With Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro currently developing a new televisual take on the Hulk, it seems like the perfect time to consider just what went so right for Bixby, Ferrigno and producer Kenneth Johnson...
The Incredible Hulk: Originally broadcast from November 4, 1977 to February 18, 1990
Beginning with a pair of two-hour television movies, The Incredible Hulk was a pared down adaptation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's comic book creation. Gone were the bizarre villains and outlandish events of the comic - indeed, in most episodes, the only science fiction element was the Hulk himself.
Instead, we were presented with a show that broadly resembled ABC drama The Fugitive - a man on the run, framed for a crime he didn't commit, and relentlessly pursued by a dogged investigator. In this instance, the man hunting the Hulk was cynical reporter Jack McGee (the excellent Jack Colvin). All together now - "Mr McGee, don't make me angry..."
It's been parodied countless times since, but there's still something moving about the conclusion of each Hulk episode, as Banner once again takes to the road - accompanied by Joe Harnell's beautiful piano piece 'The Lonely Man' - doomed to forever be a social outcast.
And then there's the Hulk. A number of big names failed to secure the role of the jade giant - Arnold Schwarzenegger was rejected for being too short, while Richard 'Jaws' Kiel was hired but later fired due to his slight physique. Lou Ferrigno was the man who eventually brought the Hulk to life, and while it's easy to scoff at his shaggy wig and green make-up in this age of CGI and visual effects, the professional bodybuilder nevertheless cuts an imposing figure on-screen.
The Incredible Hulk ran on CBS for four successful seasons, but the show was destined to end as tragically as David Banner's journey began. Concerned about rising costs and falling ratings, CBS abruptly cancelled the series, leading to an abbreviated fifth season of just seven episodes.
A third film, The Death of the Incredible Hulk, aired in 1990 and saw the emerald brute perish after falling from a great height. But even this was not intended to be the end - a fourth Hulk movie was in the early stages of development when Bill Bixby fell ill. Sadly, the actor died of cancer soon after.
Aside from being a tragedy in and of itself, it's a real shame that Bixby's death led to The Incredible Hulk ending on a whimper rather than a bang. Nevertheless, as arguably the most successful transition of a comic book character to television, the show's cult classic status must be recognised.
While you're waiting to see if del Toro's take on the Hulk will thrill or disappoint, it wouldn't be a bad idea to pick up The Incredible Hulk on DVD. All five seasons can now be purchased both individually and in an impressive box-set, while the three TV films are also available. If you're looking for comic book adventure with a real heart, you could do a lot worse.
Are you a fan of the classic Hulk TV show? Let us know below!