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.