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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..."
Opening Narration

The Incredible Hulk is a Live-Action Adaptation of the classic Marvel Comics character produced by Universal Television and developed by Kenneth Johnson, 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, it was cancelled due to low ratings.


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:

  • Adapted Out: None of the supporting characters from the comics (particularly Rick Jones, Betty Ross and General Thunderbolt Ross) ever appear. However, some of David's girls of the week could be similar to Betty and the role of the guy hunting down the Hulk has been taken over by Jack McGee.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The show, while adding original elements and removing some themes from the comics, still followed the core idea of the comic (ex. "scientist transforms into a raging beast") and helped introduced many people to the character. 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".
  • Alice Allusion: "Alice in Discoland" has shades of this. The title character is an alcoholic teenage disco dancer who has nightmarish hallucinations of John Tenniel's illustrations, and directly references the book.
    Alice Morrow (while standing on a billboard high above the street): "Daddy, where's the white rabbit? WHERE'S THE WHITE RABBIT IN WONDERLAND?"
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: In "Long Run Home." subverted with Carl Rivers who though he was previously in a gang and has a criminal past is generally a decent guy.
  • All Part of the Show: In "My Favorite Magician", David assists an elderly magician. As part of a trick, he is handcuffed in a glass box full of water, placed behind a screen. The handcuffs' key is supposed to be in the box's false bottom, but the magician forgot to place it there. Not finding the key and unable to hold his breath for much longer, David hulks out, breaking out of the box and bringing the screen down. The audience feels baffled for a moment, then applauds. A short while later, a middle-aged couple finds the Hulk outside the theater... and compliments his performance. When he reacts awkwardly to the camera's flash (yes, they wanted pictures of him), they simply regard it as "show folk" being eccentric.
    • He is applauded again after the second hulkout of "King of the Beach". It's even more justified than the previous example, as he appears on the stage of the titular bodybuilding contest, an event in which the audience expects to see muscular men. It also happens that he has the same muscular build of one of the contestants and the contest's winner, Carl Molino, also played by Lou Ferrigno.
  • Almighty Janitor: David typically took on menial jobs such as janitor, dishwasher, and manual labor. In Death of the Incredible Hulk, he actually secretly corrected a scientist's formulas overnight while posing as a mentally handicapped janitor.
  • Area 51: Prometheus.
  • Bandaged Face: In "Mystery Man," David and Jack 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.
  • 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. While the prospect of putting the Hulk in the ring made this an obvious story idea, it's not considered one of the better episodes of the series. It's the only episode to date to be mocked by the fine folks at Rifftrax.
  • 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. A particularly good example is during the two-parter "Married", where one guy repeatedly threw several large plastic bottles at the Hulk as he was leaving. It did not end well, for the guy or for his entire house.
  • 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. (This last part is seen during the opening, as well.)
  • 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.
  • Canon Foreigner: David's sister Helen Banner.
  • Canon Immigrant: Jackie McGee, a Gender Flipped and Race Lifted version of Jack McGee, makes her comic debut in 2018's Immortal Hulk. There's also Hulk's father DW Banner, whose comics version appeared three years after the TV version, with a different name (Brian) and personality.
  • Cartwright Curse: Goes with David's status as a Cosmic Plaything. He loses two wives and later joins them.
  • The Casanova / Clueless Chick Magnet: David stands somewhere between the two with a little bit of Covert Pervert thrown in.
  • Catchphrase: David's parting words to characters of the week are often, "You be good to yourself."
  • Cat Scare: "The First, Pt. 1."
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: For a man who's supposed to be in hiding David really gets involved in people's business.
  • 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.
  • Clothesline Stealing: Occasionally David will find a clothesline with a shirt hanging in order to reclothe himself. (Since he has Magic Pants he's not worried about below the waist.) Since he's an honest person, when he can he leaves a few dollars in its place so he's not stealing the shirt in question.
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames:
    • You can count on one hand the amount of times most people use the name "the Hulk". Almost literally. Almost everyone, including David, calls it some variation of "the creature" (or "that green thing"). Jack McGee is the only one who calls it "the Hulk" regularly (since he created the name for his newspaper), but even he calls it "the creature" from time to time.
    • In the episode "The First", the other Hulk is explicitly credited as "Frye's Creature" rather than any variation of "Hulk".
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: In "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.
  • Creator Cameo: Jack Kirby appears as a police sketch artist in the episode "No Escape". He is sketching a witness's 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.
  • Criminal Doppelgänger: An episode had David Banner cross paths with a criminal who looked exactly like him (Bill Bixby with a mustache and a suit). 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.
  • 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. He also has no memory of Hulking Out, leaving him worried about just what he did and who he might have hurt (or killed).
  • Cut Short: Season 5 was only a few episodes long. This also goes for the ending of the show itself, as another movie was planned but ultimately cancelled, though this merely served to alter the final outcome of Banner's fate.
  • 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. However, the mental trauma she sustained caused it to become an Evil Split Personality, making for one of the most shocking plot twists in the series when the facade is revealed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Banner's. Unlike Banner, the other man was selfish, paranoid, and a murderer even before his transformation, traits that were only exacerbated after he transformed.
  • 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. He appeared at a rodeo, at a professional football game, in televised boxing and wrestling matches, and even running down the street in broad daylight. His existence was acknowledged by police in many cities, and there were clear pictures of him published in various big-city newspapers (not just the tabloid McGee worked for). Yet somehow, the next town over, nobody had ever heard of this green creature before.
  • Eye Awaken: As in the Hulk is waking up. Whenever David crossed the threshold for the Hulk to manifest, he would close or cover his eyes for a moment, and when they were shown again, the irises would have changed from brown to pale, bright green as the transformation sound/music started. This particular Eye Take became so iconic 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.
  • Faking the Dead: Read the opening line.
  • Flanderization: McGee in The Incredible Hulk Returns where he's stripped of all his Character Development and reduced to a comedic buffoon. Even his leitmotif is played on a tuba.
  • Friend on the Force: In The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, Matt Murdock explains to David that he was inspired to become Daredevil after hearing Officer Tendelli bemoan to the press the corruption inherent in the city's law enforcement. He says he needs good people to change things, including someone who can do the kinds of things he can't. Matt decided to become a masked vigilante and, once trained and costumed, approached Tendelli about working together. Tendelli doesn't know his secret identity, but he does have a way to contact him and provide any useful information.
  • Friend to All Children: David, even as the Hulk, although kids are generally told to stay away from the latter.
  • Gentle Giant: The show strictly follows the "just wants to be left alone and will only attack if provoked" characterization of the Hulk, toning down his disdain for "Puny Humans" (aside from his disdain for "puny Banner"), and almost always gives him a Pet the Dog moment before he turns back.
  • Gone Horribly Right: When looked at another way, Banner's experiment worked TOO WELL; he wanted strength enhancement, but he got much more than he bargained for, leading to one really tragic case of Be Careful What You Wish For. Or put another way: ANGER leads to DANGER.
  • Grand Finale: "The Death of the Incredible Hulk", the last of the TV series movies, sees Banner's long search to escape his Hulk metamorphosis come to an end. Though with a title like that, it's not hard to guess what happens to him in the end...
  • 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 as in the original comics, the Hulk can recover from nearly any injury and with incredible speed. Also unlike the original comics, most of the healing seems to take place during the transformation itself. However, one transformation is not always enough for more serious injuries.
    • In "The Harder They Fall", where Banner was paralyzed and later transforms, the Hulk initially flops around and pounds his numb legs, but after a few seconds he's capable of at least standing and hobbling along. When he changes back, David is able to trade his wheelchair for leg braces and crutches. Later, a second transformation fully restores 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.
    • Another example: in "Two Godmothers", David's right hand is completely crushed by a boulder, triggering his first transformation, and his hand is still broken after he transforms and reverts. It's not until the second transformation that it's fully healed.
  • Hero Antagonist: Jack McGee genuinely does think the Hulk is a threat to society but, despite that, won't let others kill him, for the sake of the Hulk's alter-ego. He could be considered a Hero of Another Story if his presence didn't constantly make David's situation worse. Some of that is David's fault: Jack becomes a far more sympathetic character as the series goes on, and is more than willing to help the man who becomes the Hulk find a cure, but David doesn't know this and only sees him as a threat rather than a potential ally.
    • In at least two episodes ("Hulk Breaks Las Vegas" and "Prometheus"), Jack almost succeeded in having a calm conversation with Hulk/David, but, in both occasions, other people ruined these attempts.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • 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.
    • In The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil suffers this after he falls into Fisk's trap and is overwhelmed until the Hulk saves him. Aside from the rigorous beating, the villains used intense sound to disorient him, so he thinks that means they know he's blind. David tries to shake him out of it by pointing out Fisk employed assorted disorienting techniques all at once, including bright lights.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The main reason David avoided Jack as long as he did was because when not hulked-out he's such a Generic Guy nobody could ever give a good description of him. Lampshaded by Jack in "Proof Positive".
  • 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.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The villainous hunter chasing David in the episode "The Snare" accidentally hit himself with the tip of one of his poisonous arrows. It led to his Karmic Death.
  • Hulking Out: The series writers named this trope.
  • Hulk Speak: Mostly averted in this version, where the Hulk only growls and roars. The Demi-Hulk that David is stuck as in "Prometheus" is the closest the series comes, but even then he still uses full sentences and proper pronouns, he just uses shorter and simpler words (like calling a meteor "a rock from the sky").
  • 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!"
  • I Love Nuclear Power: The Hulk was originally created by exposure to too much gamma radiation, and further exposure can affect the transformation, as seen in "Prometheus".
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: The title character of the episode "My Favorite Magician" is played by Ray Walston, Bixby's co-star in My Favorite Martian.
    • In the episode "747", the boy who helps the Hulk safely land the plane is played by Brandon Cruz, Bixby's co-star in The Courtship Of Eddie'sFather.
  • 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.
  • Interrupted Cooldown Hug: In his more sympathetic moments, Jack McGee actually tried to calmly talk to Hulk at least twice, but both attempts are ruined by other people, who tried a more violent approach to the protagonist:
    • In the episode “Hulk Breaks Las Vegas”, although not quite understanding Jack’s words, Hulk was calm enough in his presence to start reverting to Banner. The episode’s Big Bad, however, was hidden nearby and shot Hulk’s shoulder, interrupting the transformation (which was in the very beginning) and making him flee.
    • In “Prometheus”, David was locked in mid-transformation. This time, he was able to understand McGee’s words and was almost trusting him. But then, the guys near Jack decided to take a more violent approach, shooting David with tranquilizers and harassing a female friend near him. This completed his transformation into Hulk, then he saved the woman and fought the guys, fleeing with her afterwards.
  • 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. He starts out as an Inspector Javert, but by the end of the series, he's a much more sympathetic Hero Antagonist.
    • 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:
    • Outright stated by David in "Married" when he is hinting his condition to Dr. Caroline Fields after she realizes who he really is.
    • 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.
    • Taken further in "Dark Side", where David develops an id-driven split personality, which in many ways hews closer to the original novel. (David and "evil David" shared a consciousness, like the original Jekyll and Hyde, in contrast to David having no memory of the Hulk's actions)
  • Leitmotif:
    • The Hulk had a simple four-note theme that was mixed into whatever background music was playing while the Hulk was on his rampage.
    • David's leitmotif was variations on The Lonely Man theme, including a disco version.
      • The main title theme alternated between the two (starting at 0:16, with the Hulk's leitmotif getting louder and louder each time) before segueing back into Banner's theme, but the final notes are Hulk's theme.
    • In "The First", Frye's Creature had his own five-note leitmotif as well.
  • 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. Mainly because she's been thoroughly convinced through psychological torment that she's paraplegic and can't fend for herself because of it.
    • Her actress, Laurie Prange, appears again as the blind girl Katie in "Prometheus", where she plays a similar role - at least, until she has to act as the Demi-Hulk's brain while he acts as her eyes and hands.
  • 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 (which always triggers his transformation).
  • 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.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Jack Mc Gee plays with this during an episode wherein he infiltrates a secret government base that has captured the Hulk and is examining him, thinking he's an extraterrestrial life form. When caught, the people running the installation are desperate to keep the place a secret and threaten to have him imprisoned for trespassing. Jack tells them to go right ahead and send him to prison, saying a lot of good books have been written in prison. They get the point and back off, since they can't shut him up by sending him to prison, where he'll do exactly what they are trying to prevent.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: The Hulk is suspected in Elaina Marks' death, even though he was just trying to save her from the fire that did kill her.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: The Hulk himself. He's very animalistic and most people are terrified of him, but he's still David Banner under it all.
  • Mobstacle Course: David must run one in "Rainbow's End". Of course, they can get pretty frustrating...
  • Mr. Vice Guy: As ever, the Hulk represents Wrath.
  • 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.
    • It also happens to Hulk himself sometimes, due to his primitive mind. In the episode "Ricky", he is amused with... soda cans.
  • Never Found the Body: "David Banner is believed to be dead". Obviously Elaina Marks' body is found, hence her burial. But no human remains can be found that could be connected to David. Even burned bodies leave behind something. The nature of the lab explosion was not anywhere enough to completely incinerate a body without a trace. Strange that no one has ever postulated searching for David as a suspect.
  • 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.
  • Opening Narration: The show opens with the narration seen in the page quote on top.
  • Partial Transformation: In "Prometheus", where Dr. Banner gets stuck halfway between himself and the Hulk, thanks to being too close to a meteor emitting gamma radiation.
  • 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.
  • Prison Episode: "The Slam", David is arrested for stealing an apple and sent without trial to a corrupt prison.
  • Pro Wrestling Is Real: In "Half-Nelson", 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: Used in most episodes to some degree, but one of the most infamous was in "Never Give a Trucker an Even Break". David's friend is locked in a nearby warehouse screaming for help, as she's surrounded by mobsters who want to beat her up and then kill her, so he tries to call the police at a nearby phone booth. First he calls the Operator, doesn't get an answer, and doesn't get his dime back (which isn't supposed to happen). Then he calls Directory Assistance. The DA operator is unable to return his dime or connect him directly to the police, and also annoys him with incessant questions. She finally gives him the number for one of the local police departments. He hangs up, not getting his dime back again, and calls the number he was just given, only for the operator to demand 25 cents, which means DA didn't even give him the number of a local police station, but one further away! At that point:
    Operator: Please deposit 25 cents for the first three minutes.
    David: (frantically looking through what's left of his change, his eyes glowing) I don't have 25 cents!!
  • "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.
    • Coincidence or not, two episodes ("Another Path" and "The Disciple") featured asian characters and martial arts. As mentioned in Handicapped Badass above, Li Sung, who appeared in these episodes, was an old and blind awesome martial artist, like Master Po from Kung Fu.
  • 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".
  • Spanner in the Works: David is a 2-in-1 spanner: he tends to accidentally stumble into some illegal activity going on. When the villains running the schemes use violent methods to get rid of David, he transforms into the Hulk, who's an even bigger spanner, and ruins the schemes for good.
  • 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 "Dark Side", 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.
  • Super Strength: David wanted to tap into "the hidden strength that all humans have"; he succeeded in his goal and then some! The Hulk's feats of strength are not quite as epic as his comic book counterpart (due to being made on a 1970s TV budget), but on the other hand, he seems to have no upper limits, either. In his most impressive feat, he easily (if unintentionally) destroys an entire government facility by overloading the hydraulics.
  • 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.
  • Twin Switch: See Dead Person Impersonation above.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 survived, but was told she couldn't 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 first two telemovies were intended as pilots for Spinoffs based on Daredevil and Thor, with the Hulk added 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 line was only used straight once, during the first Pilot, but it 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)
    • David does say it again in the episode "Dark Side", but it's delivered in a taunting fashion to a group of people who lash out at him at a nightclub (after he starts the fight by trying to sucker-punch one of them), due to David accidentally altering his own personality and unleashing his id, and now he wants to become the Hulk.


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