencies; they got a warrant for murder out on him." A murder which David Banner can never prove he or the creature didn't commit. So he must let the world go on thinking that he, too, is dead, until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him.
Joseph "Joe" Harnell, one of Kenneth Johnson's favorite composers, composed the music for The Incredible Hulk. He was brought into the production due to his involvement with the series The Bionic Woman, which Johnson had also created and produced. Some of the series music was collected into an album titled The Incredible Hulk: Original Soundtrack Recording. The score used at the beginning and closing credits was a piano piece called "The Lonely Man." The well-known melody can also be heard in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk.
As the series progressed, Banner's character and the animalistic nature of the Hulk were frequently explored and expanded upon, with the viewer continuously learning more about the psychology of both Banner and the Hulk. The Hulk's personality was shown to still reflect Banner's good and compassionate nature, meaning he will typically restrict his wrath to villains threatening him, but will also restrict himself to simply tossing them aside, instead of killing them. Although the Hulk's intelligence is low, he retains the same motivations and priorities as Banner, always managing to protect people or objects that Banner deems important as well as attacking those he feels fear or hostility toward. The Hulk also has a soft spot towards women, children and animals. However, as Banner's normal personality becomes dormant to the Hulk's in that form, and he has no memory of the creature's actions, Banner lives in constant worry of what damage the Hulk causes during those episodes, fearing that someday the Hulk may unwittingly hurt or kill an innocent person.
The character of the antagonist Jack McGee underwent significant development throughout the course of the series. Although initially perceived as cynical and conniving in the beginning, the viewer's sympathy for McGee increases as the series progresses, as McGee gradually comes to realize over time that the Hulk may not be as dangerous as he initially thought, particularly following several instances in episodes such as "The Hulk Breaks Las Vegas" in which he has his own life saved by the creature. In season two's two-part episode "Mystery Man", McGee finally learns the shocking truth that the creature he has been pursuing for the past two years is in reality a man most of the time, making things more difficult for Banner from then on as he now subsequently finds McGee's pursuits more difficult than ever to avoid as McGee is now on a constant lookout for the man as well as the creature. In the same episode, we learn that McGee hopes to catch the Hulk so that the inevitable media sensation will advance his own dwindling career. However, subsequent episodes such as season three's "Proof Positive" show that McGee's real intentions lie much deeper than this, and that his main motive is purely to understand this fascinating creature (to whom his references as the Hulk are not shared by other characters) for himself, for his amazement at the existence of such a remarkable creature has caused him to become totally obsessed with the Hulk to the extent that it has ruined his personal life; the Hulk is permanently on his mind, and his annoyance over his lack of success in catching the Hulk is exacerbated by other people's refusal even to believe that the Hulk actually exists—not even his own colleagues at the National Register take the story seriously, and they view him as a laughing stock for believing that the Hulk is real.
Guest stars and cameos
During the series' five-season run, many actors familiar to viewers, or who later became famous for their subsequent works, made appearances on the series. Some of the most notable are: Future Falcon Crest and Castle co-star Susan Sullivan was in the original pilot; Brett Cullen, also of Falcon Crest; Kim Catrall, of Sex and the City fame; Ray Walston, co-star of Bixby's first series, My Favorite Martian; Brandon Cruz, co-star of The Courtship of Eddie's Father; Lou Ferrigno, who along with starring as the Hulk, appeared in one episode ("King of the Beach") as a different character; Bixby's ex-wife Brenda Benet; and in an uncredited role, the bodybuilder and professional wrestler Ric Drasin played the half-transformed Hulk in “Prometheus" (parts 1 and 2).
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the writer and artist team who created the Hulk for Marvel Comics, both made cameo appearances in the series. Kirby's cameo was in the season two episode "No Escape", while Lee appeared as a juror in Trial of the Incredible Hulk (the 1989 post-series TV movie).
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (May 2012)|
The season two premiere, "Married", originally aired as a two-hour movie in September 1978. David approaches Dr. Carolyn Fields (Mariette Hartley) about a new form of hypnotic therapy. He learns that Carolyn has devised the therapy because she is terminally ill with a syndrome "similar" to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or "Lou Gehrig's Disease"), and has been given no more than eight weeks to live. David reveals his true identity to her, and both agree to help each other, using a tissue sample from the creature to possibly cure Carolyn of her illness. They fall in love and eventually marry. After Carolyn obtains the sample while David has metamorphosed into the Hulk, she prepares the sample for her own use. The day the procedure to cure Carolyn is to take place, a hurricane hits the island. While the pair are driving to the hospital, Carolyn suffers from another painful episode, this time leading her to flee their moving car. David stops the car and rushes after her, morphing into the Hulk once more. He catches her in his arms, and as she attempts to fight him in her pain-induced hysteria, she turns around and sees the Hulk, and stops struggling. Knowing her time has come, Carolyn embraces the Hulk, telling him (as David) she will miss him as she dies in his arms. Mariette Hartley won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for this moving performance.
In season two's "Kindred Spirits", Dr. Gabrielle White Cloud, played by Kim Cattrall, comes across evidence that a Hulk-type metamorphosis had occurred at the dawn of mankind in America 30,000 years ago. This evidence included a cave painting of a transformation and a skull that Gabrielle claims to be two skulls at once, and which David suggests died while metamorphosing. Gabrielle tries to help David, but the plant that they thought had cured the prehistoric hulks has since become extinct.
In season two's "Mystery Man", McGee finally comes face-to-face with an amnesia-ridden David Banner, although he does not recognize him, for Banner's face is covered by a gauze mask following a severe injury in an auto accident. Banner has been admitted into a hospital as "John Doe" as his true identity is unknown. Investigating an apparent link between this man and the Hulk, McGee hires a small plane for himself and Banner to see a doctor who will be able to cure Banner's amnesia. Lightning strikes the plane and an injured McGee and Banner are trapped in a forest, where they must help one another escape to safety. During the ordeal, McGee sees the mystery man transform into the Hulk and realizes this is how the Hulk manages to get from one place to another without being seen in between. He is eventually separated from the Hulk, but vows to track down the mysterious "John Doe" fellow and find out his true identity.
In the season four two-part "Prometheus", David rescues and befriends Katie Maxwell (Laurie Prange), a young woman recently blinded by an accident. While helping her through the woods near her home, a meteor lands near them. Banner investigates, and is sickened by the radiation emanating from the meteorite fragment. An attacking swarm of bees triggers his transformation into the Hulk, and in the process of fighting off the bees, the Hulk touches the meteorite. He retreats back to Katie's cabin, but in metamorphosing back into David, the process stops midway, with David retaining some of the Hulk's bulk and irradiated features, but with the ability to speak. Additionally, David had also retained most of the Hulk's childlike intellect. Horrified at realizing that his transformation has gone wrong, David enlists Katie's help. The military, however, arrives and after attempting to evade them, David transforms back into the Hulk. The Hulk and Katie are captured and taken to a military installation, where a group of scientists working for the Prometheus Project mistakenly believe that the Hulk is an alien. After seeing a tape of David's transformation, however, they realize that the Hulk is actually a man who transforms into the creature. McGee, meanwhile, finagles his way onto the base and finds Katie, attempting to get her to give him more information on "John Doe". The Hulk escapes from his confinement and finds Katie. After the Hulk's transformation back into David again stops midway, Katie theorizes that the radiation from the meteorite is affecting David's unique body chemistry and that they need to escape from the base and get away from the meteorite. McGee, meanwhile, convinces the brass to let him talk to "John" and convince him to surrender. McGee finds them, but due to David's altered appearance, does not realize that he is, in fact, talking to David Banner. It is a double-cross, however, as soldiers move in on David and Katie. David transforms into the Hulk once again and breaks out of the installation with Katie. Far from the meteorite fragment, the Hulk transforms back completely into David Banner with no ill effects.
In the episode "Dark Side", Banner's latest attempt to finding a cure by experimenting with a mood altering chemical goes disastrously wrong with himself becoming psychotically violent, which makes his first transformation into the Hulk at a nightclub an extremely dangerous experience to everyone around him.
In the two-part episode "The First", David discovers that another man transformed into a Hulk-like creature 30 years ago. In this case, a doctor used gamma radiation in an attempt to heal a man in poor health named Dell Frye (Harry Townes), who was embittered by bullying from the local townspeople, causing him to become vengeful and cruel. However, the radiation turned him instead into a savage green creature (Dick Durock). Because of Frye's difference in personality, his creature had killed people. Dr. Jeffrey Clive, long dead, had discovered the cure, but Frye, now old and arthritic, and still bullied, wants to have the power again. David discovers Dr. Clive's laboratory, which contains a machine that can harness the sun's gamma radiation. Looking through Clive's journals, he realizes that he needs to take the antidote developed by Clive and then bombard himself with gamma rays for the cure to work. Before he can do so, however, Frye knocks him out and straps himself into the machine. As David awakens and attempts to stop him, Frye is bombarded with gamma radiation, which turns him into a Hulk-like creature. After metamorphosing back, Frye discovers that after one transformation, his arthritis has vanished. Seeking revenge for the years of taunts he has endured, Frye goes into town and provokes some of the town bullies into attacking him. He once again transforms into the creature, and proceeds to kill one of the bullies. Realizing that the Frye Hulk is extremely dangerous because of Frye's murderous nature, David manages to subdue Frye and strap him into the machine to reverse the process. Unfortunately, Frye comes to and transforms into the creature, and in the process destroys the last vial of the cure that Dr. Clive had developed. As he literally sees the cure dripping from his fingers, a distraught David transforms into the Hulk. The two creatures fight, with the much more powerful Banner Hulk getting the better of the Frye Hulk, who is eventually shot dead by the sheriff. "The First" is the only episode of the TV series to feature any other super-humanly powerful characters. "The First" remains a fan favorite and is often cited as an example of Bixby's finest acting work in the series. Guest star Townes' performance as Frye is generally regarded as the best and most memorable guest shot in the show's history.
The series concludes with a standard 50-minute episode ("A Minor Problem"). The character of McGee does not appear in this last episode, nor does he appear in a few other episodes in the short final season, and the series ends on an open note, with Banner still searching for a cure and McGee still unaware of the true identity of his John Doe.
- March 1978 – January 1979: Fridays, 9:00 PM (ET)
- January 1979: Wednesdays, 8:00 PM
- February 1979 – November 1981: Fridays, 8:00 PM
- May – June 1982: Wednesdays, 8:00 PM
The series has aired as reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel. It was one of the series that the channel showed at its inception in September 1992. It has also aired on Retro Television Network, and on Independent Television Network (ITN Sri Lanka) in early 1980s
Two episodes of the series appeared first as stand-alone movies, but were later re-edited into one-hour length (two-parters) for syndication. They were produced as pilots before the series officially began in 1978:
- The Incredible Hulk (1977) (distributed in theaters in some countries)
- Return of the Incredible Hulk (1977) (also shown overseas as a feature film) – It was retitled Death in the Family for syndication
- The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988) – This marked the first time that another Marvel Universe character appeared in the milieu of the TV series. David Banner meets a former student (played by Steve Levitt) who has a magical hammer that summons Thor (played by Eric Allan Kramer), a Norse god who is prevented from entering Valhalla. It was set up as a back-door pilot for a live-action television series starring Thor. This project marked Jack Colvin's reappearance (and final appearance) as McGee.
- The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989) – David Banner meets a blind lawyer named Matt Murdock and his masked alter ego, Daredevil. The Incredible Hulk and the Daredevil battle Wilson Fisk (The Kingpin of Crime). Daredevil was portrayed by Rex Smith, while John Rhys-Davies portrayed Fisk. This was also set up as back-door pilot for a live-action television series featuring Daredevil. Stan Lee has a cameo appearance as one of the jury members overlooking Banner's trial.
- The Death of the Incredible Hulk (1990) – David Banner falls in love with an Eastern European spy (played by Elizabeth Gracen) and saves two kidnapped scientists. The film ends with the Hulk taking a fatal fall from an airplane, reverting to human form just before he dies.
Despite the apparent death of the Hulk in the 1990 film, more Incredible Hulk television movies were planned, including a proposed Revenge of the Incredible Hulk where the Hulk would actually be able to talk. However, all such plans were abandoned when Bill Bixby died of cancer in November 1993.
All three of the NBC TV movies (The Incredible Hulk Returns, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk and The Death of the Incredible Hulk) have been available on DVD since 2003; the first two were released by Anchor Bay Entertainment, while The Death of the Incredible Hulk was released by 20th Century Fox Video. A double-sided DVD entitled The Incredible Hulk – Original Television Premiere, which contained the original pilot and the "Married" episodes, was released by Universal Studios DVD in 2003 to promote Ang Lee's Hulk motion picture. A six-disc set entitled The Incredible Hulk – The Television Series Ultimate Collection was released by Universal DVD later in 2003. This set includes several notable episodes including "Death in the Family", "The First", and "Prometheus".
On July 18, 2006, Universal released The Incredible Hulk – Season One on DVD. This set contains the original pilot movies, the entire first season, and a "preview" episode ("Stop the Presses") from Season Two.
On July 17, 2007, Universal released The Incredible Hulk – Season Two on DVD as a 5-disc set. The set included the entire second season, the Married episodes (AKA Bride of the Incredible Hulk), and preview episode (Homecoming) from season three.
On June 3, 2008, Universal released The Incredible Hulk – Seasons Three and Four on DVD in time to promote Louis Leterrier's film The Incredible Hulk.
On October 21, 2008, Universal released "The Incredible Hulk" – Season Five on DVD as a 2-disc set. The set contains all seven Season Five episodes and interviews by Ken Johnson and various members of the Production & Writing teams, as well as a Gag Reel. Additionally, a complete series DVD Set was released as well. The Complete Series was released in the UK on DVD on September 30, 2008.
The TV series led to a syndicated newspaper strip that ran from 1978 to 1982. It used the same background and origin story as the TV series but narrated stories outside the TV series.
In 1979, a Hulk "video novel" in paperback form was released, with pictures from the pilot.
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