The Incredible Hulk was an American television series, developed by Kenneth Johnson, based on the Marvel Comics character The Hulk which ran from 1978 to 1982 starring Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno and Jack Colvin.
In the TV series Dr David Banner (Bill Bixby), a physician and scientist, is traumatised after the loss of his wife in a car accident and is inability to save her. Working alongside Dr Elaina Marks he conducts a study on people who, while in danger, are able to summon superhuman strength in order to save their loved one.
After months of study he believes that high levels of gamma radiation from sunspots contributed to their increase in strength and conducts an experiment to test his theory. During the experiment he accidentally subjects himself to more than five times the dose of gamma radiation he had intended.
Whilst he doesn’t suffer any immediate effects the next time he becomes angry he transforms into The Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) and stumbles across a father and daughter out camping which results in him being shot.
Turning to Dr Marks for help they try to reverse the process to cure him but are disturbed by tabloid reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) who is investigating the sighting of The Hulk. Believing they are both know something he hides in the lab but is soon caught by Banner who escorts him outside not knowing that McGee has knocked over a chemical in the storage room he was hiding in.
When the chemical starts a fire Banner runs back into save Dr Marks and seeing her injured triggers him into turning again into The Hulk. McGhee witnesses The Hulk carrying Dr Marks away from the scene into nearby woods and when she dies from her injuries McGhee proclaims that The Hulk has killed both Banner and Marks.
Dr. Banner now presumed dead goes into hiding searching for a cure from his condition.
Each episode would see Banner travelling to a different place in America, using a false surname (but always beginning with the letter ‘B’) working different jobs and meeting different people. He would always find himself in positions where he could help the people he meets with their troubles which would always include appearances from The Hulk.
Trying to revive his career by landing a picture of The Hulk reporter McGhee continued to pursue every sighting of The Hulk causing Banner to always flee each town at the end of an episode to the show’s main theme “The Lonely Man” – a sad, solo piano tune – which was composed by Joe Harnell.
Johnson made several changes from the comic books to make the series more acceptable and believable to a wider audience. The Hulk’s strength was far more limited in the TV series though they did retain the healing factor he possessed, all supporting characters from the comics were omitted, The Hulk no longer spoke and Dr. Banner’s name was changed from Bruce to David.
Bill Bixby was cast as Dr. Banner after he initially turned it down due to its comic books origins. After reading the script for the pilot episode he was persuaded to change his mind.
His performance was at the heart of the show’s success, winning him many fans as the likeable Dr Banner playing him with warmth, intelligence and humour whilst still being able to convey the loneliness and tragedy of his life.
Professional bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno was cast as The Hulk with the makeup process of transforming him taking 3 hours. The hard contact lenses Ferrigno wore to simulate the Hulk’s electric green eyes had to be removed every 15 minutes as he found them physically painful to wear.
The series was cancelled after six seasons in 1982 ending with Banner still searching for a cure and McGhee still unaware that he was The Hulk.
Despite its cancellation the popularity of the characters continued resulting in three television movies in 1988, 1989 and 1990 with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno reprising their roles. Jack Colvin only appeared in the first movie.