As some of you know, every Monday night Ms. Retronaut and I watch an episode of the 70s TV show The Incredible Hulk. If you haven’t seen it, it’s very different from the comic book, with no super-villains or supernatural elements. It’s much closer in feel to The Fugitive, following that series’ model of a wandering protagonist on the run. I loved the Hulk as a kid, and when we started with the first season I was concerned how the show would hold up roughly 30 years later. I need not have worried. The Hulk has proven to be even better than I remembered it, thanks in large part to the nuanced performances of Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner and Jack Colvin as his pursuer, the intrepid tabloid reporter Mr. McGee.
Of course the Hulk wouldn’t have lasted 5 seasons without a convincing creature, and Lou Ferrigno is more than up to the task. For a character that doesn’t speak (other than growls and grunts), he also does a nice job of conveying a fairly wide range of emotions and feelings, including anger (duh), wonder, curiosity, and even tenderness. Obviously there was no CGI available back then (at least not on a television budget), but I think that the Hulk is better for it. The current Hulk movies have gone the full-CGI route, and, well, they looked CGI (although in a number of shots I though Ang Lee’s version looked pretty good.)
If there is one consistent criticism that could be leveled at the 70s Hulk, it would be its strict adherence to the two Hulk-outs per episode rule. Pretty much like clockwork, 20 minutes in and you can bet David is going to be thrown down a flight of stairs or sucker-punched and locked in the trunk of a car. And something similar is guaranteed to go down in the last ten minutes of the episode. With 82 episodes (we’ve watched 74 so far), that’s a lot of Hulk-outs. And so as not to lean too much on the “two henchmen beat up David” routine too often, the writers try to find creative ways to cause the transformation. Some of the best involve frustrations that we can all relate to, as in this clip:
“I don’t have 25 cents!” Hell yes. YouTube user CottonWhiskersUK has helpfully uploaded several additional “Hilarious Reasons to Turn Into the Hulk” to his YouTube channel. Please go check ‘em out, and don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.