Looking back at THE INCREDIBLE HULK

I got hit by the Flu. Hit hard. On Christmas. The doctor put me in quarantine, so I sent my lovely better half to stay with relatives and forbid anyone from coming to my domicile to check on me. I’ve been all on my own, and have whiled away the hours, when not puking, shivering with fever, hacking my lungs up, and praying for a speedy death, watching old movies. And TV shows. I binged my way through at least half of the original run of THE INCREDIBLE HULK.

I was in the first grade when the show debuted on CBS. For the next several years, each Friday night found me transfixed in front of the screen, watching the exploits of the jade juggernaut. As a kid, I watched it exclusively for the Hulk, of course. As a grown-up, looking at it now, I still appreciate just how GOOD the show is, overall. Yes, it was limited by the technology of the day. They didn’t have CGI. They had to render the Hulk’s superhuman actions via slow-motion, sound effects, and careful camera work. Yes, watching the DVDs, you can sometimes see the ropes pulling the stuntmen into the air when they are supposed to be “thrown” by the Hulk. You can sometimes see that Lou Ferrigno is wearing the equivalent of green pantyhose (so he wouldn’t have to run around the set barefoot, one assumes) and see the patches where the green greasepaint has sometimes smeared away. Some of the episodes are played a little too much for laughs. But overall the writing is excellent and the acting is on par. In particular leading man Bill Bixby is superb. The Hulk is the star, and Lou Ferrigno both looks great in green and manages to lend the character the necessary humanity to make him relatable and make you root for him, but it is leading man David* Banner who must anchor the whole thing, serve as the foundation for the entire series, and Bixby is more than capable.

*The changing of the name was stupid. Show producer Kenneth Johnson has said that he just didn’t like the alliteration of “Bruce Banner,” but Stan Lee stated that Johnson, or someone at the “studio,” was afraid people would think the character was homosexual if his name was “Bruce.” Who is telling the truth? That’s easy. Why would Stan make that up? And the name change sounds like exactly the kind of lamebrain move a TV exec would pull. It confused the hell out of me as a kid. I couldn’t understand why the character I watched on TV had a different name than the character I read about in the comic books.