He was quiet, intelligent and kind-hearted. So handsome, too. But a loner with a dark side, he could never stay in one place long. I felt so sorry for him – it just tore me apart. Every time he opened himself up and made a connection to someone, he would walk away in the end. I would watch him intently, wondering if he would ever find his way to happiness.
David Banner broke my heart.
Every week after school I would go to my neighbor’s house and all of the kids would gather around their giant old console TV to watch the show. Their father, normally a terribly unpleasant man, would see us all in front of the TV, smile and say, “Must be time for the Hulk!” We would nod in unison, passing around a bag of Jay’s Hot Stuff potato chips, never pulling our eyes away from the screen.
The show had everything: tormented scientist who tragically loses the love of his life, relentless journalist trying to uncover a story at any cost, villains destroyed by a monster who just wants to be left alone.
I remember the devastating episode with Mariette Hartley – I think it was a two-parter – where she is a doctor or a scientist with a fatal disease, and she learns about David’s alter ego. She’s not afraid of him. David finally allows himself to feel love again. She thinks she might be able to cure herself with his regenerative powers, but in the end, it’s too late and she dies in the Hulk’s arms. I sobbed.
Still, all my recollections of The Incredible Hulk are good ones.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a station that was playing old Incredible Hulk reruns. It was an episode I didn’t recall – I picked it up in the middle, but caught Lou Ferrigno starring as a deaf bodybuilder who had gotten mixed up with some unscrupulous scam artists who didn’t want him to compete in a Mr. Universe type competition. Toward the end, Lou Ferrigno comes face to face with himself, as the Hulk storms onto the stage carrying the unconscious body of the scammer girl with a heart of gold that Lou’s character has fallen in love with. The crowd screams for the Hulk to flex his muscles, and he does. They all cheer.
It was hackneyed and horrible and made me question whether my memories of the Incredible Hulk were all false. Was there even a Mariette Hartley episode, or did I confuse this with a Polaroid commercial? Was the show as touching as I recalled, or just pure camp? Had I ever even eaten Jay’s Hot Stuff potato chips, or was that just my imagination, too? It’s like my entire youth was now clouded with doubt.
Last weekend, I flipped past the Spanish channel, when I saw that it was also airing The Incredible Hulk. I may not speak Spanish, but yo hablo Bill Bixby, and I needed to cleanse my brain of this recent negative experience. It started out with a David Banner walking into town. Tan pants, plaid button-down shirt with sleeves rolled up, thick wind-blown hair. He hears a scream, then turns to see a young woman on roller skates who has just been hit by a car. The flyers she was handing out are all still dramatically descending from the sky.
He runs to her aid, and from what I could tell, two men argue with the driver of the car as the young woman says that her leg is broken. The driver pays the woman some money – maybe so she won’t report the accident – and then the woman hobbles off with her roller skates over her shoulder. David follows her to make sure she’s okay, only to see her running down the street, giggling and counting her money. Cut to a scene of Venice Beach and Lou Ferrigno working out.
Oh god. Roller skater girl is the con artist with the heart of gold! This is the same horrible episode!
I flipped the TV off and went for a walk. Part of me wants to rent Season 1 of The Incredible Hulk just to reassure myself that I didn’t imagine everything. That my years spent glued in front of the television, fascinated by this tragic hero weren’t all a lie. But the rest of me is terrified to discover that there was no Mariette Hartley. That like so many other things, time and distance has reinvented reality and painted it with a beautiful green hue.
Lou Ferrigno broke my heart.

13 Responses to “Smashed”

  1. derfina Says:

    Don’t do it! It won’t be the same, and may ruin your memories for good. In the words of Robbie Douglas in My Three Sons “You can never go home again.”

  2. claire Says:

    I LOVED The Incredible Hulk. Something so great when I was little about the idea of turning into a big green monster when you’re mad. (Here I must stress Lou Ferrigno big, not ridiculous big as an upended Hummer CGI big. Seriously, the pants would have to burst off.)
    As an added perk, my older brother hated it. According to mom, basically, he found upsetting all that I loved about it.
    I get your concerns though. I loved Wonderwoman even more and found watching an episode a few years back kind of painful. I think if I avoided the WW2 episodes and any with aliens, it might be ok. Still, as much as I heart Lynda Carter, I’m not looking to buy those dvds.

  3. robin Says:

    I have had the same experience with the Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman, Emergency and yes, the Hardy Boys Mysteries (hello Shaun Cassidy!). They were so good when I was young and they are all so campy and cheesy now. But I am fairly sure I could get sucked into marathon if any of these were on during a rainy day.

  4. kapgar Says:

    I have added and removed The Incredible Hulk, season 1 so many times from Netflix that I’ve lost count. And for likely the same reasons, minus Mariette Hartley. I don’t have quite the recall for episodes that you seem to, but I do know I loved the show and am afraid that, like so many movies I loved as a child, that it really sucks and watching it will reveal this frailty. The Hulk remains one of my favorite superheroes because of this mental image I have of the show.
    If you do rent and watch, please be sure to let me know what you think of it and how it compares. I’m really interested.

  5. jenny Says:

    derfina: see! that’s exactly what i’m afraid of!
    claire: oh, wonder woman. that’s another classic! “duh duh duh duh duh duh duh…. WONDER WOMAN!”
    robin: i never watched emergency, but i remember loving six million dollar man and bionic woman. best. sound effects. ever.
    kapgar: well, the mariette hartley episode (assuming it actually exists) was definitely geared toward the ladies. all smooshy romantical and such. but i’ll definitely let you know if i rent it!

  6. Karen Says:

    “I may not speak Spanish, but yo hablo Bill Bixby.”
    I’m dying over here, and completely unable to convince the other people on this conference call that 1) I am sort of paying attention to the call and 2) really, it’s funny. Really really funny.

  7. delmer Says:

    One of the things I like about the recent Hulk movie was a scene in which someone was watching TV (it may have been Lou F) and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father was on.
    I only remember one scene from the series. Some guys had used a blow torch to cut a whole in. They put the torch down and used the edge of the hole they’d cut for balance — it should have been warm (hot as hell) to the touch.

  8. peefer Says:

    I couldn’t watch The Hulk as a kid. He really freaked me out. I probably won’t sleep well tonight. Thanks.

  9. churlita Says:

    Weird. I just watched the new Hulk movie last weekend and it reminded me a lot of what the series was to me. I haven’t seen the series since I was younger too. After reading your post, I think maybe the movie was more what the series aspired to be and never quite was.

  10. asia Says:

    I went to see Superman at the matinee like, 352 times. It was summer, I was very young and we were very much in love. We ran into each other on a cable channel one afternoon, years later, when I was a teenager. Boy, that was awkward! What had I ever seen in him? The hair? The uni-tard? That sanctimonious goody-two-shoes dimple-chin broad-chested lout! I guess it is true, you can never go home.

  11. jenny Says:

    karen: see… that’s the risk you take reading blogs while on conference calls. but really, what else is there to do? :)
    delmer: oh, courtship of eddie’s father. i loved bill bixby back then, too!
    peefer: the hulk scares you, but NC-17 stories about your wife’s vestigial tail don’t faze you?
    churlita: i haven’t seen it yet – do i need to add it to netflix? going to do that right now!
    asia: i, too, was in love with christopher reeve, and i refuse to believe that superman is anything but a phenomenal movie! lalalalalalalala not listening lalalalalalalal

  12. shari Says:

    I’m afraid to rent Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows for my kids, because in my memory, they are the saddest, most beautiful, most tragic stories ever told. And I’m afraid that they will be hackneyed and cheesy. Afraid, I say. So scared in fact, that I am depriving my children of their experiences with these stories in order to preserve the sanctity of my own.
    Now look what you’ve made me do: admit to negligent parenting right here in the middle of the internet.

  13. claire Says:

    “…in her satin tights, fighting for her rights…”
    asia: you’re kidding me, right? Superman was clearly looking at me when I was five and we fell in love, not you. Also, I’m a proud owner of the Christopher Reeve Superman collection on dvd. Even if you now scoff at the movies (I still am very fond of 1&2, even 3), it’s totally worth it to see the screen tests for Lois Lane. Stockard Channing, Lesley Ann Warren, and others. Margot Kidder nailed it, of course, but it’s a kick to see the other interpretations.

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