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Series / The Incredible Hulk (1977)

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"Dr. 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: Mr. 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, it starred Bill Bixby as Dr. Banner, Jack Colvin as investigative reporter Jack McGee and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno as Banner's violent super-powered alter-ego.

As stated in the opening narration above, David Banner is a widowed scientist who was studying humanity's ability to unleash hidden super-strength when under duress along with finding the source of said ability. Trying to make himself stronger through gamma radiation, he ends up accidentally giving himself an overdose. Now, whenever Dr. Banner gets angry or faces great emotional pressure, he transforms into a giant, green-skinned man-monster capable of great strength and driven by rage. With his alter-ego blamed for a double murder (David himself is believed to be one of the victims) and chased down by a tabloid journalist, David is forced to let the public believe he is dead as he travels the country searching for a cure for his condition. Unfortunately for him, he often finds himself involved in situations that require him to unleash the beast that lives inside him.

Preceded by a pair of Pilot MoviesThe Incredible Hulk (aired on November 4th, 1977) and Death in the Family (no, not that Death in the Family; aired on November 27th, 1977) — the series proper aired from March 10th, 1978 to May 12th, 1982 and 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, then any plans for a fourth film ended permanently with the death of Bill Bixby in 1993.

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. Hulk fans keep it close to the heart and future projects with the character from comics, games, and film frequently make reference to it as Mythology Gags, including Remake Cameos of Lou Ferrigno.

Now has a characters page and a recap page.

The Incredible Hulk provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Not David's, but on several episodes, David comes across a kid being smacked around or otherwise abused by his parents (it's mostly boys). David tries to help the kid, only for the Abusive Dad to come after David, and try to beat David around, too. Say hello to the other end of the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, Mr. Abuser!
  • Actor Allusion: "My Favorite Magician" - harks back to two of Bill Bixby's previous series. My Favorite Martian and The Magician, not only with the title, but also by featuring "Martian" Ray Walston as the eponymous magician here.
  • 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 introduce many people to the character. Most of the film adaptations of the character took cues from the TV Show (including the 2008 reboot).
  • Adaptational Wimp: The Hulk's feats of strength here are mostly limited to stuff like bending iron bars, throwing heavy boxes and wrestling with gorillas.
    • The comic version certainly wouldn't have perished from the fall he endures in "Death of the Incredible Hulk".
  • 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?"
  • Alliterative Name: Averted by making the character David Bruce Banner. This was either because a) the name “Bruce” was considered effeminate or b) Kenneth Johnson hated alliterative names. However, Bruce is technically his middle name in the comics as well, so it could be interpreted as this iteration just preferring to ignore it.
  • All Bikers are Hells Angels: Subverted with Carl Rivers in "Long Run Home," 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 after the second hulkout of "King of the Beach." Justified in that 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.
  • Anti-Villain: Jack McGee is only after The Hulk because he believes Hulk is responsible for the deaths of David and Elaina Marks. In the "Mystery Man" two-parter however, when he finds out where The Hulk actually comes from, he wants to help the man who becomes the Hulk, unaware that he was talking to David.
  • Area 51: A secret military installation that investigates possible alien landings is featured in the "Prometheus" two-parter. The radiation from a crashed meteor causes David to be stuck mid-transformation. Thinking him to be an alien creature, the authorities there capture him for study and experimentation.
  • 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.
  • Baseball Episode: "The Phenom," which opened the final season. David becomes friends with Joe Dumming, a pitcher with college promises, but an unscrupulous agent has his own ideas of how to make Dumming famous. The episode is perhaps most famous for the San Diego Chicken-knockoff that appears in the climatic scene.
  • The Boxing Episode: The first regular-season episode is "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.note 
  • Bullying a Dragon: While most of the mooks that the Hulk deals usually do not know that David Banner and the Hulk are one and the same, there are a few instances, where after it is pretty clear that this rampaging green monster could easily defeat them, these mooks still attack the Hulk. A particularly good example is during the two-parter "Married", where one guy repeatedly throws several large plastic bottles at the Hulk as he is leaving. It does 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.)
  • Buy or Get Lost: While hitch-hiking between towns, David stops at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and asks to use the restroom. The attendant tells him it's for paying customers only. David pulls some change out of his pocket, buys a soda from a vending machine, and looks pointedly at the attendant. The guy reluctantly gives him the key. Cut to David washing up and shaving at the sink.
  • Canon Immigrant: In 2018, Immortal Hulk introduced a very different version of Jack McGee: a black woman named Jacqueline "Jackie" McGee. Unlike Jack, however, she knows who she's looking for, and she wants to find Banner so she can also gain the power of the Hulk.
  • Catchphrase: David's parting words to characters of the week are often, "You be good to yourself."
  • Clip Show:
    • "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" details the whys and wherefores behind Jack's continuing obsession with capturing the Hulk, and actually makes 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.
    • "Interview with the Hulk," in which a rival reporter steals a lead from Jack McGee and corners David Banner into giving him an interview. As such, Banner discusses various incidents involving his Hulk condition and wins over the reporter so that he helps Banner escape when McGee tracks him down.
  • Clothesline Stealing: Occasionally David will find a clothesline with a shirt hanging in order to re-clothe 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 always stealing the shirt in question.
  • Constructive Body Disposal: Attempted in "Broken Image". David Banner is mistaken for a look-alike gangster, and the goons of a rival gang try to murder him by burying him in concrete. Of course, this gets Banner excited enough to change into the Hulk and escape.
  • 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 the condition... 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.
  • Costume Evolution: Though subtle, there are visible differences in the Hulk's look over the course of the series. For example, in the two pilot movies, his hair is noticeably longer, his eyebrows protrude out more, and his skin is a slightly darker shade of green (the latter of which is most noticeable in bright outdoor scenes due to the sunlight).
  • Crash Course Landing: In "747", David has to land the eponymous aircraft, while hulking out. He somehow manages to slow the transformation's pace note , because, while he needs extra strength to move the control stick, which is stuck, he also needs to retain intelligence enough to follow the flight controllers' instructions. After the landing, the transformation goes full course (and his intellect goes away), and a teenager that David befriended early on enters the cockpit, helping the Hulk to activate the brakes and stop the plane.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Jack Kirby appears as a police sketch artist in "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 famous cameo appearances in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.
  • Criminal Doppelgänger: "Broken Image" has David Banner cross paths with a criminal who looks exactly like him (Bill Bixby with a mustache and a suit). Despite trying to frame Banner, the criminal is caught by police and attempts to weasel out of it by saying, "There's a guy who looks exactly like me." The police dismiss the idea as inane.
  • 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.
  • The Daily Misinformer:
    • Intrepid Reporter Jack McGee writes for the National Register, a publication not shy at all about running stories on a 7-ft tall green monster terrorizing people and destroying property all over the country.
    • The paper also makes up fake news. In "Stop the Presses," Register employees are sent to Bruno's Diner (Banner's workplace-of-the-week) after hours with loads of rancid meat and rotting produce, which they spread all over the counters and photograph for an ongoing "expose" on local mom & pop eateries. Only David discovering that one published picture had captured both a clock on the wall and a copy of that day's Register proves that everything was faked. Meanwhile, McGee is covering a psychic convention in the same city. This, of course, leads to him trying to capture the Hulk for living proof of "the Creature" he's been reporting on for a couple of years now.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The Season 3 episode "Proof Positive" is centered entirely around Jack McGee. David himself only appears briefly in the episode and is only seen from the back before turning into the Hulk, where he is played by a stunt actor instead of Bill Bixby, making it the only episode of the series Bixby doesn't appear in.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Renee in "Haunted," whose twin sister drowned when they were children; she pretends to be the dead sister because everyone liked her more. However, the mental trauma she sustained causes 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 warrior.
  • 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 Adaptation Weirdness:
    • While not the first adaptation of the character to the screen (having come eleven years after The Marvel Super Heroes, as the first live-action adaptation), it takes surprising liberties, such as Hulk being rendered mute for the most part, instead communicating in growls and grunts, Banner being referred to by his given name rather than his middle name of "Bruce", his given name itself having been changed from "Robert" to "David", General Thaddeus Ross having been replaced with original character Jack McGee and pretty much every other character having been Adapted Out.
    • The Incredible Hulk Returns also features this in the form of Thor. Also having first appeared in television in The Marvel Super Heroes, this was the first live-action portrayal of the Marvel portrayal and rather than Blake and Thor being the same individual, they are two different characters (The Kenneth Branagh film would do something similar, but with Blake being The Ghost and becoming a brief alias of Thor), with Thor not being a god, but a Norse warrior whom Blake summons by holding a magic hammer and calling the name of "Odin".
    • The Trial of the Incredible Hulk features similar examples. While the Kingpin had been appearing on the screen since Spider-Man (1967), this was his first portrayal in live action and differs from what came after by never being referred to as "the Kingpin", only by "Wilson Fisk", having facial hair as well as averting Bald of Evil, by actually having hair. Likewise, this was the first portrayal of Daredevil, as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends had only portrayed him as Matt Murdock, and rather than the red suit everyone is familiar with, he wears a black ninja-like outfit and was inspired by a policeman to be a hero, rather than seeking to avenge his father's death.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: In Trial of the Incredible Hulk, Matt Murdock's office mates are seen but have no lines and remain unnamed. Marvel fans, however, know that they are 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.
  • Failed a Spot Check: For some reason or another, no one can tell David is the Hulk. This is specially egregious if a group of mooks are beating David up, then suddenly (after always conveniently tossing him offscreen), Hulk comes out of "nowhere" to give them their just deserts. They react in confusion that this tall green monster suddenly appears out of thin air, and the guy they were beating up is nowhere to be seen.
  • 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: The opening narration tells viewers that Dr. Banner is letting the world believe he is dead until he finds a cure for his condition.
  • Foul First Drink: In Death in the Family, the Hulk encounters a hobo at a campfire, eating discarded fried chicken. When the hobo sits still, too flummoxed to do anything, the Hulk concludes the hobo is no threat and sits opposite him at the campfire. The hobo offers Hulk a piece of chicken, which he sniffs warily, then eats it "bones 'n' all." Then the hobo offers the Hulk some of his whiskey, which he also sniffs, then begins to drink. Stunned by the alcohol, Hulk spits the stuff into the campfire, which makes it flare up. This sends the Hulk roaring away from the site.
  • 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 decides to become a masked vigilante and, once trained and costumed, approaches 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.
  • Gone Horribly Right: When looked at another way, Banner's experiment works TOO WELL; he wants strength enhancement, but he gets 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...
  • Heroic BSoD: 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 use 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.
  • High-Voltage Death: Attempted but averted when a KISS-like heavy metal singer (played by Mackenzie Phillips) plans to electrocute herself 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 still scream for more, she realizes that her death would make no difference to them.
  • Hulking Out: The series writers named this trope.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Banner is desperate to rid himself of his involuntary transformations into the Hulk. Not only is he hiding his true identity from the world since the creature is wanted for two murders (one of which his own), he's paranoid that he/the creature *will* accidentally kill someone.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine:
  • Ill-Fated Flowerbed: In "A Child in Need," Banner is working as a middle school groundskeeper. As he plants flowers at the end of one school day, the final bell rings and scores of kids race from the building, trampling the flowers and ruining all his hard work. As the last of them pass by, he hollers, "You missed one!"
  • Intrepid Reporter:
    • Besides McGee himself, other episodes show his fellow journalists in less-than-flattering lights.
    • Emerson Fletcher in "Interview with the Hulk" is a 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 to 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!
  • Irregular Series: A four-year regular series that started out as a mid-season replacement and got early-season replaced itself, sandwiched between two pilot movies and three made-for-TV-movies.
  • 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. Carolyn 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" share a consciousness, like the original Jekyll and Hyde, in contrast to David having no memory of the Hulk's actions.)
  • Know When to Fold 'Em/Screw This, I'm Outta Here: While most of the villains, mooks, or antagonists fail to grasp this concept until it's too late and try for the latter, only to fail, the episode featuring a rodeo has the Hulk smash into the arena (after David is thrown into a bull-pen and left to be trampled), and face off against a berserk multi-ton bull. After the Hulk grabs the bull by the horns and wrestles him to the ground, the bull goes to the other side of the arena and tries to smash his way out, with the rodeo commentators going, "He's had enough, smart animal!"
  • Lazily Gender-Flipped Name: In one episode, David rescues a pregnant woman from a baby broker outfit. After her daughter is born, the woman tries to think of a way to thank him, saying that if the child had been a boy, she would name him after David.
    David: How about Davidette? Or Davidia?
    Woman: How about No.
  • Leitmotif:
    • The Hulk has a simple four-note theme that is mixed into whatever background music is playing while the Hulk is on his rampage.
    • David's leitmotif is variations on "The Lonely Man" theme, including a disco version.
    • The main title theme alternates 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 has his own five-note leitmotif.
  • 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. Onr wonders how he affords 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. She gets better shortly before the end, and she even makes sure the Hulk won't get caught.
    • Julie shows she's tougher than she thinks when Michael, the old hermit helping them out, is bitten by a rattlesnake. She asks the Hulk to help, then quickly realizes the Hulk doesn't have most of David's memories. She then all but shoves the Hulk aside and tends to Michael's wound herself.
    • 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."
  • Mail-Order Bride: A Chinese mail-order bride 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 is hidden there.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Jack McGee 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.
  • Mirror Reveal: In the original pilot movie, after his first transformation into the Hulk and back again, Dr. David Banner sees his reflection in the edge of a stream and notices something different about himself for a brief moment. Later recounting the event to a trusted friend, he says, "My eyes were white." Little did he know...
  • Mr. Vice Guy: As ever, the Hulk represents Wrath.
  • Mundane Luxury: 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.
  • Mundane Object Amazement: Happens to Hulk sometimes, due to his primitive mind. For example, in "Ricky," he is amused with... soda cans as he watches the title character teach him how to open one.
  • 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.
  • Non-Indicative Title: Trial of the Incredible Hulk The trial scene is a dream sequence.
  • The Nondescript: McGee sometimes gets frustrated at the fact that David isn't more distinctive-looking. He'll ask somebody about him and the person will say, "Well, you know, sort of average...brown hair, brown eyes..."
  • Nuclear Mutant: The Hulk was originally created by exposure to too much gamma radiation, and further exposure can affect the transformation, as seen in "Prometheus."
  • 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.
    • There's a very touching moment with a tiger cub in his lap in a zoo enclosure during the first transformation back into Banner in "The Beast Within." He gently moves the cub aside and it tries to climb back onto his lap.
    • In the final episode, "A Minor Problem," he pets a literal dog right before reverting to Banner.
  • Pilot Movie: Two of them. The unnamed "Pilot" is the actual origin story, detailing how David gets afflicted with his condition, and why he has to go on the run; "Death in the Family" is a two-hour adventure that starts the series proper.
  • Plaster Cast Doodling: In "The Beast Within", David's love interest of the week is a zoo veterinarian whose research on animal aggression he comes to believe may help with his "condition." Not recognizing him, she refers him to the work of "Dr. David Banner." Later, a brawl with bad guys leaves her with a broken arm. At the hospital, David writes a suggestion as to how to continue her research on her cast. She reads it aloud after he leaves her room.
  • 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.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Some of the changes from the comic resulted from different needs in the televised medium.
    • The Hulk's inability to speak came because even consultant and co-creator Stan Lee agreed that Hulk Speak sounds silly spoken out loud. Fan lore suggested that Lou Ferrigno's hearing impairment was a factor, but the decision predated his casting and Ferrigno has handled spoken dialogue in many other roles.
    • The Hulk's origin was changed from a nuclear test gone wrong to a lab accident due to the budget limitations of a TV show shooting in 1978.
    • The Hulk is pursued by a lone investigative reporter (Jack McGee) instead of a U.S. Army general (Thunderbolt Ross) with a considerable military force behind him. David stands more of a chance of continuously evading the former than the latter (not to mention that the former is a lot cheaper for a weekly TV series).
    • According to Stan Lee, Thor was changed from a god to a Norse warrior because the executives thought audiences wouldn't be able to accept a god that wasn't the Abrahamic God, or some such thing. Stan himself pointed out in his graphic novel autobiography that this issue had never come up in the twenty-eight years between Thor's debut and his appearance in The Incredible Hulk Returns.
  • 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 has a job as a trainer/medic at a pro wrestling arena. The wrestlers get along with each other well enough, but inside the ring it's all real.
  • Propping Up Their Patsy: In "Of Guilt, Models and Murder", the Hulk is suspected of murdering a woman. As David Banner doesn't retain the memories of when he's the Hulk, he fears the suspicions can be true. However, Sheila Cantrell (a friend of the victim) tells David that the victim was dead when the Hulk arrived and the creature was saddened for arriving too late to save her. It turns out that Cantrell was the murderer.
  • Punishment Box: In "The Slam," David gets put in one. Strangely enough, he doesn't Hulk Outnote . 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 is 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 before pounding his fist on the table in rage, his eyes glowing bright green) 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.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Lou Ferrigno revealed in the book You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry that early in the show's run, some people who didn't know what he really looked like did not believe he was a real person due to his extremely muscular build and that he was just Bill Bixby in an inflated jumpsuit. He even stated that some folks who ran into him on set actually walked up to him and touched him just to make sure he was an actual human being.
  • "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 (1972) with superpowers! Also, a distinct influence from The Fugitive is obvious.
    • Coincidence or not, two episodes ("Another Path" and "The Disciple") feature Asian characters and martial arts. Li Sung, who appears in these episodes, is an old and blind awesome martial artist, like Master Po from Kung Fu.
  • Sad Battle Music: The uptempo version of "The Lonely Man" that plays in the opening. Though not used in a battle per se, it does display quite a bit of the destruction that David Banner causes in his Incredible Hulk state.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Stop the Presses," the name of the publisher of McGee's newspaper, the National Register, is R. B. Steinhauer. One of the series' producers at the time was named Robert Bennett Steinhauer.
    • American rapper and music producer David Banner (real name Lavell Crump) named himself after the show's iteration of the Hulk. According to the man himself, he chose the stage name due to relating closely to the character's situation - he grew up poor and often had to drift around due to sporadic homelessness, and was often told that he was a really nice person but had an incredibly short fuse and got extremely angry far too easily.
  • Simple Score of Sadness: The closing theme, "The Lonely Man," is a slow, haunting piano tune.
  • Snobby Hobbies: In "The Snare," David meets millionaire Michael Sutton who invites him to his private island for a game of chess. Upon arriving at Sutton's mansion, which he inhabits by himself, David notices lots of mounted heads of taxidermied wild animals. Sutton serves David a meal of freshly caught rattlesnake, drugs David's wine during their chess game, then forces him to become his prey as he hunts him down with a rifle. After he'd caught one of every large animal he wanted, he got bored with hunting more of the same and decided he needed a human trophy to add to his collection. Seeing David transform into the Hulk only increases his enthusiasm.
    Sutton: Please let me kill it, David!
  • 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 entirely. 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, since Dell murdered a teenager (for "snooping") and has no qualms or regrets.
    • Played straight in "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, whom he attacks immediately and violently, destroying the room and injuring a bystander. They may not be fully separate personalities, but each represents a part of the whole that the other hates.
  • Strawberry Shorthand: In the Season 2 opener, "Married," newlywed David feeds his bride, Carolyn, these as they sit in a gazebo right after their wedding. She tells him she'll eat all the strawberries he wants to give her and they share a passionate kiss.
  • Strictly Formula: Though there are certainly exceptions, a good amount of the episodes follow the same formula. Banner, under an assumed name, hitchhikes to a new location and makes friends with someone in need. He later discovers that something is fishy about someone close to said new friend, and once they find out He Knows Too Much, he becomes the Hulk. Once he calms down, he tries to warn his new friend(s) only for them to either not believe him or be just out of reach. The villains reveal themselves to all, he becomes the Hulk a second time to save the day, and then Banner has to leave.
  • Superhero Origin: The original pilot movie recounts the gamma radiation experiment that Banner did on himself which causes his transformations into the Hulk. He was unaware that the machine he used was labeled incorrectly, so he gave himself a substantially higher dose than he intended. A shot of him using the machine is included in the series' weekly opening sequence, and the narration refers to the accident as well.
  • Superheroes Stay Single: Banner has a few love-interests-of-the-week, but the only time he's truly serious is in the Season 2 premiere where he meets a woman, falls in love, gets married, and becomes a widower (again)... all within a two-hour episode.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: David's usual response when someone suggests the Hulk ran away. In one episode he saves a woman who was hallucinating her twin who died from drowning, when it was over she told him he wouldn't believe how her psychoses made him look.
  • Temporary Blindness: In "Blind Rage," David "Blair" experiences temporary blindness after being exposed to toxic gas. A transformation or two regenerates his cells and repairs the damage.
  • Transformation Discretion Shot: The original pilot movie had an impressive and realistic transformation sequence. The series had a smaller budget (which was reduced even more over time), so instead of the full transformation they would simply use Banner's eyes turning white and then a few brief shots of his clothes ripping as he transformed. To cut time spent filming and save even more money, Banner would often get pushed out of the picture, the transformation music would play, and then a fully-transformed Hulk would reenter the frame.
  • Triage Tyrant: David's friend-of-the-episode, a badass biker, gets a broken arm. David takes him to a doctor's office, where they end up sitting for hours. David finally calls the doctor on this; the doctor says that he can tell by looking that the biker is only there to get some prescription drugs and he refuses to participate in such activities.
    Doctor: I've found that, contrary to the saying, you can judge a book by its cover.
    David: That's amazing, doctor. You can stand all the way over here, on the other side of the room, and just from a glance, you can tell that that man doesn't have a broken arm.
  • Trope Telegraphing: Not so often as Once an Episode, but if there's any water around whenever David hulks out, the baddie is gonna get wet.
  • Twin Switch: One episode has a girl effectively steal her dead twin sister's identity.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: A recurring flashback/dream of David's is of himself catching up to his late wife, Laura, in the rain and squeezing under her umbrella with her while they both laugh.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: When watching "Terror 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.
  • 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 couldn't walk due to the "accident," and thus overdoses 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.
  • Wrench Wench: Irene, the female auto mechanic in "Ricky."
  • You Are Number 6: While incarcerated by corrupt officers for vagrancy in "The Slam," David is addressed only by his prisoner number, 1124.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Incredible Hulk


The Lonely Man

'The Lonely Man' is a solo piano piece that ended almost every episode of The Incredible Hulk, and is probably the closest thing to an official theme the Hulk has ever gotten. It underscores the tortured roaming David Banner is forced into, and is usually accompanied by a lingering shot of David's slow, lonely walk down an empty road

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / LonelyPianoPiece

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