The Incredible Hulk is a television series based on the Marvel Comics character the Hulk. The series aired on the CBS television network and starred Bill Bixby as David Banner, Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, and Jack Colvin as Jack McGee.
In the series, Dr. David Banner, a widowed physician and scientist, who is presumed dead, travels across America under assumed names (his false surnames always begin with the letter “B”), and finds himself in positions where he helps others in need despite his terrible secret: in times of extreme anger, he transforms into a huge, incredibly strong green creature, who has been given the name "The Hulk”.
The series was originally broadcast by CBS from 1978 to 1982, with 82 episodes over five seasons. The two-hour pilot movie, which established the Hulk's origins, aired on November 4, 1977. It was developed and produced by Kenneth Johnson, who also wrote or directed some episodes.
After the series ended, the fate of David Banner was a cliffhanger until 1988. The franchise was purchased from CBS by rival NBC. They produced three made-for-television films: The Incredible Hulk Returns (directed by Nicholas Corea), and The Trial of the Incredible Hulk and The Death of the Incredible Hulk (both directed by Bill Bixby)Since its debut, The Incredible Hulk series has garnered a worldwide fan base.
For the role of Dr. David Banner, Kenneth Johnson cast seasoned television actor Bill Bixby—his first choice for the role. At first, Bixby resisted accepting the part, but after reading the script, he quickly signed on. Next, character actor Jack Colvin was cast as "Jack McGee," the series' recurring antagonist. Modeled after the character of Javert in Les Misérables, McGee was a cynical tabloid newspaper reporter who relentlessly pursued the Hulk after witnessing the urban legend.
The most daunting task, however, was finding someone to play the Hulk. Arnold Schwarzenegger auditioned for the role but was rejected due to his inadequate height (according to Johnson in his commentary on a DVD release). Actor Richard Kiel was hired for the role. During filming, however, Kenneth Johnson's own son pointed out that Kiel's tall-but-under-developed physique did not resemble the Hulk's at all.
Soon, Kiel was replaced with professional bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, although a very brief shot of Kiel (as the Hulk) remains in the pilot. According to an interview with Kiel (who sees properly out of only one eye), he reacted badly to the contact lenses used for the role, and also found the green makeup difficult to remove, so he did not mind losing the part. Initially the facial make-up for the Hulk was quite monstrous, but after both pilots, the first two weekly episodes and New York location shooting for the fourth, the design was toned down.
The makeup process used to transform Ferrigno into the Hulk took three hours. The hard contact lenses Ferrigno wore to simulate the Hulk's electric-green eyes had to be removed every 15 minutes because he found wearing them physically painful, and the green fright wig he wore as the Hulk was made of dyed yak hair.
Two episodes of the series appeared first as stand-alone movies, but were later re-edited into one-hour length (two-parters) for syndication. They were produced as pilots before the series officially began in 1978:
Six years after the cancellation of the television series in 1982, three television movies were produced with Bixby and Ferrigno reprising their roles. All of these aired on NBC:
Note: Despite the apparent death of the Hulk in the 1990 film, more Incredible Hulk television movies were planned, including a proposed Revenge of the Incredible Hulk where the Hulk would actually be able to talk. However, all such projects were canceled when Bill Bixby died of cancer in November 1993.