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The Incredible Hulk was an interesting beast on television. The original tv pilot aired in 1977 with a series that followed a year later (this is the same year the live-action Spider-man appeared). For a tv series about a green monster, it was actually a fairly boring affair since most of the hour dealt with exposition and plot setup. There was actually very little "Hulk" on screen unfortunately, but on the upside each episode had some pretty good drama. What they lacked in action they made up in clean storytelling. This helped land the series a whopping 5 seasons for a total 82 episodes! That's highly impressive!
By 1981 the show was threatened with a general entertainment strike in hollywood. As the business goes, the strike kicked in and the show was canceled, but not before it aired its last 5 episodes.
There were some differences between the comic book version of the Hulk and the tv version, mostly due to keeping the Hulk tv show grounded in reality rather than placing it in a world full of supers. The Hulk's origin was changed - Dr Banner is a scientist studying the ability of people to find great strength in times of distress. He concludes that gamma radiation is the key and uses his device to bombard himself with radiation, but there is no noticeable effects. While driving home, he hurts himself while fixing his car and turns into the Hulk. And there you have it, no military station, no Rick Jones, no government shake down. It's a huge departure from the comic, but it worked very effectively and kept focus on Dr. Banner -- Edward Norton's Incredible Hulk used this plot model extensively in his movie to the same success.
The Call Me Bruce
The biggest change to the show was changing the name of the main character from "Bruce Banner" to "David Banner". According to the tv series developer, the name change was made because he did not want the series to be perceived as a comic book series. Well, that's the "official" reasoning anyway. Long time die hards know that the real reason they changed the name was because the tv execs felt that "Bruce" was too feminine of a name and wanted something more masculine. No, I am not kidding.
Thor and Daredevil
By the late 80s there was enough interest in reviving the series as tv movies. NBC aired The Incredible Hulk Returns in 1988, with a special guest character: Thor. Again though, this wasn't the Thor that we knew and loved from the comic books. For television, Thor was given a stylized yet realistic Viking appearance. Again, it worked well for tv and I have little problems with how it was presented.
However, 1989's Trial of the Incredible Hulk was a hot mess. The story was hella lame -- I've seen better stories on Falcon Crest (umm, does anyone else even remember that?). With Bruce Banner on trial, he needed a lawyer, so he got Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil. Rex Smith certainly did a decent job as Murdock, but John Rhys-Davies was just terrible as the kingpin. In another bout of tv executive stupidity, they changed Daredevil's red costume to a home-made black ninja outfit. The reason? They felt red wouldn't look very good on screen. No, I am not kidding.
Regardless, the Incredible Hulk was one of best superhero adaptations to hit the tv screen, even with all the changes. Even the final tv movie, The Death of the Incredible Hulk was rather enjoyable to watch.
In this first youtube clip, we bring you scenes from the tv movie with the Daredevil.
And finally, Hulk vs Thor.