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Case Number 14836: Small Claims Court

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The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fifth Season

Universal // 1981 // 339 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // October 27th, 2008

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All Rise...

Never mind not liking him when he's angry, you wouldn't like Judge Paul Pritchard full stop.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Death Of The Incredible Hulk (published June 20th, 2003), The Incredible Hulk (published October 21st, 2008), The Incredible Hulk: The Complete First Season (published September 13th, 2006), The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Third Season (published June 4th, 2008), The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fourth Season (published June 6th, 2008), The Incredible Hulk (Blu-Ray) (published October 21st, 2008), and The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Series (published November 10th, 2008) are also available.

The Charge

Don't Make Him Angry!

The Case

And so, with the release of its fifth and final season on DVD, we gather to say goodbye to The Incredible Hulk, the show that made a household name of Lou Ferrigno.

It's interesting to see, with the recent release of the Edward Norton starring The Incredible Hulk on DVD and Blu-Ray, how ingrained into the Hulk mythos this show has become. Incorporating elements of the Bruce Banner on the run storyline, while subtly incorporating the show's theme tune, "The Lonely Man," into its score, the movie was a successful melding of the comic book and TV show. Prior to this, the TV show had always felt somewhat removed from the source material and other Hulk-based projects. Even here, in its unfeasibly short final season, The Incredible Hulk bears only a passing resemblance to its comic book roots. Indeed, with only minimal changes to the scripts the Hulk could be excised completely, and the character of David Banner replaced with, say, Jessica Fletcher (Murder She Wrote). And yet, as anyone in their thirties will attest to, it was the show's faithfulness to the heart of the character of Bruce/David Banner that made the show unique. As the classic tortured soul, Bill Bixby, who played David Banner, is the lifeblood of The Incredible Hulk.

Growing up, The Incredible Hulk was a show the whole family would gather together to watch. But even then there were two things that always confused me: why was Bruce Banner renamed David Banner, and why did every shot of the Hulk have to be in slow motion? While it seems the answer to my second question will forever remain a mystery, the answer to my first question was provided by Hulk creator Stan Lee himself. During a documentary on the character, Stan revealed how, having seen the first episode of the show, he queried the name change. A reply was provided which still baffles me to this day. Apparently the name Bruce was "too gay." What?

Compared to his two recent cinematic outings, this iteration of the Hulk is found wanting. Lacking the deep character study of Ang Lee's Hulk or the blockbuster action of The Incredible Hulk, Season Five feels both lightweight and a little cheap. Those viewing this show for the first time are likely to quickly dismiss it and perhaps rightly so. With each episode standing alone and even the season finale offering no closure, The Incredible Hulk just doesn't match up to current shows with season-long story arcs. No, this DVD release is aimed squarely at those who, like me, were first exposed to the Hulk through the TV show.

Having only completed seven episodes by the time of its cancellation, this season is extremely short. Had the season been given the chance to run its course, the writers planned to resolve the show's main themes, with David Banner finally finding a cure and thus waving goodbye to the Hulk for good. But that wasn't to be, so how does Season Five ultimately stack up? Speaking as someone who was a big fan of the show as a child, it really doesn't hold up well and is some way off the show's best form. Storylines for this season are tired and so often feel overly familiar. Spread over two discs, The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fifth Season contains the following episodes:

Disc 1

• "The Phenom"—A corrupt sports agent gets a taste of the Hulk, when he messes with a young baseball player who has befriended David Banner.

• "Two Godmothers"—David Banner gets mixed up with three escapees from a women's institution. But can even the Hulk help when one of the convicts goes into labor?

• "Veteran"—When a Vietnam veteran aims to assassinate a politician, David Banner puts his own life at risk to stop him.

• "Sanctuary"—David Banner disguises himself as a clergyman to help an immigrant from the clutches of people traffickers.

Disc 2
• "Triangle"—Banner competes with a local lumber baron for the affections of a young lady.

• "Slaves"—Captured and imprisoned, David Banner is forced to work as a slave in a gold mine.

• "A Minor Problem"—Having arrived in a deserted town, Banner finds himself racing against the clock when he becomes exposed to a deadly bacteria.

Every episode, without exception, is as uninspiring as each respective synopsis sounds. There's no sense of wonder, something the show once possessed in spades. By now, the series' emphasis on David Banner's inner turmoil had already started to grate, and seeing the Hulk reduced to beating up on less-than-super villains is embarrassing.

It's not all bad news, though. As with each season of The Incredible Hulk the show has two aces up its sleeve: Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. Bixby is rightfully credited with bringing a great deal of humanity to the role of David Banner. There is a vulnerability to him that is deeply affecting. Somewhat less trumpeted is Ferrigno's turn as the Hulk. Forget the Hulk rages and flexing he is famous for, and just watch Ferrigno during the sequences where the Hulk is beginning to calm down; look at the emotion in his eyes as the realization of his condition sinks in. Whatever your views on this interpretation of the Hulk, there's no denying Bixby and Ferrigno share a good understanding of what makes their character tick.

Each episode is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Considering the age of the show, the image is impressive. Occasional instances of dirt and grain do little to detract from an otherwise colorful and well-detailed picture. The 2.0 soundtrack does its job with minimal fuss. One problem, evident throughout the set, sees the voiceover dubs not quite sitting right.

Lurking on disc two of this two-disc set is the bonus material. First up is "The Story of the Incredible Hulk." With a running time just shy of 20 minutes, the featurette presents some interesting insights, including a discussion of the planned inclusion of She-Hulk. Rounding out the disc is a short gag reel. As with the previous releases in this series, the box set comes complete with a fetching lenticular cover.

For completists, this set is inevitably going to end up on their shelves. For those yet to savor this slice of early Eighties TV, The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fifth Season is probably best avoided. It's those like me, who remember the show as a child but haven't seen it in a decade or so, who are presented with a tough decision. Do you risk destroying happy childhood memories by revisiting the series? In all honesty I'd say leave this show to memory, it plays much better there. HULK GUILTY!!

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
Running Time: 339 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama
• Superheroes
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Behind the Scenes: The Story of The Incredible Hulk
• Gag Reel


• IMDb

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