Series / The Incredible Hulk

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Doctor David Banner: physician, scientist; searching for a way to tap into the hidden strengths that all humans have.
Then an accidental overdose of gamma radiation alters his body chemistry.
And now, when David Banner grows angry or outraged, a startling metamorphosis occurs.

The Creature is driven by rage, and pursued by an investigative reporter.


Banner: Mister McGee, don't make me angry. You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry.

The Creature is wanted for a murder he didn't commit. David Banner is believed to be dead; and he must let the world think that he is dead, until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him...

The Incredible Hulk is a Live-Action Adaptation of the classic Marvel Comics character, laced thoroughly with intentional Adaptation Distillation. Airing on CBS from 1977 to 1982, it starred Bill Bixby as Banner and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno as his violent super-powered alter-ego.

Preceded by a pair of Pilot MoviesThe Incredible Hulk and Death in the Family (no, not that Death in the Family) — the series proper was in turn followed by three late-'80s Made for TV Movies. The first was a Poorly Disguised Pilot for a Thor series, the second was a Poorly Disguised Pilot for a Daredevil series (neither of which got made), and the last ended with the Hulk being Killed Off for Real, though this was not originally the intention, as the Hulk was going to be resurrected in a fourth film. However Bill Bixby's unfortunate and untimely death from cancer put a permanent end to any further stories in this series.

Oddly, despite the many radical changes made to the concept — ranging from the character's first namenote  all the way up to his enemies and locale — it managed to embrace and faithfully support the core idea of the original comic book. It remains one of three superhero adaptations from the 1970s that is remembered fondly to this date, the others being Wonder Woman and Superman.

The Incredible Hulk provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The show, while adding original elements and removing some themes from the comics, pretty much introduced a lot of people to the character, and the comics are probably more popular than ever. Most of the film adaptations of the character took cues from the TV Show (including the 2008 reboot).
  • Adaptation Name Change: Sort-of. Bruce is still his middle name, but Banner goes by his first name, which was changed from "Robert" to David".
  • Adaptational Wimp: Subverted, since the Hulk in this series is still quite Incredible, yet his powers are clearly scaled down from the comic book version, who once held a 150 billion ton mountain during Secret Wars! Also, even though he still has a healing factor, knives and bullets are able to penetrate his skin and cause him pain, and in the episode "The First," another hulk creature, granted an older and weaker one, is even killed by gunfire.
    • Also, the Hulk himself dies falling from an airplane and landing on concrete in "Death of the Incredible Hulk", whereas a typical traveling method of the comic version is to make enormous leaps, going at least as high as the height he fell from here.
  • Bandaged Face: In "Mystery Man," David and Mr. McGee are stranded in the woods together, but because David is suffering both amnesia and a badly burned (and bandaged) face, neither of them recognizes the other.
  • Barehanded Bar Bending: The Hulk did this all the time, to remind the TV audience just how strong he was.
  • Bench Breaker: From time to time, David gets tied to a chair and then Hulks out, breaking the chair more or less automatically.
  • Butt Monkey: David, of course. Some people go their whole lives without getting into a violent confrontation. He can't walk ten feet down the street.
    • Interestingly, Bill Bixby was a former Marine and therefore fairly adept at hand-to-hand combat. However, having the fighting skills of a Marine wasn't exactly something that could fit with Banner's background.
  • Bullying a Dragon: While most of the mooks that the Hulk dealt usually did not know that David Banner and the hulk were one and the same, there are a few instances, where after it was pretty clear that this rampaging green monster could easily defeat them, these mooks still attacked the Hulk. The most egregious example is during the episode when David marries Carolyn Fields, one mook repeatedly threw several bottles at the Hulk as he was leaving. It did not end well.
  • Burying a Substitute: Implied in the pilot, when we see David Banner's already filled in gravesite as they bury his colleague/love interest. After everyone leaves David comes out of hiding and spends some time contemplating his gravestone.
  • Clip Show
    • "The Mystery Man Pts. 1 and 2". Though there is some fairly significant plot development: McGee learns that the Hulk transforms into a normal man (though one whose identity he doesn't yet know).
    • "Proof Positive" counts as one as well, as it details the whys and wherefores behind Jack's continuing obsession with capturing the Hulk, and actually made him seem somewhat more humanized, as we see him desperately trying to convince the paper's new boss that he has to continue his crusade to bring the creature in. Both to put an end to the creature, and hopefully to cure the man behind the monster, whom he's come to see as an individual who is as much a victim of the creature as the people he believes the Hulk murdered — despite not realizing that one of the people he believes was killed by the Hulk IS the Hulk.
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: You can count on one hand the amount of times the name "Hulk" is used. Almost Literally. David goes throughout almost the entire series never using the name beyond one or two episodes tops. Presumably, the only reason he even uses it is because the paper Jack McGee works for has more or less popularized the name. Most of the time he refers to the Hulk as "The Creature" while McGee and everyone else who knows of the creature are known to call it The Hulk, though they also sometimes call it The Creature as well.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: In the episode "The First", David finds a multi-volume diary detailing the process by which a scientist actually turned someone else into a Hulk-like creature, and cured it... but the volume with the actual process is missing. The scientist's groundskeeper - who was the person who had been turned into the Creature - had hidden it.
  • Criminal Doppelgänger: An episode had David Banner cross paths with a criminal who looked exactly like him (Bill Bixby with a mustache). Despite trying to frame Banner, the criminal was caught by police and attempted to weasel out of it by saying, "There's a guy who looks exactly like me." The police dismissed the idea as inane.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: Before this show, Bixby starred in two other series, My Favorite Martian and The Magician. So when an episode came around in which Banner befriends a broken down magician played by Martian co-star Ray Walston, it was titled My Favorite Magician.
  • Cursed with Awesome: As much as his condition has made David's life a complete shambles as a fugitive, the only reason he survives his adventures, or recovers from paralysis, is by transforming into the Hulk in times of need.
    • Blessed with Suck: On the other hand, if his condition hadn't wrecked his life, he'd be living quietly as a research scientist, and wouldn't be getting into trouble to begin with.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Renee in "Haunted", whose twin sister drowned when they were children; she pretended to be the dead sister because everyone liked her more.
  • Decomposite Character: In the Made-for-TV Movie The Incredible Hulk Returns The Mighty Thor appears; but instead of Don Blake turning into Thor, Blake and Thor are separate characters. Blake calls upon Odin while holding Thor's warhammer and Thor magically appears. Presumably in the spinoff series that never happened, One's a doctor, one's a Norse God. Together, They Fight Crime.
  • Disposable Superhero Maker: The machine in the pilot that emits gamma rays (and which is apparently mis-labeled so David gives himself a much higher dosage than intended). It's destroyed when the entire lab goes up in an explosion. There's another machine in "The First" that does something similar, and it gets destroyed in the two Hulks' fight.
  • Downer Ending: The third movie which concludes the series. The Hulk falls out of a plane and transforms back into David, who dies. All of his years of searching for a cure were in vain, the only way he could be free from his condition was to die. To make this already depressing ending even worse, there was a script written for a sequel in which the Hulk would be revived with Banner's mind. However, due to Bill Bixby's declining health and eventual death, it was never made.
  • Ending Theme / Solemn Ending Theme: "The Lonely Man", perhaps the only one that is more famous than the opening theme.
  • Evil Counterpart: "The First", a Hulk-like creature created in a similar experiment 30 years before David Banners's. Unlike Banner's Hulk, this other Hulk was selfish, paranoid, and a murderer even before his transformation.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: The Hulk is treated as an urban myth for far longer that should be considered possible considering he has been seen by large crowds in public quite a few times.
  • Eye Awaken: As in the Hulk is waking up. Whenever David crossed the threshold for the Hulk to manifest, he would close his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them the irises had changed from brown to pale, bright green.
    • This particular Eye Take became so iconic - it even had its own musical motif of sorts in the form of a string cue - that the 2008 theatrical movie used it as well.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: David can never find the cure for his little condition because if he did, no more show.
  • Gone Horribly Right: When looked at another way, Banner's experiment worked TOO WELL; he wanted strength enhancement and all the fixin's he just got was more than he bargained for, leading to one really tragic case of Be Careful What You Wish For.
  • Handicapped Badass: Li Sung of "Another Path" and "The Disciple". He's old and blind, but a very skilled martial artist, easily defeating the villain of his first episode alone, along with many of his mooks. Even the Hulk was just cleaning up after him rather than defusing the threat himself.
  • Healing Factor: While not as dramatic in as the original comic, the Hulk can recover from nearly any injury and with incredible speed. Sometimes, however, one transformation is not enough for more serious injuries. This is most obvious in the episode where Banner was paralyzed and then transforms: you see the Hulk flop around unable to understand why he can't stand, while his healing power obviously goes into overdrive repairing his severed spine to enable the Hulk to stand up within seconds. At first he can only clumsily hobble along, but David is able to trade his wheelchair for leg braces and crutches. Later, a second transformation fully returns his ability to walk.
    • Another example is the first-season episode "Life and Death," where David is given a lethal injection of poison. The first transformation only partially gets rid of the poison, leaving both the Hulk and David groggy and dizzy, until the second transformation purges the rest.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: David goes into one in "The Psychic" when he sees that a teenager the Hulk had attacked died in the hospital. David, who had always clung to the belief that the Hulk would not kill anyone, is driven to the brink of suicide until he finds out the Hulk didn't do it.
  • High Voltage Death: Attempted but averted when a KISS-like heavy metal singer (played by Mackenzie Phillips) plans to do this and make it look like an accident during a concert in order to teach her fans a lesson about...something or other. But when she sees David Hulk Out and the fans are still screaming for more, she realizes that her death will make no difference to them.
  • Hulking Out: The series writers named this trope.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: One classic episode had Banner trapped on an island with a wealthy retired hunter who becomes delighted when he first sees the transformation:
    "I saw that beast you turned into David, unbelievable! What was it, how do you do it? It was magnificent, David, magnificent! Make it come back? You hear me, David! Make it come back!"
  • Informed Attribute: Hulk is repeatedly described as being a monster over seven feet tall. While Lou Ferrigno is pretty tall at 6'4", it's obvious he isn't over seven feet with how he is always standing next to people.
  • Intrepid Reporter:
    • Jack McGee is a complicated example. McGee may be chasing a tabloid-like tale of a giant green monster (and gets mocked for it by his colleagues), but he's keen on reporting the truth. On occasion he reports on other breaking news and scandals that deserve coverage. Furthermore, when a hunter offers to kill the Hulk, McGee is the most adamant against that for the sake of the human containing the creature. Other episodes show his fellow journalists in less-than-flattering lights.
    • Emerson Fletcher in "Interview with the Hulk" is another complex example. He was a respected science reporter until his daughter's tragic death, at which point his career fell apart. He steals a tip from McGee about the Hulk in the hope that landing the story will help him regain his professional standing, and uses deception to get close to David and get him to tell his story. But after listening to David for a while, he starts to remember the integrity and decency he used to have, and by the time McGee catches up he has decided to help David escape.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: Of the Hulking Out variety, but of course!
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: In "Babalao" - in fact, the first transformation of the episode happens right in the middle of the parade itself.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: In "Deathmask," police officer Frank Rhodes is pursuing a man who murders college co-eds, and comes to believe David is the killer, not realizing that it's actually himself. Outright stated by David when he is hinting his condition to Dr. Carolyn Fields after she realizes who he really is.
  • Limited Wardrobe: David's tan-and-white jacket shows up throughout the series. Justified by him being pretty much homeless. What makes less sense is that he always seems to be wearing the same boots, even though they get torn up and discarded every time he transforms. How does he afford to buy new clothes every week?
  • The Load: Julie in "Death in the Family"; for two-thirds of this two-hour episode, she's about as much use to David as a bag full of sand. (Laurie Prange appears again as a blind girl in "Prometheus".)
  • Lonely Piano Piece: The ending piece, literally entitled "The Lonely Man".
  • The Lost Lenore: Banner's wife Laura, who was the whole reason he went into studying how humans become stronger in times of danger (and, more importantly, why he didn't when he needed to save her), which ultimately led to his "curse". He still has nightmares about her death, even years later.
  • Magic Pants: Goes without saying that this is in place, what is of note is when this trope is defied…
  • Mail-Order Bride: A Chinese one shows up for David in "East Winds," much to his bewilderment. She's actually been sent to root around his apartment for a fortune in gold that was hidden there.
  • Mistaken for Own Murderer: The Hulk is suspected in David Banner's death because no one knows his secret.
  • Mobstacle Course: David must run one in "Rainbow's End". Of course, they can get pretty frustrating...
  • Mugging the Monster: Very, very, often, as it happens to Banner/Hulk in other media. It's one of the most frequent triggers that causes David's transformation, and what leads many Mooks to the Oh Crap! trope mentioned below.
  • Mundane Luxury / Mundane Object Amazement: In the first TV movie, Thor is amazed at the shower, having never seen one before.
    Thor: That shower bath is a miracle. Water from nowhere. Wonderful. Hot and cold. All you could want. I’m telling you, the eyes would pop from my old comrades’ heads if they could see what I’m seeing in this god-forsaken world of yours.
  • The Nondescript: McGee sometimes got frustrated at the fact that David wasn't more distinctive-looking. He'd ask somebody about him and the person would say, "Well, you know, sort of average... Brown hair, brown eyes..."
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Sometimes David felt it best to hide his education. Not everyone was fooled.
  • Oh Crap!: The usual reaction by the Mooks in each episode when they are beating up on Banner and suddenly a giant green monster appears with a tremendous roar.
  • Partial Transformation: In "Prometheus", where Dr. Banner gets stuck halfway between himself and the Hulk.
  • Pet the Dog: The "savage" Hulk almost always gets a moment where he proves he's just a big softy at heart.
  • Pilot Movie: Two of them. The unnamed "Pilot" was the actual origin story, detailing how David was afflicted with his condition, and why he had to go on the run; "Death in the Family" was a two-hour adventure that started the series proper.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot
    • The TV movies The Incredible Hulk Returns and Trial of the Incredible Hulk were obvious pilots for undeveloped TV series for Thor and Daredevil respectively.
    • The episode "The Disciple" was potentially a pilot for a series about the martial artist private detective played by Rick Springfield. It never got off the ground.
  • Pro Wrestling Is Real: In one episode, David had a job as a trainer/medic at a pro wrestling arena. The wrestlers got along with each other well enough, but inside the ring it was all real.
  • Punishment Box: In the episode "The Slam". David gets put in one. Strangely enough, he doesn't Hulk Out. Another prisoner in the box next door tells him how to survive: find a rock to suck on, put your head in the least exposed place possible, and don't move around.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Hilariously used when David was trying to report to the police, and the operator had him go through several operations to reach the police. Of course this happened:
    Operator: Please deposit 25 cents for the first three minutes.
    David: (looking through his change) I don't have 25 cents!!
Bad enough when he hulks out in anger as a result.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: In "Of Guilt, Models and Murder", David comes out of a Hulk episode next to a dead body, and subsequently hears several different accounts of how the woman was killed.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: David gives a well-intentioned one to Rich Bitch Diane in "Equinox." He was hired to sort through her family's library, but when he wants to leave her private island (McGee's getting close) she won't let him and insists that he stick around for the masquerade party she's throwing. When someone at the party tries to kill her, she suspects him, but he tells her that she needs to look at how she treats people and realize that he's not the only one with a motive to harm her. After a little introspection she realizes he's right and helps him get away from McGee.
  • Recycled In Space: Many of the people who look back on the show today are quick to point out, favorably, that the show was basically Kung Fu with superpowers! Also, a distinct influence from The Fugitive is obvious.
  • Roar Before Beating: It is the Hulk, after all.
  • Sad Battle Music: The uptempo version of The Lonely Man that plays in the opening. Though not used in a battle per se, it did display quite a bit of the destruction that David Banner caused in his Incredible Hulk state.
  • Simple Score of Sadness: The closing theme, "The Lonely Man".
  • Split Personality: Not necessarily. The Hulk is still David Banner, just regressed to an animalistic state. Which is why the Hulk refuses to kill people, and protects and responds to people who are important to David.
    • This becomes more clear in the two-parter "The First," in which Dell Frye is presented as more power-hungry and less concerned with others' safety than David. His "Hulk" is likewise crueler and kills a man, which doesn't bother Dell.
    • Played straight in the episode "Darkside", where an attempt at a cure instead unleashes David's id in the form of a second personality, only concerned with his own immediate needs and perfectly willing to use the Hulk to achieve them. David swaps back and forth between the two personalities during the course of the episode. The Hulk likewise becomes more aggressive and nearly kills several people before snapping back to normal.
    • On the other hand, the third-season premiere "Metamorphosis" sees David affected by a powerful hallucinogen, and he starts having visions of the Hulk attacking him, which causes him to transform. As the Hulk, he then has visions of David, who he attacks immediately and violently, destroying the room and injuring a bystander. They may not be fully separate personalities, but each represent a part of the whole that the other hates.
  • Sue Donym: Dr. Banner always, ALWAYS uses his real first name and a last name starting with the letter "B".
  • Super Strength: David wanted to tap into the hidden strength that all humans have, he succeeded in his goal and then some!
  • The Boxing Episode: The first regular-season episode was "Final Round," where a crime boss attempts to kill a hypertensive boxer by spiking his water. (Surely the prospect of putting the Hulk in the ring made this an obvious story idea.)
  • Themed Aliases: David Banner always used a last name that started with a B. David Banner to David Bradley, etc. The only time he didn't use that was when he ran in to his Identical Stranger, a mobster named Mike Cassidy, and he tried to use that to get out of a scrape. Banner uses the Mike Cassidy alias when he comes face-to-face with his personal Inspector Javert, Jack McGee, who up until the moment he sees him thinks Banner is dead. Banner uses one of his usual aliases when running into the mobsters looking for Cassidy, but they don't believe him.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Elaina Marks assures David in the pilot that the Hulk won't kill, "because David Banner wouldn't kill." David isn't entirely convinced, and he constantly frets that the Hulk might eventually cross the line. Of course, if those crooks weren't all Made of Iron, then surely one of the countless thugs the Hulk launches through walls would have died sooner or later.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In the climax of Trial of the Incredible Hulk, it's David who successfully saves the day, not the Hulk. The Hulk doesn't show up at all.
  • Tranquilizer Dart: Intrepid Reporter Jack McGee at one point has a tranq gun to use on the Hulk. Sure enough, the Hulk shows up and McGee shoots him, to seemingly no effect even though he uses several darts. After the Hulk grabs & destroys the gun and runs off, he starts being affected, in an aversion of Instant Sedation. McGee accidentally shoots himself too, but he's able to chase the Hulk for a little while before he falls unconscious.
  • Unstoppable Rage: It's what the Hulk is.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: When watching "Hulk In Times Square", it's obvious who were the paid actors hired to react, and who were the random people in Times Square watching Lou Ferrigno's performance.
  • Walking the Earth: Looking for a cure.
  • Wicked Stepmother: "Death In the Family" has one. After David finds out the whole family history, the Damsel in Distress of the episode was to die with her father because her stepmother wanted the family fortune. The girl survives, but was told she cannot walk due to the "accident", and thus overdosed on medication. After David and the girl manage to report to the authorities, the stepmother and her Mooks are presumably sent to prison for attempted murder.
  • Wolverine Publicity: The Hulk also appeared in pilots for Spinoffs based on Daredevil and Thor in an obvious effort to boost their popularity. Neither show ended up being produced.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: In many instances whenever he Hulks out, he never hurts a child. However, he does hurt one child's father for attacking him. The mother, on the other hand, he just either stares at or runs away. Most times, children aren't even scared of him. The young girl in the Pilot episode who the Hulk tries to save from drowning is a rare exception.
  • Wrongly Accused: The creature is wanted for two murders he didn't commit: Elaina Marks and David Banner.
  • You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry: The Trope Namer. The character only said it once, during the first Pilot, but the line made it into the show's opening, so it's a very well-known line. (And, of course, not many people like David when he's angry, what with the turning into a giant green monster)

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