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The Incredible Hulk – You won’t like him when he’s angry

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Anybody remember The Incredible Hulk television series?

Aside from it being really entertaining, there also was and is a lot of respect for this show. For one thing, they didn’t overreach by choosing to adapt a comic for live action at a time when television special effects could be quite crude (I’m looking at you, The Amazing Spiderman). They simply hired a massive bodybuilder, painted him green, and pointed him towards the balsa wood buildings and the stuntmen waiting to be thrown through them.

In terms of tone, they played it straight. No Adam West or Caesar Romero overacting here. They instead took a tested television actor (Bill Bixby of My Favorite Martian and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father) and placed him in a series that took a tried-and-true plot structure from The Fugitive: Man on the run enters a town, befriends nice people, helps them out, almost gets caught, moves on. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It all worked very well, and I have fond memories of watching this show as a kid. But in terms of the pattern this show followed to success, I’m beginning to remember one more distinct element:

This was one sadistic program.

Oh sure, there were plenty of action shows in the late 70’s/early 80’s with heroes that were occasionally beaten up and stomped on. Hell, I watched a lot of them myself. But none of them seemed to unload on the hero with the consistency that David Banner endured week after week.

This was the nature of the beast, so to speak. The pain from beatings and torture (which, in turn, led to anger) was required in order for Banner to make his two script-mandated changes into the Hulk each episode. And, to be fair, the show would mix it up occasionally by having the change be caused by natural circumstances (like a fire) instead of a fight. But more often than not, Banner was unfortunate enough to face villains who knew how to put on the thumbscrews.

It’s no secret that superheroes can be the source of major empowerment fantasies for the kids who read about them. Little geeks could read about them and dream about dispatching bullies in much the same manner. But most of these comic book heroes, when faced a formidable force, often battle in the most fantastic of circumstances. In the case of David Banner, we just have a good old fashioned ass whupping ramped up a couple of extra notches. I suppose this brought it home for kids in a way that other superheroes never could.

I remember one show in particular which, due to the details, may forever be burned into my brain. Near the end, the bad guys take Bruce out to a construction site. They beat the crap out of him then seal him in plastic then throw him in a hole then start filling the hole with cement! This is somewhat different than, say, the old Batman show. Even if there is the threat of Batman and Robin being buried alive inside a giant hourglass, everything is so silly that you can’t take it seriously, even if the mode of death is inherently horrifying.

Perhaps I’m wrong and either (a) the beatings weren’t as bad as I remember and/or (b) there were beatings just as bad on other shows. I did a quick Google search to find the episode I mentioned. I didn’t find it, but I did find a synopsis for a Simon and Simon episode that also featured a bad guy attempting to bury some good guys in cement. So maybe I’m engaging in a bit of selective memory.

Still, I imagine some viewed the dispatching of bad guys by the Hulk as one hell of a cathartic experience. No wonder it lasted for five seasons.

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About Alonzo Mosley (FBI)

  • http://www.docofdiets.com dietdoc

    Alonzo writes: No wonder it lasted for five seasons

    Reply: Amazing! I had no idea that the show was that successful. If I had to guess, I would have gone with 2, maybe 3 seasons. Good for Bill and Lou. They were terrific.

    Cheers,

    Ron

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    Alonzo, you’re not the only one with such impressions. I too remember the episode where the villains tried to make David Banner a permanent part of a building foundation, and would have succeeded if they hadn’t picked the wrong guy to bury alive.

    Yes, very twisted stuff for kids to be watching every week, even though by today’s standards of televised sickness, it was relatively tame.

    Was The Incredible Hulk also broadcast back to back with The Dukes of Hazzard in your area? That show was another that surely taught millions of kids some bizarre and paranoid ideas about how society functions. Not to mention its very twisted portrayals of the laws of physics.

  • http://www.dorksandlosers.com Tan The Man

    I only remember those movies they made for it. I should really pick up the TV sets. The Death of the Incredible Hulk saddened me greatly.

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    Seems the complete series is not yet available on DVD. Only a few selected episodes have been released.

  • Omni Temporal

    The problem with shows like this is that, week after week, Banner randomly encounters someone who is involved in some earthshaking drama. He never gets involved with people who are worried about whether or not they should put a down payment on a new cabin cruiser or save up for the European vacation. It’s always some life or death thing.

    It’s like all those other shows, say, Murder She Wrote, where a sweet old lady author bumps into yet another unsolved murder — week after week. Everywhere she goes, someone is murdered. Bed and breakfast weekend — murder. Bowling tournament — murder. Rose Parade — murder. I always suspected she was behind it. But what are the odds? What parallel universe do these folks live in?

    Sure, if Banner wasn’t faced with some life threatening cataclysm or other, we wouldn’t get to see him turn into the Hulk and lay waste to the baddies. But it’s just too hard to accept, even if we’re willing to accept the premise of the show.

    In fact, one of my favorites, Kung Fu, was pretty much the same. Cain wanders around the desert, and sure enough, bumps into someone whose life he interferes with and saves the day. It’s just a matter of time before he stops humbly asking for water, bowing, and softly quoting his masters until he kicks some Western baddie ass. At least there, however, we can almost accept this, since we tend to believe that the Old West was populated with hordes of guys looking for trouble.

  • http://www.magicjunk.com/blog/ Mark Sahm

    Just in case you need a little classic Hulk audio fix and more, here’s a page with The Lonely Man Theme, aka when Banner is walking down the road to the next town.

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  • Greg

    Holy cow! This episode too left quite the impression on me as a child. I remember playing outside and covering my hand in dirt, only to have it emerge a la the Hulk in this episode.

    Just bought this DVD set off E-bay. Too bad this episode isn’t on it.

    In fact, this MAY have been the episode that featured Bill Bixby playing a dual role. He was a mob boss who looked just like David Banner. There was even a scene where the real Banner pretended to be the mob boss when cornered by Jack McGee.

  • Sandy Scott

    The show was above average for a “Super Hero” type show. Remember the episode where there was two Hulks? They also touched on some sensitive areas like child abuse. LOL-David Banner hated being the Hulk but let’s face it, he was a bit of a candy ass lol. Did he ever even get a punch in?