The Incredible Hulk (1978 TV series)
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|The Incredible Hulk|
|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|
|Distributor||Universal Television (original)
NBCUniversal Television Distribution
|Original network||CBS, NBC (post-series)|
|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 or stress, he transforms into a huge, incredibly strong green creature, who has been named "The Hulk". In his travels, Banner earns money by working temporary jobs while searching for a way to control his condition. All the while, he is obsessively pursued by a tabloid newspaper reporter, Jack McGee, who is convinced that the Hulk is a deadly menace whose exposure would enhance his career.
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 filming rights were purchased from CBS by rival NBC. They produced three television films: The Incredible Hulk Returns (directed by Nicholas J. 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.
- Bill Bixby as David Bruce Banner
- Lou Ferrigno as Hulk
- Jack Colvin as Jack McGee
- Ted Cassidy as the narrator and the voice of the Hulk (uncredited)
- Charles Napier as the voice of the Hulk (after Cassidy's death) (uncredited)
David Bruce Banner, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician and scientist employed at the Culver Institute who is traumatized by the car accident that killed his beloved wife, Laura (played by Lara Parker). 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, conducts a study on people who, while in danger, summoned superhuman strength in order to save their loved ones. After months of work, the only two significant common factors they can find between the subjects are extreme emotional commitments and an abnormally high percentage of the adenine/thymine combination in their DNA—an insufficient explanation, since Dr. Banner has even higher levels of adenine/thymine than any of the subjects, yet was unable to summon the strength he needed to save Laura. Working late one night, Banner hypothesizes that high levels of gamma radiation from sunspots contribute to the subjects' increase in strength. Studying a chart of gamma activity, he confirms that all the subjects performed their feats during periods of high gamma activity, while his wife's death occurred during a period of low gamma activity. Impatient to test his theory, Dr. Banner conducts an unsupervised experiment in the lab, bombarding his own body with gamma radiation. Unknown to Dr. Banner, the equipment has been upgraded, causing him to administer an accidental over-dosage of gamma radiation to himself—a dose more than five times as high as that with which he had intended to bombard himself. Despite this, he exhibits no immediate increase in strength, and leaves the lab in frustration.
Driving home in a heavy rainstorm, Dr. Banner's frustration peaks when his car has a flat tire and he injures himself with a tire iron trying to change it. This triggers his transformation into the Incredible Hulk, a 7-foot-tall (2.1 m), 330-pound (150 kg), green-skinned savage creature, with a sub-human mind and superhuman strength. The Hulk destroys Banner's car and wanders off into the nearby woods. As the sun rises, the Hulk stumbles upon a girl and her father camping. In the ensuing confusion, the Hulk is shot by the girl's father, and responds by breaking his rifle and throwing him into the pond. Leaving the area, the Hulk eventually transforms back into Dr. Banner, with no memory of his time as the Hulk and little memory of the events immediately before or after. Wounded and confused, he visits 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.
Drs. Banner and Marks relocate to a laboratory isolated from the rest of the Culver Institute but still on its grounds. Marks locks him in an experimental pressure chamber designed for deep underwater usage in an attempt to simulate the conditions which preceded the hole in his memory. When this fails to induce a transformation, Dr. Banner lies down to sleep. He has his recurring nightmare of his wife's death, which causes him to transform. The Hulk breaks out of the chamber. Terrified but compelled by scientific fascination, 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 conclude that the Hulk has a very high metabolism and healing rate and that the transformation is caused by such extreme negative emotions as anger. The horrified Banner realizes and points out, "That means it's uncontrollable." If his anger can mount up even in his unconscious, even when he sleeps, then he has no control over the process and will never even remember anything the Hulk does or experiences.
While Drs. Banner and Marks try to reverse the process, reporter Jack McGee of a tabloid called the National Register, who had been probing Banner's research into the limits of human strength, investigates the campers' sighting of the Hulk and intrudes on the lab. While the scientists plead ignorance, McGee suspects they know something and sneaks into the lab, hiding in a chemical storage room. Dr. Banner catches McGee hiding, and the startled reporter knocks a chemical off of a storage shelf. As Dr. Banner takes McGee outside, the spilled chemicals set off a fire. Dr. Banner rushes back into the lab to save Dr. Marks. Seeing Dr. Marks injured and in grave danger triggers another transformation into the Hulk. The Hulk carries Dr. Marks away from the inferno into nearby woods, but she dies from injuries sustained in the explosion. McGee witnesses the Hulk carrying her away, and surmises that the Hulk killed both Banner and Marks. Although the authorities are skeptical of the existence of the creature McGee tells them about, he publishes a front-page headline in the National Register that proclaims, "Incredible 'Hulk' Kills 2". Dr. Banner, now presumed dead, goes 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. 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 situations that trigger his transformations into the Hulk.
Meanwhile, McGee continues to pursue the mysterious monster, whom he believes got away with a double murder. Towards the end of each episode, 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 explains 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."
In early 1977, Frank Price, head of Universal Television (known today as NBCUniversal 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, in part to translate it into a live-action show that was more believable and acceptable to a wide audience, and in part because he disliked comics and thus felt it best that the show was as different from the source material as possible. In the character's origin story, rather than being exposed to gamma rays during a botched atomic testing explosion, Banner is gamma-irradiated in a more low-key laboratory mishap during a test on himself. Another change was Banner's occupation, from 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. Hulk co-creator Stan Lee later recounted, "When we started the television show, Ken said to me, 'You know, Stan, I don't think the Hulk should talk.' The minute he said it, I knew he was right. [In the comics,] I had the Hulk talking like this: 'Hulk crush! Hulk get him!' I could get away with it in a comic, but that would have sounded so silly if he spoke that way in a television show."
The Hulk's strength is far more limited than in the comic book, which Johnson felt was necessary for the show to be taken seriously by viewers. The Hulk still retained a healing factor, however. For instance, in "The Harder They Fall", Banner is in a serious accident that severs his spinal cord, leaving him paraplegic, but after his next transformation into the Hulk he is able to walk within minutes while in that form, and Banner's spine is completely restored 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 using original character Jack McGee.
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 both Stan Lee and 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, "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 saw 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, The Return of the Incredible Hulk (later re-titled "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 it!"
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.
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 show's main theme, "The Lonely Man"—a haunting, solo piano tune—is always heard during the closing credits—which usually shows Banner hitch-hiking. The well-known melody can also be heard in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk.
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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. He is initially portrayed as cynical and conniving, while at times, when given the opportunity, actively attempting to capture the Hulk using tranquilizer darts. However, 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, investigating another Hulk sighting, is unknowingly stranded with a facially bandaged David Banner in the wilderness after the crash of their plane that kills their pilot. Banner was given the name 'John Doe' in the hospital due to his memory loss following a car crash he was in with a woman who had given him a ride, and where the Hulk was sighted. Banner eventually regains his memory moments before McGee becomes trapped under a fallen tree during a wildfire and Banner changes to the Hulk (his face still bandaged at the time) to rescue McGee, who finally learns the shocking truth that the creature he has been pursuing for the past two years is actually a man most of the time. This revelation changes the whole McGee-pursuing-the-Hulk-obsessively dynamic of the series for the remainder of its run as Banner finds it even more difficult to avoid McGee's pursuits as the latter is now on a constant lookout for both the man and 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.
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).
|First aired||Last aired||Network|
|1||12||November 4, 1977||May 31, 1978||CBS|
|2||22||September 22, 1978||May 25, 1979|
|3||23||September 21, 1979||April 11, 1980|
|4||18||November 7, 1980||May 22, 1981|
|5||7||October 2, 1981||May 12, 1982|
|Movies||3||May 22, 1988||February 18, 1990||NBC|
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A retrospective on the TV series reported that the episodes fans of the show most often cite as the best of the series are "The Incredible Hulk", "Married", "Mystery Man", "Homecoming", "The Snare", "Prometheus", "The First" and "Bring Me the Head of the Hulk".
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 "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.
Season three's "Homecoming" has Banner returning to his hometown and reuniting with his family. This episode marked the first appearances of Banner's father and sister. And "The Snare" is an homage to the short story "The Most Dangerous Game", and guest-starred Bradford Dillman as the hunter.
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 muscular build 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.
Another season four two-part episode, "The First", has Banner discovering 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 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 44-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 first went into syndication in September 1982. It has aired as reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel and 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 Esquire Network from 2014 to 2015. Series reruns are to begin airing on most Me-TV affiliates in February 2016.
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)
- The 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 backdoor pilot for a live-action television series starring Thor. This project marked Jack Colvin's 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 backdoor 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, another Hulk television movie was planned, Revenge of the Incredible Hulk. It was rumored that in this film the Hulk would be able to talk after being revived with Banner's mind, and that it was abandoned due to Bill Bixby's death of cancer in November 1993, but Gerald Di Pego (writer/executive producer of The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, The Death of the Incredible Hulk, and Revenge of the Incredible Hulk) revealed that the film was cancelled before Bixby's health began to decline, due to disappointing ratings for Death of, and that Banner was to have been revived without the ability to change into the Hulk at all, only reverting to (still non-speaking) Hulk form in the film's final act.
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.
- 'The Incredible Hulk' Bring Me the Head of the Hulk (TV episode 1981) IMDb
- "Hulk Smash Television!". IGN. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
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