The Incredible Hulk

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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.

 

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Bewitched

Bewitched was an American fantasy sitcom series, created by Sol Saks, which ran for 8 seasons between 1964 and 1972. 

The show starred Elizabeth Montgomery as a witch called Samantha who promises to stop using her powers when she marries mortal Darrin Stephens, played firstly by Dick York and then Dick Sargent.

Unfortunately her magical family disapproves of the marriage and constantly interfere in their lives. In most episodes Darrin would become the victim of one of their spells with the effects causing havoc with other mortals such as his boss, parents and neighbours.

Samantha’s attempts to hide the supernatural origin of these spells from mortals led to many of the shows funniest moments.

In the very first episode we are introduced to what would become Samantha’s signature move, the twitching of her nose when casting a spell. During rehearsals director William Asher, who was Montgomery’s husband, was looking for a move to be incorporated when Samantha was working her magic which was different to just a wave of the hand or arm. He asked Montgomery to do what she did with her face when she was nervous. Whilst she was trying to figure out what it was that she did she got nervous and wriggled her upper lip with Asher exclaiming that was it!

In the show the twitch was enhanced by a sound effect (xylophone) and the film was sped up slightly.

During its run the series had a number of cast changes, the most notable being the re-casting of Darrin Stephens in 1969.

Actor Dick York had suffered a permanently disabling back injury whilst filming a movie in 1959. During the first two seasons of Bewitched York suffered little to no pain but by the third season the pain had worsened, frequently causing shooting delays with York requiring assistance to walk around. Later episodes were written around his character being in bed or on the couch for the entire episode. Whilst filming the fifth season episode “Daddy Does His Thing” York fell ill resulting in him collapsing on set. After discussions with the director York decided to quit and was replaced by Dick Sargent.

This change coincided with a significant fall in ratings though this could also be attributed to the stronger competition it now faced from other networks.

Despite its fall in popularity Bewitched continued to be renewed for further seasons eventually being cancelled when Montgomery and Asher’s marriage ended resulting in them being unable to continue working together.

The show became the longest-running supernatural-themed sitcom of the 1960s-1970s with Elizabeth Montgomery receiving five Primetime Emmy Award nominations and four Golden Globe nominations.

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Mary, Mungo and Midge

mary-mungoMary, Mungo and Midge was a British animated children series, created by John Ryan, which aired on the BBC in 1969.

The show followed the adventures of a girl called Mary, her dog Mungo and her inquisitive pet mouse Midge who played the flute. They lived on the top floor of a new tower block in a busy town. The series was narrated by BBC newsreader Richard Baker who also provided the voices of Mungo and Midge with John Ryan’s daughter Isabel playing Mary.

The programme was part of the BBC’s Watch with Mother series which was aimed specifically at pre-school children watching with their mothers.

Mary, Mungo and Midge was one of the first children’s shows in the UK to reflect urban living with the characters having adventures in the town where they lived rather than a rural setting.

Each episode opened with narrator Richard Baker explaining that ‘A town is full of buildings, some tall, some short, some wide and some narrow. The buildings are flats, and houses and factories and shops. They are built in streets.’ He then described where Mary, Mungo and Midge lived in the town.

Their adventures included a visit to the clock repairer, a funfair, a hospital and a printer’s shop with Midge normally getting up to some mischief.

Every episode would see Mary, Mungo and Midge returning from their adventures with Midge sitting on Mungo’s nose so he could press the button for the lift back to their flat on the 8th floor.

This was John Ryan’s first series made for colour TV using his ‘live’ animation technique which he had developed in the late 1950’s. Flat card cut-outs were overpainted with gouache, with all movements of characters’ arms, legs, eyes and mouths manually controllable by out-of-shot levers. As colour TV had not reached every home in 1969, each colour animation had to be checked for its appearance on a black and white set.

The programme proved popular with viewers spurning merchandise that included badges, annuals and jigsaws. All 13 episodes were released on video in 1998 and on DVD in 2001.

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Hart to Hart

Hart to Hart was an American mystery television series starring Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as Jonathan and Jennifer Hart which ran from 1979 to 1984.

Jonathan Hart was the CEO of Hart Industries whilst Jennifer was a freelance journalist. They had a glamorous lifestyle which often resulted in them taking on the role of amateur detectives, as they became embroiled in cases of smuggling, theft, espionage and more often than not – murder!

They lived in Bel Air, Los Angeles with their beloved dog Freeway (a stray they found on the freeway) and their butler, cook and chauffeur Max (Lionel Stander) who often helped them with their cases.

In the opening credits we are told by Max that his boss Jonathan is a self-made millionaire and that Mrs. H was gorgeous and knew how to look after herself. He looked after both of them which wasn’t easy as when they met, it was murder!

The series was created by novelist and television writer Sidney Sheldon. Initially Sheldon had written a script in the 70’s called Double Twist about a married couple who were also spies. The script was never filmed until producers Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg decided to update the idea for a television series.

They offered the script to screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz asking him to make it more contemporary and suitable for a television series which he reworked and renamed as Hart to Hart. Changing the name helped to emphasise the romantic aspect of the couple.

Spelling and Goldberg’s first choice to play Jonathan was Cary Grant but at the age of 75 he had more or less retired from acting so the producers decided instead to find a younger actor who embodied the same traits as Grant – suave, attractive and perfectly dressed – with Robert Wagner being offered the role.

Once Wagner was cast, ABC were keen for his real life wife, Natalie Wood, to take on the role of Jennifer Hart but Wagner wasn’t keen on the idea and suggested Stefanie Powers instead. They had previously worked together in an episode of the series It Takes a Thief in 1970.

A large part of the success of the series was down to the great on-screen chemistry between Wagner and Powers, alongside the glamour, mystery and fun in each episode!

The series ended after 5 seasons in 1984 but the popularity of the characters continued resulting in Wagner and Powers reprising their roles in eight 90 minute Hart to Hart television movies between 1993 and 1996.

 

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The Six Million Dollar Man

The Six Million Dollar Man was an American science fiction and action television series starring Lee Majors as Colonel Steve Austin which ran for five seasons from 1973 to 1978.

Colonel Steve Austin was a former NASA astronaut, severely injured in a crash, whose life was saved at a cost of six million dollars.

In the opening sequence, which spawned the catchphrase ‘We can rebuild him; we have the technology’ we are told that Steve Austin was a man barely alive but with technology he could be rebuilt making him the world’s first bionic man. He would be better than he was before. He would be better, stronger and faster.

With his new abilities he was able to run at speeds of 60 mph, his left eye had a 20:1 zoom lens and infrared capabilities and his right arm had the equivalent strength of a bulldozer. He used these abilities to work for the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence) as a secret agent reporting into Oscar Goldman.

So viewers were aware when Austin was using his bionic legs or arm the sequences were presented in slow-motion accompanied with bionic sound effects. When his bionic eye was used the camera would zoom in to show a close up of his eye. His viewpoint included a crosshair motif along with beeping sound effects.

During its run we were introduced to Steve’s girlfriend, Jaime Sommers, who became injured in a skydiving accident. Steve convinced Oscar to save Jaime by also giving her bionic parts but she died after her body rejected them. Such was the popularity of her character it was revealed the following season that she had actually survived and she was given her own spin-off series The Bionic Woman.

The Six Million Dollar Man was so popular in the 70’s that merchandise was soon hitting shops which included everything from toys, boardgames, lunch boxes, running shoes and bedding. Particularly popular was a 12 inch Steve Austin action figure marketed by Kenner.

Though the series was cancelled in 1978 the popularity of the programme continued resulting in three made for television movies in 1987, 1989 and 1994. Lee Majors reprised his role of Steve Austin in all three productions.

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The Golden Girls

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The Golden Girls was an American sitcom created by Susan Harris which ran from 1985 to 1992.

The series introduced us to the characters of Dorothy (Bea Arthur) strong, smart and sarcastic, Blanche (Rue McClanahan) fun-loving, outgoing and promiscuous, Rose (Betty White) upbeat, naïve and a bit of pushover and Sophia (Estelle Getty) Dorothy’s mother, opinionated, brutally honest but with a heart of gold.

Four very different personalities who complimented each other and became the best of friends. Each character brought a unique dynamic to the plot which the viewer could learn from, identify with and laugh at.

The show was shot in front of a live studio audience with many episodes following the same format. One or more of them would have some sort of problem, often involving men, a family member or a moral dilemma. At some point they would all discuss it around the kitchen table eating cheesecake. They would tell a story from their own life which would relate to the situation though Rose would often tell stories which were nonsense and Sophia would tell obvious made up stories.

The series helped to change the perception of women over 50 portraying them as having fulfilling and fun lives as well as tackling controversial topics for its time which included Adultery, Abortion and AIDS.

The series was wonderfully written and extremely funny winning 11 Emmy Awards and 4 Golden Globes through its 7 seasons whilst paving the way for shows such as Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives.

The Golden Girls was produced by The Walt Disney Company under the Touchstone Television label with the cast being named as Disney Legends in 2009.

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Bagpuss

Bagpuss ‘a saggy, old cloth cat, baggy and a bit loose at the seams’ arrived on UK screens in 1974.

Each episode began the same way with a series of sepia photographs telling the viewer about a little girl called Emily who owned a shop.

Emily found lost and broken things and displayed them in the shop window so their owners could come and collect them. She would always leave them next to her favourite toy, Bagpuss, asking him to wake up and look at what she had brought.

Once Emily left the shop Bagpuss would wake up yawning and the programme would change to colour with the various toys in the shop also coming to life: Gabriel the toad, a rag doll called Madeleine, Professor Yaffle a wooden woodpecker bookend and the mice who were carved on the side of a mechanical pipe organ which played rolls of music and projected a picture onto the screen.

Whilst one of the toys (usually Madeleine) told a story about the object (shown in thought bubbles over Bagpuss’s head) the mice would sing to the tune of Sumer Is Icumen as they fixed it.

With the object fixed and displayed in the window Bagpuss would begin yawning again and as he fell asleep the colour would fade to sepia and they all became toys again.

The series was made by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate with Firmin’s daughter playing the part of the Victorian child Emily in the opening sequence.

Bagpuss was an actual cloth cat who was intended to be a ginger marmalade cat but a mistake during the dyeing process resulted in the cloth turning out pink and cream.

Although only 13 episodes were ever made of Bagpuss it was frequently repeated in the UK for 13 years and in 1999 topped a BBC poll for the UK’s favourite children’s TV programme.

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