The Incredible Hulk's
third season (1979-1980) continued to cultivate the intriguing mix of melancholy drama and room-wrecking action that initially attracted its audience, while exploring new ways to tell the story of David Banner (Bill Bixby
) and his quest to tame the monster (Lou Ferrigno
) inside him. Most of the episodes follow the Fugitive
-like framework of the previous seasons, with Banner becoming entangled in dramas both big and small on his lonely journey; over the course of the third season, he rescues a glam rock singer (Mackenzie Phillips) in the season opener "Metamorphosis", gets blackmailed by mobsters in "Nine Hours," and winds up on a chain gang in "The Slam" (actor Charles Napier, who provided the growls for the Hulk in later seasons, is among the episode's guest stars). But the creators also stepped away from the formula for several episodes, including "Proof Positive," which gives a back story to dogged reporter Jack McGee and a terrific showcase for actor Jack Colvin; "Homecoming" also fleshes out Banner's history by introducing his family in a Thanksgiving setting, which is naturally disrupted by the arrival of the Hulk.
The season is not without its false notes ("Behind the Wheel" has Banner turning into the Hulk while attempting to deliver a baby), but for the most part, it's one of the show's most solid seasons, anchored as always by Bixby's enormously empathetic performance. --Paul Gaita