|Posted: 25 November 2009 at 2:16pm | IP Logged | 1
Well, I finally just finished watching this series on DVD, after having started over a year ago.
When I was a kid, my only real access to the show was in the form of the three reuinion movies--which I'd taped off of TV--and the pilot movie, which I frequently rented from the video store. Other than that, I'd occasionally get glimpses of episodes on cable and such.
It's been a real pleasure to finally see the entire series, and to understand how it evolved.
As an adaptation of the comic book, the show theoretically shouldn't work. Pretty much everything has been changed, even our hero's first name. Yet, despite all of the changes, the TV show really captures the essence of Lee and Kirby's creation--the schism between reason and rage, Banner's search for a cure, and the destructive effect that his curse has had on his life.
Despite writer-producer Ken Johnson's disdain for the source material, he somehow managed to capture what makes the comic work, and made that work for a mass primetime audience. And, until SMALLVILLE came along, the show was the longest-running series based on a comic. It wasn't even cancelled for a good reason, like a big ratings decline.
Therefore, it works as an adaptation for me. Really, it's a different beast than the comic version, but it is interesting enough in its own right. The comic and the show are two different interpretations of the same brilliant core idea.
My single favorite episode is still the pilot, which I feel is one of the best pilots I've ever seen. No other episode quite so deeply explores the personal demons of Dr. David Banner.
Although the show could be rather formulaic, the trinity of Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno, and Jack Colvin gave even lesser efforts dignity and emotion. Bixby, in particular, was the heart and soul of that show. Although David Banner is not really the same as the comics' Bruce Banner, Bixby still brought the right balance of intelligence, compassion, and pathos to that character.
I found myself engaged even by the weaker and more absurd episodes, which is something that surprised me. And, of course, the great episodes are really great. Off the top of my head, favorites include "Married", "Dark Side", "The Psychic", "Bring Me The Head of The Hulk", and "Mystery Man".
The opening title sequence is one of the best ever, I think. That opening pullback shot of DANGER perfectly sums up the character. And Joe Harnell's haunting Lonely Man theme is unforgettable. The complete scores to numerous episodes are available online. I need to get them!
On the one hand, I'm glad that the series didn't get any sort of conclusion, but on the other hand, Johnson was hoping to give it some kind of satisfactory wrap-up, and that would have been nice to see. There are a number of plot threads going back to the pilot that never got any resolution--aside from whether or not Banner would be cured. In particular, the whole subplot where McGee slowly puts the pieces together was carefully developed over five seasons, but never got a resolution.
Unfortunately, the follow-up movies are a huge disappointment, primarily because by this time, Marvel was looking to develop more TV shows, and used the reuinion movies as backdoor pilots.
The Incredible Hulk Returns, aside from the zaniness with Thor, is the one that's closest in tone and style to the TV series. This is likely due to the fact that it was written and directed by Nick Corea, a key player in the series. It's the only post-series movie to feature the opening credits, Jack McGee, and Banner's standard "You be good to yourself, my friend" parting line. It's certainly my favorite of the three because of its connection to the feel of the series.
The Trial of the Incredible Hulk is a darker and deeper entry, although a bit "blah". The Daredevil elements aren't particularly good, and there are leaps of logic that pull one out of the story (where does Banner's beard go when he transforms?), as well as the notable absense of a final Hulk-out.
The Death of the Incredible Hulk has perhaps the best story structure (since no other Marvel characters have been shoehorned in), but this one always depresses me because of the ending. It's bad enough to actually kill the Hulk--but to do it in such a goofy way--he falls out of a plane????
It's a pity that the proposed Rebirth/Revenge of the Incredible Hulk movie wasn't made due to Bixby's untimely death.
All three reuinion movies have their problems--and even some inconsistencies with the series, but it was kinda nice to see them in their proper context--something I'd never done before. As a kid, those movies were really all I knew of the TV series. Now, having seen the entire series right before watching them again, it was a very different experience.
This will always be a favorite show of mine. As Ken Johnson has noted, it got formulaic and silly at times, but its batting average was still pretty solid.
Thoughts? What do you like or dislike about the show? Do you feel it's a good adaptation of the comic? What are you favorite and/or least favorite episodes? What are your thoughts on the reunion movies?
Cue the Lonely Man theme...