The Incredible Hulk is an American science fiction television series of the superhero subgenre. It is based on The Hulk series of comic book titles created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby published by Marvel Comics. This live-action television series was produced by Universal TV and ran from March, 1978 to May, 1982 on CBS spanning a total of five seasons and 82 episodes. The series was preceded by two television pilot movies, both of which aired in 1977. The first was a two-hour pilot aptly titled "The Incredible Hulk" and the second was a two-part episode called "Death in the Family". The regular series did not premiere until the following year. The show also spawned three television movies that were made in the early 1990s, The Incredible Hulk Returns, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk and The Death of the Incredible Hulk, which actually did feature the demise of the titular character. The series starred My Favorite Martian actor Bill Bixby as tormented scientist Doctor David Banner and Lou Ferrigno as his monstrous alter ego, the Hulk. The show also starred Jack Colvin as dogged investigative reporter Jack McGee.
The premise of The Incredible Hulk focused on Doctor David Banner, a scientist seeking to tap into the hidden superhuman strength inherent in all human beings. Believing that he could stimulate this mysterious gene through Gamma radiation, Doctor Banner subjects himself to doses of gamma rays which triggers his body chemistry with unexpected and undesirable side effects. Whenever Banner suffers great anxiety or anger, he transforms into the uncontrollably strong green-skinned creature known as the Hulk. Only when the rage passes does the Hulk transform back into Doctor Banner. The general population is unaware that Banner and the Hulk are one and the same and most regard the Hulk's alleged existence as an urban legend. His first adventure resulted in the world believing that Banner had died as a result of a fire caused by the Hulk, so Banner changes his identity and travels the country seeking a cure that he prays will one day reverse his condition. Jack McGee, investigative reporter for the National Register is convinced that the Hulk is real, but is unaware of Banner's continued survival. Obsessed with tracking down the creature, he follows reports of Hulk sightings across the country, causing Doctor Banner no end of stress. Each episodes of the show featured Bill Bixby taking on a new alias, which was always some variation of his character's actual name and accepting odd jobs in his search for a cure. Invariably, these odd jobs always planted Banner into the middle of intense and often violent situations where he would transform into the Hulk and battle against various evil-doers, most of which were common criminals such as gangsters, confidence artists, car thieves, etc.
In the Marvel Comics presentation of the character, the Hulk's human alter ego is named Robert Bruce Banner, though he is often referred to as just Bruce Banner. The TV series changed the character's name to David Banner.
The origin of the Hulk is completely different between the two mediums. In the comics, Bruce Banner was a civilian scientist working in cooperation with the United States Army to create a gamma bomb in New Mexico. On the day that the bomb was tested, Bruce noticed a teenager named Rick Jones out on the test site and ran out to get him to safety. When the bomb detonated, Banner was inundated with gamma rays, which subsequently turned him into the Hulk. In the TV series, David Banner was looking for a way to "tap into the hidden strength that all humans have". Having designed a device to emit low levels of gamma radiation, Banner tested it upon himself in a laboratory in California, and became the Hulk. Both mediums adhered to the notion that feelings of great emotional anger would trigger the change, though the comics had since abandoned this detail.
In the comics, the Hulk is considerably larger and stronger than his television iteration. The comic version of the Hulk has a strength level that is nearly limitless, and is governed only by the measure of rage that he can muster at any given moment. As he was often wont to say, "The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets". In terms of size, the classic Hulk stood between 7' and 8' tall and weighed in at 1,400 lbs. Actor Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk in the TV series is 6' 4½" tall and weighed 275 lbs. in his prime. Feats of strength demonstrated in the TV show was usually limited to overturning vehicles, shrugging off bullets and pitching a random bad guy (or in one case, a bear) several yards into a nearby lake.
The physicality of Bruce Banner is slightly different than that of David Banner. In the comics, Bruce is more slight of build, has lighter colored hair and wears glasses. In the TV show, David Banner is not quite as bookish looking, and does not wear glasses.
The pilot episode of the show establishes that David Banner had a wife named Laura, who died sometime prior to the onset of the series. In the comics, Bruce Banner was not married at the time that he first became the Hulk. However, he did later marry Betty Ross, who subsequently died years later, but was later resurrected as Red She-Hulk.
Other than Doctor Banner, none of the characters featured in the Hulk family of comics ever appeared on the TV series and vice versa.