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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
hen I was a kid there was one night and television lineup that surpassed all others: CBS Fridays, which was comprised of “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Dallas.” It was hardly a task to plop down in front of the tube and bask in these three entirely different slices of pop culture as they bled from one into the next every week. As an adult I remain a Ewing freak, but the Duke boys have unfortunately gone by the wayside; the adventures of Dr. David Banner reside somewhere in between. It’s not anywhere near as juvenile as “Hazzard,” yet it doesn’t have the expansive ongoing storyline of “Dallas.” The real problem with “The Incredible Hulk” is that it’s an incredibly repetitive series. Banner wanders the country, defending the naïve, weak and helpless against the sleazy, corrupt and powerful.
Nearly every episode has the exact same beats and you can almost always guess when he’s going to Hulk out (usually around the 25-minute mark and then again a few minutes before the end of the story). The Hulk scenes themselves are repetitive in their presentation. Banner invariably gets beaten up by somebody and/or physically injured and either (a) the thug wanders away or (b) he gets thrown out of eyeshot. Both scenarios allow for him to transform into a big green meanie without anyone seeing it happen. It’s important to keep in mind that no other character can conceive of what we know to be fact. One minute there’s a skinny white guy, the next there’s a green bodybuilder – and to everyone but the viewer they have nothing to do with each other. Then there’s all the slow motion, and the patches of Lou Ferrigno’s white skin showing through when the paint doesn’t stick – but let’s go ahead and suspend some disbelief, people. Further, the more “Hulk” you watch, the more frustrated you get with Banner, as you just wish he’d walk away from these situations, rather than try to be the Good Samaritan time and again.
What saves “The Incredible Hulk?” Well, two things: The show plays nearly all of this with a straight face, and -- perhaps more importantly -- the talent of Bill Bixby. Actually, most of it comes down to Bixby. The guy was a class act, no two ways about it. The show probably wouldn’t have made it past the pilot movie without him.
This box set is something of a banner (heh, heh) release, because as I understand it, it contains the only “Hulk” material that’s never been put on DVD. “Hulk” fans rejoice – your collection can now be complete! Season Five is a mere seven episodes, as the series was abruptly canceled and the producers didn’t have time to cobble together a fitting end to the saga. Most of the episodes on here follow the usual formula, except for the final episode, which goes slightly against the grain by taking place in an evacuated town; the first 10 or so minutes have no dialogue and are simply Banner wandering around the place trying to figure out what happened. It seems silly to recommend this set or warn against it. If you’ve already bought the rest of the series you’ll surely want this box, and if you’ve never invested in any of the series, this is an illogical place to begin watching. Note to fans: Jack Colvin’s Jack McGee is only in one episode on this set and only for a couple of scenes.
Special Features: “Behind the Success: The Story of the Incredible Hulk” is a featurette mostly of memories from the writing staff. Nice, but hardly groundbreaking. There’s also a gag reel that’s really pretty funny. You know, like they used to be, before gag reels consisted entirely of actors flubbing their lines and laughing. Clearly Bixby likes to take his fellow actors out of the moment by asking “You like to fool around?”