I remember watching reruns of The Incredible Hulk when I was a little girl and being scared out of my mind. Think of it this way: If you're a 4-year-old child and you see images of a large, green man — an angry one, at that — bustin' down walls and beating up bad guys, you'd be pretty scared yourself. By the time I reached my mid-twenties, The Incredible Hulk film was about to be released, and SyFy (then stylized as SciFi) aired a marathon of the '70s TV show to celebrate the event. I decided to check it out, despite the fact that it scared the crap out of me when I was in preschool. What I saw was a very engaging (albeit slightly cheesy) show. A few years later, Retro TV, a.k.a. RTV, added the series as part of their regular schedule. I made it my business to be in front of the television every day at 6:00pm to see it.
The Hulk has always been a popular character within the Marvel Universe. Normally, when I ask folks who their favorite Avenger is, they always say it's The Hulk, namely due to his size and power (I'm more partial to Thor, myself). However, when it comes to the TV series, I believe that folks were drawn to it for a different reason.
What Made The Show Great
First of all, every episode featured Dr. David Banner (Bill Bixby) drifting from town to town, taking on odd jobs and attempting to find a cure for his "condition" (for some reason, his name was changed from "Bruce" to "David" for the TV series). However, whenever he took a regular job to blend in, there would always be a person nearby in need, and David would always go out of his way to help. Of course, the bad guys causing trouble would always find a way to make David angry, and that's when The Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) would show up.
Naturally, when The Hulk emerged, he'd growl, sneer and smash things up, but there was another side of his personality that allowed him to connect with the audience. Despite his fearsome appearance, The Hulk was gentle and kind. The only people he would hurt would be the ones that were hurting people that David cared about. The irony of the show was that nearly everyone, including David, only thought of The Hulk as a dangerous monster, when he was in fact the exact opposite.
When David/The Hulk didn't have degenerates to worry about, he also had to evade Jack McGee (Jack Colvin), an investigative journalist that was obsessed with finding "the creature" as he and other witnesses would refer to him. McGee's obsession was another driving force of the show. All he did for the next five seasons of the show was chase The Hulk, and every time the strange green man escaped his grasp, it furthered McGee's preoccupation with him. After some time passed, McGee's fixation cost him his reputation, the paper's money, and his personal relationships.
The Melancholic "Lonely Man"
And of course, there was the iconic ending of each episode. Thanks to McGee's never ending pursuit, and the damage The Hulk caused, David could never spend too much time in one place. He would have to always leave whatever town or city he was in, and as a result, he never had a chance to maintain any lasting relationships. As David walked away to another town, the melancholic "Lonely Man" piano tune would play, solidifying the fact that the poor man would possibly have to walk the Earth alone forever.
The Incredible Hulk series may lack the high-tech graphics and multiple plot twists that we've come to know and love today, but it's a classic nonetheless. The show was action-packed and full of thrills, but the main reason it was so beloved by its fans is because it also dealt with the real issues people have: loneliness, obsession, being misunderstood, self doubt, mourning a loved one, etc. It's those aspects that make The Incredible Hulk timeless. I have no reasonable explanation for The Hulk's fight with the man in the bear suit, though.
So what do you think about The Incredible Hulk series? Leave a comment with your thoughts!