THE INCREDIBLE HULK The Complete Fifth Season DVD Review

     October 29, 2008

Reviewed by Bob Lydecker

In anticipation of an upcoming strike, production of The Incredible Hulk’s fourth season rolled, without hiatus, into the fifth year of programs with Bill Bixby’s Dr. David Banner continuing to seek a cure for his monstrous alter ego, the hulk (Lou Ferrigno). The mix of episodes produced contained the usual formula of Fugitive-inspired visits to downtrodden communities where Banner could make a difference for the better before being forced to leave by police pursuers or hounding tabloid journalist Jack McGee (Jack Colvin). Executive producer Kenneth Johnson and his staff managed seven completed episodes before the CBS unceremoniously pulled the plug on the series.

A lengthy documentary is the centerpiece of this release’s supplemental features. “Behind the Success: The Story of The Incredible Hulk” does an astonishing job of wrapping the entire life of the series up in a comprehensive 30-minute program. Johnson is joined by virtually every surviving member of the show’s above-the-line staff in an elegantly structured look back at the series that even uncovers the showrunner’s plans for where Banner would have gone next. Though one of the writers opines that the series ended appropriately, with our hero wandering down the road toward his next adventure with no end to his curse in sight, Johnson’s speculations on a series finale are intriguing to imagine.

Though the seven hours presented in this set are, in keeping with their predecessors, offer solid pictures that belie the washed-out TV airings you might have seen in syndication, this release stumbles in one serious regard. Was it my imagination, or did NBC/Universal spend a whole week extolling environmental consciousness last year? They even had all their shows touch upon the issue and tinted the network’s logo green. All this and they offer up the single most wasteful DVD packaging I’ve seen this year. Universal can, perhaps, be forgiven for offering previous seasons in space-hogging single-disc to a thin plastic case packaging, but placing two discs in the same volume of material as most other studios use for a 22-episode season is just a waste of shelf area. Two discs. Two full-sized DVD keepcases. One cardboard slipcase with now-traditional lenticular cover. What’s the deal, Universal? Trying to make a 7-episode season look the same as one containing three times that many shows, or just too lazy to go the Paramount/Warner route that economically arrays up to six discs in a standard plastic keepcase without even the necessity to lift one DVD to extract another?

Packaging concerns aside, the episodes, documentary, and an amusing gag reel transferred from an aged videotape make for a fond farewell to David Banner as he shuffles off down the road to Joe Harnell’s heartbreaking lonely man theme…

On a scale where “A” indicates the pinnacle of the medium, “B” stands for an extraordinary example, “C” represents 90-percent of what’s out there, “D” indicates a sub-standard effort, and “F” means an abomination that should at least result in the sterilization of those responsible…

The final season of The Incredible Hulk scores a C while its DVD presentation merits a B.

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