Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Currently Watching: Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby in The Incredible Hulk

The thing that is most striking to me about the old Incredible Hulk show is that for any given episode, they have maybe about five minutes of special effects for the whole thing. That’s it. How on earth do they fill up the rest of the time…? Well, everything else is about pacing things up to that point with whatever they had on hand: cars to wreck, futuristic science equipment, and attractive seventies women.

You have to wonder how the behind the scenes conversations went, really. I can imagine someone getting the gig and being all excited about the chance to do the Incredible Hulk for TV and then… slowly realizing just how restrictive the medium would be. There could be no titanic battles between the Hulk and the Silver Surfer. There couldn’t even be a crazed General Ross using tanks and jets to hunt down the Hulk in the desert. No, Ross gets replaced by… a pesky tabloid journalist?!

Ultimately, the show has very little to do with comic books or power fantasies or even strength. It’s about loneliness and pain. It’s about a guy that’s been to his own funeral wandering from town to town… and every time he starts again to make new relationships and connections, events inevitably conspire to bring out the Hulk… and then he wakes up and it’s all gone.

The signature scene of this series is not the classic transformation sequence. No, it’s the picture of Bill Bixby wandering down a road, trying to hitch a ride: a guy with nowhere to go… and a wake of unintended destruction behind him. This… with a very minimal, melodramatically sad piano score tinkling away. That’s what the Incredible Hulk is. And whatever tragic pain it is that I carry with me on the long defeat that is my life… I can at least take comfort in the fact that this is going to be left alone: there will be no skanky amped up reboot of this series. One corner of my childhood is still safe from those meddling money grubbing executive types….

(Although… if they could just get Benedict Cumberbatch to play Dr. David Banner….)

Update: The people who put the show together actually seemed to have hated the comics and wanted to be taken seriously for tackling important issues like child abuse and alcoholism. See here for a rare Us magazine article from the early days of the show.

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8 responses to “Currently Watching: Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby in The Incredible Hulk

  1. MishaBurnett June 25, 2013 at 6:20 am

    This makes me realize just how heavily the James/Catskinner character is influenced by the Banner/Hulk dynamic. I hadn’t thought of this series in years, but I can remember exactly those moments you are describing.

    And I thought that the Avengers movie actually handled it fairly well.

  2. Charlie Warren June 25, 2013 at 7:54 am

    That show was awesome! I know people poke fun of it at times for the minimalistic style of the show but I think it was great. I appreciate the fact that the show focused on the humanity of the character and the conflict with the monster waiting to rage inside of him.

    • jeffro June 25, 2013 at 9:04 am

      Two hours of nonstop special effects might be mind-blowing… but the modern blockbuster will never touch a drama like this when it comes to depth and feeling and giving you characters that you actually like and connect with.

  3. Mojo_Billbo June 25, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I agree, it was a very well written TV series….

  4. V.E.G. December 28, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Bill Bixby was cremated. He was of English origin, but originally of Danish origin. It was just like the Vikings do.

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