Film & Water #116 – The Incredible Hulk Returns



Just in time for THOR: RAGNAROK, Rob welcomes his old friend Cory Drew (GIVE ME THOSE STAR TREK) to talk about the first time The Incredible Hulk and The Mighty Thor met in live-action, the 1988 TV movie THE INCREDIBLE HULK RETURNS!

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11 responses to “Film & Water #116 – The Incredible Hulk Returns

  1. Fun show guys. This was a HUGE deal to me as a kid. I grew up watching the Hulk TV show, although I was initially scared of the Hulk-outs and would hide my face during those parts. His return was announced in Comics Scene magazine (remember that?), and the addition of Thor had me imagining a Marvel TV universe, which we kind of got the beginnings of with these movies.

    The Death of the Incredible Hulk was a real head scratcher. No team-up, and that dour ending! Very unsatisfying.

    Kind of disheartening to think there are as many years between this and Thor Ragnarok as there are between the first Superman serial and Superman: The Movie. It really puts things in perspective when considering how dialed-down the action is in these films.

    I agree with Corey that The Incredible Hulk was the first comic-to-TV series that seemed aimed squarely at adults. When I was a kid I just cared about getting to the scant Hulk scenes, but now I appreciate all the human drama stories. It’s a really well-made, well-acted series. Bill Bixby is one of TV’s best leads ever.

    These movies go further into the kitschy side of things, but they are still fun. Part of the disconnect is the lack of Kenneth Johnson and the music of Joe Hartnell, aside from the opening and closing themes. The 80s synth soundtrack is pretty awful.

    I may have to pop this into the DVD player and watch it in the next few days before going to the cineplex. Great show fellas!


    1. Ah, Comics Scene. That came back just as I was starting to buy comics regularly. For a solitary practitioner dependent solely on the newsstand it was my only source of news and information. I remember the article about this movie. I was very excited.

      Oddly enough I found out from People Magazine. We were visiting one of my great aunts and this was before I was savvy enough to bring reading material. There was nothing but that People Magazine and in one of the features it announced that this movie was happening. From there is was a waiting game. I think it took fifty years. I can’t be sure.

  2. One bit of Hollywood trivia: Anyone watching TV in the 1970s & 80s will recognize the narrator promoting the Hulk/Thor movie in your opening audio clip. That’s legendary announcer Ernie Anderson, who is recalled today as the father of director Paul Thomas Anderson. Back in the 1960s he was the local Cleveland TV legend “Ghoulardi.” They still have Ghoulardi fests annually in the Cleveland area. You can find clips and a documentary on Anderson and his alter ego on youtube.

    1. That’s not Ernie Anderson, that’s Danny Dark a.k.a Superman from the Superfriends 🙂

      Anderson was still with ABC and doing the occasional freelance gig (“Next time, on Staaaaar Trek: The Next Generation…) when this movie premiered.

  3. According to Kenneth Johnson the name David came from him wanting to name the character after his son. I’m sure most of it was Johnson wanting to go away from the comics. I’d be mad but this show is grandfathered in to me wanting things to be closer to the comics because this was a huge part of my childhood before I cared for such things.

  4. I also wonder if the success of The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman had something to do with this getting green lit. That came on NBC in 1987 so it’s in the realm of possibility that NBC saw gold in them thar made for television Hills.

    Oddly enough the Bionic reunions followed a similar trajectory as the Hulk films did. The first one was a lot of fun. The second was okay (and starred Sandra Bullock) and the third one was awful.

  5. Another entertaining installment!

    I disagree about the Hulk being the first American TV superhero show “for adults”. I’ve been watching some of the Wonder Woman show on DVD and it seems about on the same level as the Hulk series. And WW was nowhere near as campy as the Adam West Batman series.

    I was stationed in Germany from 86-88, but I kept up on American geek culture via the Comics Scene issues I picked up at the BX. So while I knew the Hulk/Thor pairing was coming, I missed “The Return of the Incredible Hulk” on the original airdate. However I did get to see it on video a few months later.

  6. I didn’t watch the Hulk TV series when it first aired, because the show opening scared me as a kid. By the time these TV movies came along, I was all-in on the Hulk. Like Cory, I recorded Return of the Hulk on our VCR when it first aired, and rewatched it over and over again. The idea of two superheroes teaming up in live action blew my young mind. I never really followed the Hulk or Thor in the comic books, so I was not terribly troubled by their depictions in this movie. I was just thrilled to see them together on the screen in any form.

    As an aside, this episode brought back memories of sitting on the couch as a kid, tense as a coiled spring, thumb poised over the pause button on the remote, waiting to unpause the VCR as soon as the commercial break ended. Those were the days.

  7. Great show! Although I will admit to hating this one as a kid. The reason? Well even as a kid, I watched The Incredible Hulk but I never loved it. To me, it was pretty boring and he seemed so less powerful and different than my hero from the comics. So you can imagine my horror at “Surfer Thor” with his lack of costume and Thunder God-ness. The scene that made me turn it off? The scene you guys talked about with the failure to bring down a helicopter even with their combined strength. In the comics, both were capable of throwing it into orbit. To my brain at the time, that was a “jumping the shark moment” for me and the reason I never watched any of the other specials.

    You guys mentioned how these shows were really other genres with a light coating of superheroes applied, and I completely agree with that assessment, but why would the networks do that instead of simply marketing it to kids? Kids were the ones who were the fans and the ones buying the merchandise/toys. Older viewers who watched it most likely were already fans. I can never understand the new to change a brand/character simply because it crosses over into a different marketing stream. Other characters from books and radio made faithful transitions to the moving image.

    Anyway, great show and discussion. Btw, Rob, “Never rub another man’s rhubarb”? -was that a Pop Will Eat Itself reference? If so, well played.

  8. This was an absolute blast!! I watched these TV movies first run, and still have my VCR tapes with them recorded!! If anyone here has children, the dad on Disney’s GOOD LUCK CHARLIE is the actor who played Thor!

    Not a lot to contribute, but you and Cory had me smiling ear-to-ear throughout the entire episode.

    If you ever cover the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN TV movies, let me know! There is an interesting story that ties into the fast food restaurant, Wendys!

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