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- Acceptable Breaks from Reality: As a drifter, David is able to get all sorts of jobs that don't require references. Some of these are more questionable than others. In The '70s and The '80s, there was no digital footprint technology or advanced forensics. So a person could more plausibly travel off the grid incognito. However, in The Incredible Hulk Returns, he appears to be gainfully employed as a scientist at a research lab, albeit under another alias. As to how he was able to demonstrate his credentials without referring to his past work under his true identity....
- Award Snub: Averted in the two parter "Bride of the Incredible Hulk". Mariette Hartley won a well deserved Emmy Award for her role as Dr. Carolyn Fields. This is one a rare early instance of a Science Fiction or Fantasy adventure series winning an Emmy for performance, direction, or writing. Most genre series, despite their best efforts, tend to be stuck winning Emmys solely for technical aspects such as Special Effects.
- Awesome Music: "The Lonely Man", both the solo piano piece and an uptempo version which plays during the opening credits.
- David's transformation into the Hulk is rich with flavorful musical sound effects, always starting with a screeching Scare Chord and followed up by etheral humming noises, and the sound of his clothes ripping apart. Then there's the transformation cooldown where the Hulk reverts back to being David, which is just the humming sounds all by themselves.
- The various incidental music tracks for the Hulk. He has one for when the transformation completes full of trumpets, another with tense violin music for when he's involved in an action sequence, and another for when he runs away with troubled-sounding and melancholic piano notes.
- Anvilicious: Quite a few episodes had An Aesop that was delivered with the force of a Hulk punch.
- Complete Monster: Michael Sutton, from season 3's "The Snare", became bored with hunting animals, and so decided to start Hunting the Most Dangerous Game. He finds whatever men he can and invites them over to his own island, only to drug them to sleep and put them through deadly obstacles as he hunts them down, succeeding at least 5 times, and seeing it all as a "game"; he intends to do the same to David Banner. It's implied that the reason he's so successful is because he doesn't play fair, a fact David calls him out on, insisting that a real hunter plays fair and that all Sutton cares about is winning. When Sutton discovers David's inner beast, he becomes obsessed with it and tortures David with the intent of bringing it out and killing it, only to kill himself by accident. At the end of the episode, it turns out even in death Sutton can't stand losing, as it's revealed he Booby Trapped David's escape boat in preparation for the hero's victory. Ruthless, psychotic, and a cheater at his own game, Michael Sutton was unlike any other villain on the show, who were motivated by either tragedy or simple financial gain.
- Creator Cameo: Jack Kirby appears as a police sketch artist in one episode. He is sketching a witnesses description of the Hulk. Quite expectedly, the sketch resembles his own comics style of the character rather than Lou Ferrigno. Stan Lee would make the first of his continuing cameo appearances in The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk.
- Early-Bird Cameo: In Trial of the Incredible Hulk, Matt Murdock's office mates were seen but had no lines and remained unnamed. Marvel fans, however, know that they were Foggy Nelson and Karen Page. Presumably, they would have been properly introduced had the intended Daredevil spinoff series been greenlighted.
- Designated Villain: Jack McGee sometimes comes across as this. Sure, he can be a jerk, but he's regularly treated like a scumbag when he usually he just wants to tell the public the truth about a destructive monster who (as far as he knows) killed 2 people. It because he works for a scummy tabloid that no one likes him, because no matter how many times he tries to pass himself off as an upstanding person, he will always come off as a nosy reporter working under a shill for selfish monetary gain at the expense of others and a proponent of slander.
- Hilarious in Hindsight
- Word of God explained that he wanted to change Hulk to red, but Stan Lee denied the permission. Years later in the comics, The Red Hulk became an actual character separate from the green Hulk.
- Mix between hilarious and harsher- one of the going ideas behind the name change was that "Bruce" sounded too gay/effeminate, which ended up backfiring when Bruce Jenner became a top Olympic athlete. Cue now when Bruce, or rather Caitlyn Jenner has undergone gender reassignment surgery.
- Memetic Mutation
- "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry". More often than not, it's followed up by "I don't like you now".
- "The Lonely Man" has become go-to background music for underscoring over-the-top despair played for laughs.
- Narm: Any time a scene with the Hulk has bystanders speaking, the dialogue is added post-production because the Hulk is constantly subjected to Overcrank for dramatic effect and the limitations of the film and recording equipment at the time made it difficult to perfect the timing of speaking parts without the slow-motion sequences distorting the audio captures, so the vocal audio parts (aside from Lou Ferrigno's Hulk noises) were recorded separately on a sound stage. Because none of the vocal performances are live, they always sound so fake and shoehorned in, like a crummy Godzilla dub, with the tones and delivery of the lines never meshing cleanly with the scenes of the Hulk. Worse, a lot of the time, the dialogue would be thrown in while the characters were off-screen, making it painfully obvious they couldn't lip-sync any of the sound bytes, or even sound like they're in the same place as the Hulk (characters from afar sound too loud for it to sound believable and like they're blurting their lines out or just plain shouting into the mics).
Donald Blake raising the Mjolnir hammer (his usual method of summoning Thor): "Odiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin!"
- The Hulk never hits or kicks anyone outright. He just throws them aside. Though it's probably because David is influencing the Hulk not to directly harm anybody in this incarnation of the Hulk (while others are more freely berserk), one can determine from consecutive viewings of the show that it's because standards wouldn't allow it. The one time the Hulk got close to inflicting real harm on people is when David accidentally uncorked the dark side of his personality and all his repressed primal urges for violence bled out in the Hulk's transformation, in the titular episode, "Dark Side".
- The very fact that Dr. Banner in this series had his first name changed to "David" because someone thought "Bruce" sounded gay/effeminate.
- The Hulk always taking a moment to pull off the tatters of David's now-ripped shirt following his transformation.
- Knowing that David will transform into the Hulk at least twice per episode in obligatory fashion (provided the episode doesn't deviate from the usual formula, and that some Contrived Coincidence will cause him to suffer injury to trigger the transformation, and leave him conveniently unobserved/concealed so his identity is never exposed.
- Just about every person of the week has a melodramatic sob story attached to them and a reason to whine about why their life sucks eggs, just so David can rebuild their confidence in humanity by the end of the episode. If it's a child or a young woman, chances are they'll come from a broken home with a single parent just to play up the sympathy card. And most times, the father will stereotypically be the reason behind the broken family, because men lack the compassion women and children do.
- Any time David goes someplace new, he will be subjected to outsider persecution syndrome- someone will automatically refuse to trust him, peg him as dangerous, and instantly want to throw David under the bus the minute they have an excuse to do so, and/or finger David as the source of conflict.
- David constantly using an alias that takes the form of David B-whatever. The only reason he keeps getting away with it is because the series took place in The '70s, which predated the age of integrated computers, and most records were still kept in paper and had no through-line in the form of the modern Internet to tie them all together. Yet, it's so paper-thin that if the story were set in today's computerized age, where records can be tied together, he'd be tracked down quite easily because all someone would have to do is ping all the occurrences of those symmetrical David B-whatever aliases across job employment databases in the contiguous United States, organize them by date, and then they could triangulate his movements across the country, anticipate his next move and ambush him, and the fugitive saga would be over in a heartbeat.
- From The Incredible Hulk Returns:
- Anvilicious: David could sure preach. Especially when it was time to get a character to stop feeling sorry for themselves. But then again, this is Bill Bixby who was like that in every series he's in. And this was television of The '70s.
- Season 3 had a lot of inexplicable cheesy humor injected into the stories, sometimes working against their otherwise unrelentingly serious tone in a bad way, such as the Hulk being attracted to a green store mannequin in an otherwise tension-filled standoff between criminals who wanted to raid a mall vault. Probably a result of the following:
- Nightmare Fuel: The series has been described as most frightening TV series ever for young children, with its focus on radical change into a creature making animal-like sounds. Word is that Bill Bixby wouldn't even allow his children to watch the show for various reasons as he was afraid it would terrify them. An episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood would later go behind the scenes of the show to reveal the actors and makeup process, in hopes of making children less afraid of the transformation.
- Non-Indicative Title: Trial of the Incredible Hulk The trial scene is a dream sequence
- Special Effect Failure: The green shoes Lou Ferrigno often wore in outdoor scenes, for obvious safety reasons, had a habit of being plainly visible in many episodes. (Particularly "Terror in Times Square" — Ferrigno joked that even the Hulk wouldn't go barefoot in Times Square in the '70s.)
- Mrs. Maier from the pilot episode was burned in the face trying to rescue her son, but the burn mark is very clearly makeup. Of course, this could have been intentional for censorship purposes.
- Vague Age: David is supposedly in his early 30s when the series starts (Bill Bixby was 43 at the time so it's an extreme case of Dawson Casting). When given descriptions of said John Doe, he is most often described as about 34. Given that he was already a renowned researcher, he might have been older than that, since for a physician/scientist, being in his early 30s wouldn't make him that far removed from his medical school/residency days. At the time of the first TV movie, seven years had passed for him as in realtime. Add to the number of years that the series lasted, that would make him about eleven years older, so mid forties by 1988. Don Blake is said to be a contemporary of David, having been in the same class but he clearly looks like he would have still been in undergraduate college when David was already established in his career.
- The Woobie: Of all the characters who fit this, it's David FREAKIN' Banner. At young age, he loses his mother. He loses both of his wives, one by car accident and the other by disease. And how does the series ultimately end? He dies at the end of the series finale. Worse is that his remaining family will have to learn about it.
The Animated Series
- Funny Moments: It has a number of them, for such a dark show:
- When the Leader prepares to take the Hulk's power for himself, he orders Gargoyle to complete the apparatus needed to siphon the Hulk's power. We later see that he was playing Breakout on it, having presumably installed it out of boredom.
- The "savage" Hulk after leaping out of a remotely detonated explosive by Doctor Doom, reacts to his (well, Banner's) cellphone ringing in his pocket. While it seems the She-Hulk is calling Bruce to see how he is, Hulk assumes the phone ringing means that it's about to explode, so he throws it far away.
- Heartwarming Moments: The end of "They Call Me Mr Fixit", when Allure feels sorry for herself because she has lost everything she had, and the Absorbing Man tells her that she has not lost him:
Allure: I can't believe I lost it all. I have nothing left. I'm a nobody!
Creel: No, don't you see, Allure? You are somebody...to me. Powers or not, I'm here for ya.
Allure: Turn that kiss into gold, and we just might have something.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: Possible copyright disputes led to SHIELD in this series being represented not by Nick Fury, but one of his old comrades from the Howling Commandos, Gabe Jones. (Audiences in The New '10s will know him as the black dude in Captain America: The First Avenger.) This was well before Ultimate Marvel really did turn Nick Fury into a black dude. And just to seal the deal, this Gabe Jones had a full head of hair with white streaks, which was precisely how black Nick Fury appeared in Wolverine and the X-Men and Season One of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!.
- Nightmare Fuel: Loaded with it! Even in the Season 2 finale, the Monster of the Week was really freaky.
- The Scrappy: Fans prefer to forget the way She-Hulk was portrayed in Season 2.
- Seasonal Rot: Season 2 non-stop. Excessive Executive Meddling saw many production members replaced with more like-minded personnel, a Lighter and Softer tone, fewer story arcs, worse art and animation and She-Hulk added as a regular (at the expense of Rick Jones, no less).
- Tear Jerker: One cited is the end of "Innocent Blood", in which Rick Jones and Betty Ross have to pull a Break His Heart to Save Him on Hulk.
Hulk: Betty. Rick. Friends.
Betty: (starting to cry) No, Hulk. We're not friends. I'm frightened of you. You're destructive and...I don't love you, I hate you. (begins sobbing)
Hulk: Hate Hulk?
Rick: (also crying) You've ruined our lives, man. You've ruined everybody's life! We wish you'd just...just go away. Just leave us alone.
Hulk: No. No. Rick? Betty?
Betty: You're a monster. I never want to see you again. Do you hear me? Never!
- The scene in "Mortal Bounds", where Gargoyle sadly examines his restored face and laments that he will have to return to his deformed self in order to survive.
- The scene where Don Blake reveals that the antidote to the virus won't be ready in time to save Betty, driving Bruce to tears. Happily, it becomes a Heartwarming Moment when Gargoyle arrives and gives Bruce the rest of the antidote the two of them created earlier, saying that even a hideous troll like himself can preform a good deed.
- What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: The first season. The themes of each episode is dark; darker than the live action series, and that's saying something.
- What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: The opening credits.
- Better on DVD: With the DVD, several deleted scenes are restored that help flesh out the characters through their interactions, such as Bruce and Leonard Samson having a tense talk about Bruce's history with Betty, or a short dialogue at Culver University where Bruce tells Betty how he worries that they experimented with the wrong motives.
- Broken Base:
- The arguments about which is better: this or Hulk. Seriously, there are civil wars that have been less heated.
- The Abomination's physical appearance. Some people liked it and thought it was scary looking, while others disliked it for straying so far from his comic look. Some, regardless of loyalty to the comic incarnation found it just plain ugly. Then again, The Abomination being ugly is pretty much the point.
- Fanon Discontinuity: Not intentionally, but a lot of people seem to forget that this movie is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel themselves haven't done much to raise awareness of the film, as it had no sequels and none of its characters reappeared in the MCU until Captain America: Civil War, save for Banner who was recast. There is also a rumour that Liv Tyler as Betty will finally reappear in Avengers: Infinity War.
- Fridge Brilliance:
- Hulk, while a tough cookie, isn't shown to be as unstoppable as he normally is. While it can be argued that this makes his conflicts more interesting, it's interesting to note that this is explained in story. Banner has been working on a cure while in South America, and recent testing revealed that the gamma within him is much lower, possibly explaining the Hulk's limited strength.
- In Captain America: The First Avenger, it's revealed that the super soldier serum strenghtens the user's main personality trait. In that movie, Steve Rogers is a selfless Determinator accustomed to taking a beating and keeping his cool, so as Captain America his heroism was increased; while Johann Schmidt was an evil and ambitious Mad Scientist, so as Red Skull his evilness was increased. In this movie, Blonsky lives to fight, so after taking the serum his willingness to fight slowly turns into full on Blood Knight tendencies, combined with Drunk on the Dark Side. As a plus, Schmidt and Blonsky both received an incomplete serum. Steve is the only one to get the formula as it was meant to be given (refined, in a lab, with someone who can handle it) which is why he is the only one that doesn't suffer horrific side effects.
- Captain America is a successful Super Soldier whose main weapon is a gleaming shield because he'd rather defend the innocent than punish the guility. The Hulk is a failed super soldier who breaks cars apart to make crude shields out of self-defense. Hero+Super Serum=shield user.
- Hilarious in Hindsight:
- At one point, Doc Samson mentions that it's a point of pride with him that he can always tell when someone is lying. Emil Blonsky's actor, Tim Roth, later went on to play someone who could do just that in Lie to Me.
- Edward Norton previously played the Narrator of Fight Club, and if you know the ending of that film...
- Thanks to a brief shot of one of Ross' soldiers sitting with a long item attached to his back (he was really leaning against the vehicle's business-sized antenna), fans immediately assumed it was an Easter Egg, of Hawkeye's Early-Bird Cameo. Amusingly, the guy who did end up being Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and this version of Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) do appear together in The Bourne Legacy.
- William Hurt mentioned he based his portrayal of General Ross off of Captain Ahab. Three years later and guess who plays him.
- The last time we see Bruce, he's in hiding again, and his new daily regime involves drinking a bright red tea. The Roselle is discovered to have the ability to lower blood pressure, when made into tea. It is bright red. Remember all the times we see green drinks? This is a literal case of "red means stop, green means go".
- In a interview with MTV where Louis Leterrier discussed an idea of having Tobey Maguire cameo as Spider-Man in this film, which was scrapped, that "Years from now you'll see Peter Parker meeting Bruce Banner", Fast foward to 2015; and his prediction now seems possible, as Spider-Man was introduced in the MCU (though in a film that doesn't have the Hulk.)
- This film's introduction of The Leader has notoriously gone without any follow-up in the MCU thus far. In Fantastic Four (2015), Tim Blake Nelson got screwed out of a recurring villain role again (well, until the film's horrible performance killed the possibility of sequels) when his character was first written as Mole Man, then was changed to a Canon Foreigner and killed off.
- Memetic Mutation: A gif of Banner closing his laptop has picked up steam in certain parts of the internet.
- Missing Trailer Scene: The trailer had a scene where Bruce explains his condition to Leonard.
- Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Betty Ross was initially not that well liked for being seen as boring or even whiny compared to most of the other MCU love interests. After being inexplicably ignored in The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, and having a romantic storyline which is more developed and substantial than some of the ones found in later MCU films (including that of Banner's other love interest Black Widow), she's gained a small fandom who wants to see her return, especially on Tumblr or YouTube.
- Retroactive Recognition:
- Ty Burrell, who played Doc Samson, would go on to have much greater name recognition when Modern Family started airing the following year.
- In a local example, Banner's factory workmate◊ was already making some soap operas in Brazil, then in 2012 she had her Star-Making Role playing a naive sex-on-legs girl.
- Rewatch Bonus: Try watching this movie after The Avengers and look for the World Building references (i.e., the Super-soldier serum and the Stark Industries-designed weapons). It's a very different experience from watching it before the Avengers.
- "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Tony Stark's cameo blew people's minds at the time with the idea of a shared movie universe being completely unheard of.
- So Okay, It's Average: The film got an alright critical reception, but audiences didn't respond anywhere near as strongly to it as they did with Iron Man and it's typically regarded as a middle-of-the-road movie that is often forgotten and not talked about much.
- They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
- This movie has the origin story of The Leader, but he's had essentially zero presence in the MCU past this point, despite being one of Hulk's arch-enemies.
- Betty Ross herself (who also has superhuman potential) has not been mentioned at all either in following films with Banner. Banner starting a new romance with Black Widow in Age of Ultron seemingly served as confirmation to fans that he's broken up with Betty for good this time.
- Visual Effects of Awesome: The Hulk looks straight-up awesome. Many people think, even up until today, it's the best looking live-action Hulk period.
- What an Idiot: Blonsky, Blonsky, Blonsky. After the military unloads everything they have on the Hulk, he's still standing. Blonsky did do an impressive job of dodging the Hulk, but did precisely no damage. When ordered to fall back, he walks up to the Hulk in convenient striking range and challenges him. This results in him getting a kick to the chest that basically liquefies his skeleton.
- He also ruins snipers from taking out Banner at the university by leading with a direct attack, resulting in him transforming.