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The Wrong Crush (2017 TV Movie)
3/10
One of those films where I feel bad for the actors for having to deliver their lines
13 May 2019
This film's title is rather misleading, as the plot centers around a teenage girl named Amelia being framed for drug dealing. Amelia is particularly vulnerable to this frameup since she's a former addict.

It's a good plot concept for this sort of movie, allowing for dramatic exploration of the struggles faced by drug users even after they go clean, along with the usual heavy doses of mystery and romance. Unfortunately, the potential is dashed to the rocks by a flat, lifeless script which at times seems to be trying its hardest to make the viewer feel ambivalent about the characters.

The best example of this is the scene where Amelia's mother refuses to believe her. We should be able to sympathize with both characters here, especially after it comes up that Amelia has lied to her mother about being off drugs before. Indeed, given how Amelia's mother is used in the film's resolution, we're obviously meant to sympathize with both characters here. But the mom's dialogue is so viscous, senseless, and completely lacking in emotional warmth that only a sadist could sympathize with her. She all but cracks a satisfied smirk when her daughter breaks down into tears.

There's still enough B-movie drama in the actual plot to make this tolerable viewing. But it's not recommended viewing by any stretch of the imagination.
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The Incredible Hulk: The First: Part 2 (1981)
Season 4, Episode 13
10/10
Bitter End
30 November 2017
I'm not one to cry at TV shows and movies. Though I haven't kept a tally, I doubt there are even 10 productions which made me cry. Heck, I watched Bambi as a kid without shedding a tear.

I give you this personal information because I think without it, it wouldn't be clear how significant it is that I cried during this episode when David's latest shot at curing himself of the Hulk is destroyed. Just a tear or two, but yes, I really cried. It seems illogical at first; of *course* David is going to lose the cure. That's not even a spoiler. It's a fact of serialized TV, and we've already seen it happen a dozen times in this series.

But this time is different, and not just because Bixby gives an exceptional performance even by his high standards. First, all of the previous potential cures were long shots. This time David genuinely comes close to a cure. In previous episodes, even if you forgot you were watching serialized TV, you'd never think David had a chance of being free of the Hulk. Second, the manner of the cure's loss is particularly tragic. It's not destroyed by contrivance, or failure, but by a wanton act of destruction by a creature who shouldn't even exist.

That creature is Dell Frye's Hulk. Frye is a perfect opposite number for the Hulk: Whereas Banner endlessly battles the destructive monster within himself and yearns to be rid of it, Frye embraces it and seeks to be infected with it again. In many ways, this episode parallels "Dark Side", but where evil Banner was a goofy cackling lunatic, Frye is genuinely menacing, purposeful, believable, and even sympathetic. I could do a five-page write-up on this episode, but rather than bore you with more of my comments I invite you to watch it yourself. It scores top marks in both superhero drama and human interest.
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Lab Rats: Parallel Universe (2013)
Season 2, Episode 8
3/10
Another trip into "Opposite Day" universe
30 November 2017
What would a sci fi television series be without an episode set in a parallel universe? Such episodes can be great ("Mirror, Mirror" from Star Trek is justifiably regarded as a classic) or poor. Usually the great ones have the differences in each character's double stem from a single cause or theme, while the poor ones tend to milk the "Everyone and everything is the opposite of what it was! How shocking!" theme. This ep definitely leans toward the latter category, though thankfully it's not too direct about it; for example, instead of just being straight-up brainy, Adam is an amateur philosopher.

On the bright side, parallel Principal Perry (say that three times fast) being a cuddly, lovable biddy is genuinely funny and cute, and parallel Davenport learning to believe in himself is a heartwarming character arc.

Overall, though, this seems like little more than an excuse for the main cast to stretch out into different roles for an episode, though to their credit they all pull it off smoothly and convincingly. The plot is thin at best, and even Leo's getting bionic powers feels completely unexciting due to weak scripting and an even weaker performance from Tyrel Jackson Williams.
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Lab Rats: The Rats Strike Back (2013)
Season 2, Episode 7
5/10
Imagine if real lab rats could go on strike
30 November 2017
Again we have Davenport showing his unblemished jerk side, and this time the plot is more involved than "Robot Fight Club". This is a good funny ep (with one notable exception: Who thought "NASA called, they want their nerd back" remotely approaches humor?), but the human side should have been developed more. Leo's feelings of inadequacy are a running theme of the series, so the fact that we get no emotional reaction from Leo when he finds out that Donald was just pretending to employ him as a test pilot to bluff the bionic siblings is a huge oversight. Again this series cuts out heart to make room for pie-in-the-face humor (in this case, a lame sequence in which an anti-grav belt flings Leo around the house).

So yeah, I've actually pointed out more unfunny bits than funny ones, but really, there's some good dialogue here, and I like that the ep throws in genuinely funny background touches without pointing them out, like Adam's "I'm so angry I made this sign" sign. Leo's friendship with the rats is dug into, albeit not as much as it could have been, and overall, as usual, this episode of Lab Rats entertains.
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Lab Rats: Leo vs. Evil (2013)
Season 2, Episode 10
4/10
Tasha, do you know what a bus is? That's B-U-S, bus...
30 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Finally we get some more of Marcus. This episode actually doesn't advance his plot line at all, but with the help of some very subtle sidestepping it feels a lot more significant than it actually is. And a trick like that is worthy of applause in my opinion.

Beyond that, it's exciting to see Leo genuinely all by himself in a dangerous situation, and more exciting to see him pull out of it. But... I dunno. The jokes in the Marcus vs. Leo bits are really flat (except for "That's a stapler." and the ensuing twist), and it's cringe-inducing when the rest of the family chalks up the whole adventure to Leo's imagination. Especially since there's an obvious logical explanation: Leo is lying to get Marcus in trouble.

The B plot, which involves a teleporter mishap that sends Tasha to Fresno, has weaker laughs and a big plot problem. Adam and Donald make some jokes which Bree and Chase deride as lame, a running gag which might have been funny if it weren't for the fact that every crack Bree and Chase make is just as dumb. The climactic twist is that Adam solves the problem by calling Tasha and telling her to take a bus home. Huh? So Tasha doesn't even know to use public transportation unless someone calls and tells her to? Suddenly some of the insults Eddy throws her way don't seem so misplaced.

Speaking of whom, Eddy's celebratory fanfare when Tasha is seemingly killed did actually earn an amused smile from me, but for the most part the B plot is insultingly dumb.
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Lab Rats: Spike's Got Talent (2013)
Season 2, Episode 9
4/10
This episode teaches kids that humiliating people is fun
30 November 2017
This episode sees the return of the long-absent Spike, but it's not a satisfying return. When Chase takes Leo's spot in a talent show, Leo uses a device to humiliate him, thus triggering the Commando App. Cue lots of remarkably dumb sequences where, after all the drama built around keeping the kids' bionics secret, no one bats an eye when Chase does stuff like smashing the drinking fountain and eating it. The writer tries to salvage some laughs by repeating the Spike vs. Principal Perry riff from Spike's first appearance, but the law of diminishing returns applies.

Worst of all, Leo's persistent cruelty to Chase in this episode is never addressed. I'm okay with an episode not having a moral message, but this effectively sends the anti-moral message that humiliating your peers can be done without consequence.

This ep also sees the return of Bree's boyfriend Owen, and this return is more effective. Owen's passionate artist personality makes a great basis for this ep's B plot, and his relationship with Bree is given more development. Even his unexpected bonding with Adam doesn't feel forced, and Bree's resulting jealousy is understandable even if it isn't commendable. Adam gets some good laughs here, too, mostly from the butter sculpture, though I'm personally fond of his vow to put Owen's "sketch of disappointment" on the fridge.
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Lab Rats: Robot Fight Club (2013)
Season 2, Episode 5
6/10
Never challenge your children to a toy-building competition
30 November 2017
This episode gives us two totally unconnected plots. The good news is, both of them work. Plot A has Chase and Leo going up against Donald in a build-your-own-robot competition. Surprisingly enough, the robot designs and bouts look reasonably authentic, but what really makes plot A succeed is how Donald is portrayed. In most episodes, we're given to understand that the guy is egotistical and often childish, but his actions reflect his noble fatherly instincts. Here, for a change, we get to see Donald being a total jerk. It's funny, shows a new side to the character, and makes his defeat extremely satisfying.

In Plot B, Bree carelessly uses her powers in front of her friend Caitlin, and she enlists Adam to cozy up to her and persuade her to keep quiet. I like how Bree exposes her powers out of sheer carelessness, rather than as a response to some contrived situation; it feels more natural and realistic. Without spoiling anything, the resolution to this problem is well-conceived and has a nice twist or two.

Not as funny as the last three episodes, but enjoyable.
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Lab Rats: Bro Down (2013)
Season 2, Episode 6
5/10
How to get a bully to stop
30 November 2017
In this ep, Plot A sees Adam losing all confidence after he gets hurt by a prank Chase pulls on him, while in Plot B Bree discovers her hidden ability is imitating other people's voices and uses it to get on Principal Perry's bad side. Both could have been done better but ultimately win my approval.

Plot A opens up the potential to explore the complex relationships between siblings: Chase cares about his brother and wants him back on the team, but realizes that restoring his confidence will allow Adam to go back to bullying him. That potential is more touched on than explored, and I really don't like how they try to make Adam's physical abuse of Chase into a joke. That said, there is at least a smidge of real heart in this plot thread, and Adam's climactic resolution to stop thinking got a sincere laugh out of me, a laugh that drew equally from humor and the lovableness of Adam's character.

The requisite lip-syncing of Plot B is often inadequate. More crucially, I can't buy that Bree's uninspired pranks would fool anyone as well as they do. However, this is redeemed by the hilarious final act, in which Bree combines her speed and voice mimicry to hold up two sides of a phone call. Davenport's unexplained appearance at the school is a huge plot hole, but not enough to sink this portion of the ep.
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Lab Rats: Speed Trapped (2013)
Season 2, Episode 1
4/10
A good case against self-locking doors on cars
30 November 2017
This episode is really uneven. The core plot is nothing but high points: Davenport building a self-driving sports car fits well with his comically vain personality, the way Marcus sets Leo up for his demise is inspired, the multiple methods which the bionic siblings devise to save Leo are inventive and exciting, and Marcus's big reveal towards the end is well-played. Plus, I really love that kid's eyebrows.

Around the edges, though, there's a lot of stupidity. For starters, I don't get how cutting off the bionic siblings from all social activities is supposed to avert further incursions into Davenport's lab. If anything, that's bound to make the three of them look **more** suspicious, and it's just absurd that they accept Leo as their chaperone with no real objections. Nor does it make sense that Marcus drops by for no more reason than to check on Leo, much less that he would let slip that he tried to kill him while doing so.

Then there's the side plot: Donald and Tasha are having their first anniversary, and Eddy is jealous. The whole thing is just an excuse for Eddy to throw lots of insults at Tasha, few of which are even close to being genuinely funny. For that matter, the episode as a whole frequently falls flat on the laughs. The plot is more serious than a typical Lab Rats episode, but that's no excuse for the numerous times that the laugh track goes off without there being any joke.

Still, the ep has its value. You'll cringe at the laugh track, but stay for the drama.
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The Incredible Hulk: Triangle (1981)
Season 5, Episode 5
2/10
Find a cure for the Hulk? Sorry, my goal now is "get the girl".
30 November 2017
What we have here is a story which would have not only fit in pretty much any TV drama, it would have fit in almost any of them better than in the Hulk: Our hero falls in love with a small town girl named Gale, Gale is also lusted over by a man who "owns the town", he takes Gale prisoner and tries to get rid of our hero.

There are two big problems with this plot (and that's in addition to its lack of credibility and having been done to death). First, David courting a woman, as I've said before, makes him look callous and selfish. Unlike "Married", the scenes of David's romance with Gale provide no excuse for him getting involved with her, nor any sense of a strong personal connection between them. He apparently just wanted to get laid and didn't care who got hurt. Second, there's no drama. We know the villain wouldn't actually hurt Gale, he has no chance of hurting the Hulk, and no one else bothers to get involved. There's absolutely nothing at stake for the entire episode, and therefore nothing to get excited about.

McGee's first and only appearance of season 5 is a total waste. There's a lot of build-up with him investigating the Hulk's appearance, trying to interview the villain, and following a car which has David in it, but it's all abruptly dropped before it amounts to anything. One second McGee is in hot pursuit - the next, that's the last we've heard of him. Seriously.

Writer Andrew Schneider (in his final Hulk script) threw in a climactic plot twist which is both genuinely shocking and makes the basic plot more credible than in other productions. The trouble is, it's left to the end. The episode therefore fails to deal with the fallout of this twist, and even makes the laughable implication that it somehow resolves the entire problem. Equally laughable is the part when the villain's hoods inexplicably attack David when his ride drops him off. This episode is a horrendous, ill-conceived mess, like an unfinished first draft which got shuffled in with the shooting scripts by mistake.
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The Incredible Hulk: A Minor Problem (1982)
Season 5, Episode 7
9/10
Post-apocalyptic Hulk
30 November 2017
I love post-apocalyptic science fiction. Among other things, there's something compelling about the idea of wandering through empty towns, going wherever you like and touching whatever you like, with the mingled blessing and curse of being forever alone. Though most often the protagonist isn't totally alone, and once he finds that out there's the poignant drama that results from the fact that every human being is that much more important for being one of the few around.

Post-apocalyptic science fiction wouldn't work on The Incredible Hulk, of course. It would be too drastic a revision of the status quo, even as the final episode. But this ep manages to incorporate most of the essential elements of post-apocalyptic science fiction without an actual near-extinction of humankind.

The opening act is quietly atmospheric, full of understated mystery and desolation, and given that this ended up being the final episode of the series, the fact that there is no dialogue for the first 7 minutes is a nice echo of the first pilot. It's altogether eerie and marvelous. And once the rest of the cast starts popping up, the plot moves along at a good pace, and a deadly disease keeps the stakes high and the clock ticking. It's good sci fi drama, something we rarely saw in this series despite its premise.

The one major problem with this ep is that the climactic action sequence is painfully drawn out, to the point where you can feel the director trying desperately to fill in the hour. A menacing final rampage for the Hulk only somewhat makes up for this. Even so, this tale of a handful of desperate people fighting each other in an uninhabited town makes for an undeniably strong closing episode for the series.
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The Incredible Hulk: Slaves (1982)
Season 5, Episode 6
3/10
An embarrassing mis-stab at racial issues
30 November 2017
Here's a bizarre one, and not in a good or humorous way, but in a cringe-inducing way. While trekking in the middle of nowhere, David and a pretty young lady are abducted and put to work as "slaves" in a mine for a black escaped convict named Isaac and an ex-prison guard. Seems Isaac has some grudge against white people, though we're never told what it is, despite getting quite a bit of his backstory.

Well, that's fair enough. We all know that black people can be treated unfairly, and that some of them respond with reverse racism, even when the mistreatment isn't racist in nature. But taking out one's frustrations on innocent people is one thing; trying to recreate a system that hasn't been legal for over a hundred years is just coo-coo (not to mention hugely disrespectful to the people who suffered under slavery). The fact that the script casts Isaac as perfectly sane is poor characterization, and an awkward misunderstanding of racial issues.

Also, a very abrupt time-jump in the middle of the episode implies that David and his lady friend are "enslaved" for months. It's hard to swallow that David lets this go on without even once trying to provoke a transformation into the Hulk. This wouldn't be the first time he ignored the potential benefits of a Hulk-out, but it surely is the most ridiculous one. Done under the right circumstances, the Hulk could have been a guaranteed ticket to freedom at any time.

We get some painfully over-the-top acting, with only Bixby, Ferrigno, and Grant coming away with their dignity intact. Scenes which are supposed to be frightening induce only uncomfortable laughter. A few points save this episode from being a complete disaster: the Hulk-outs are just fine, and David allowing his friends to think him dead at the end is a brutally honest take on David's tragic situation. But these points don't make this worth watching.
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The Incredible Hulk: Sanctuary (1981)
Season 5, Episode 4
9/10
The New Preacher
30 November 2017
It's nice to see that even in season 5, the writers still hadn't run out of fresh ideas for the series. This time David is working as a handyman at a mission, where a wounded young illegal immigrant shows up, on the run from the local crime boss, Patrero. The head of the mission, the strong-willed Sister Anita, persuades David to impersonate a visiting priest so that Patrero will be afraid to make a move on the mission.

Religious themes have had a role in this series before, most prominently in the atrocious "Babalao", and it's a pleasure to see how well-handled they are in this episode. Certainly, it could be argued that the townspeople's seeing the Hulk as a miracle is condescending to religious people, but I don't think it is, not when you've taken into account the fact that no one in the series can produce a scientific explanation for the Hulk, or even believe he exists until they've seen him. The actors treat the roles of clerical and lay believers with respect, and more importantly, the episode really digs into the religious subject matter. You come away with a thing or two to mull over.

The acting is above par. Diana Muldaur is absolutely superb as Sister Anita, though I question the casting choice; I can guess why TV series often reuse guest stars, but having the actress of such a key role as the protagonist's sister show up in a different role is risky. Henry Darrow also does a fine job as Patrero, who is given a refreshing level of depth and personality. The subtle political sparring between Patrero, Anita, and David is quite involving, and the strong ideological conflict behind it takes things to the next level.

Beyond that, David masquerading as a priest feels appropriate given his history of doing good, and during his climactic sermon it is strongly hinted that he would be effective in taking on the vocation for real. I do wish this aspect had been explored more, but that it is explored at all is worthy of applause. "Sanctuary" definitely rates as one of the series's most memorable and effective episodes.
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The Incredible Hulk: The Phenom (1981)
Season 5, Episode 1
7/10
Ballgame Fun
30 November 2017
Seasons 2 and 4 kicked off with a movie-length episode with a relatively hefty budget and a big concept to hook viewers in. Season 5 settles for a regular-length, regular-budget opening with the more subtle distinction of being more fun than the average episode. Though I'm sure most would disagree, I'll gladly take that over a flashy but contrived and sluggish episode like "Prometheus".

This time David hooks up with an aspiring ball player named Joe. A crooked agent sets his sights on Joe. And we're off! Admittedly, there's a huge amount of silliness here. David hangs on simply because Joe wants moral support. Joe says it was the Hulk smashing into the room and wrecking havoc that clued him in to the fact that his new girlfriend was conning him. The villain's thugs resort to violence so quickly that you'd think they were on a tight schedule. And so on. Also, great an actor as Dick O'Neill is, it's weird to see him reprise the "drunken reprobate who redeems himself" bit so soon after "Fast Lane".

And yet, I didn't mind any of the silliness that much. Maybe it's because unlike the vast majority of the series, "The Phenom" is emphatically a "fun" episode rather than a "serious" episode. If nothing else, the brilliantly goofy sequence in which the Hulk hits one out of the ballpark makes that abundantly clear.

What makes this episode special to me is David's new response to his lot in life. Always before, he seemed quite happy to help others out with their personal problems. Which is great, because we need role models like that, and they're all too rare in modern television. But in this episode, David actually tries to avoid getting involved with other people's hang-ups, and when he fails, he takes on the task of Good Samaritan with a weary resignation that this is his lot in life. While this could have been dry, Bixby's delivery makes it humorous, charming, and utterly human.
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The Incredible Hulk: Two Godmothers (1981)
Season 5, Episode 2
6/10
Chris say prison break Hulk, but Chris wrong! Hulk break prison! Rrrraaaagh!
30 November 2017
David's doing a laundry pick-up at a women's prison when three escaped inmates use him as their getaway lorry. Needless to say, David's fugitive status makes this quite a problem, made all the worse by the fact that one of the escapees is about nine months pregnant.

It's hard for me to sort out my thoughts on this episode. There are a lot of good moments, but they all spring out of a plot that is sometimes contrived to the point of being forced. The best example of this is the breakout ringleader Barbara. More than once she threatens to kill an innocent person, and we're given no reason to believe that she's bluffing. She leads the group (including the pregnant woman) right into a military blasting zone (by the way, what the heck is that doing in the middle of the road to the next town?), and shows a general recklessness with her companions' lives. Her about-face at the climax is thus not only unconvincing, but nonsensical. And yet, I can't deny that the final scene with Barbara and Sandra knitting baby clothes for their co-conspirator is endearing.

The action scenes here are superb. The Hulk taking on a rain of boulders is a new one for the series, and well-executed. The showdown with the police and wound-too-tight warden is thrilling and plays out naturally, without undue melodrama.

Ultimately, I liked this episode. While the interactions between David and the three inmates don't logically lead up to the "two godmothers" paradigm on which the episode ends, it makes for good drama, and the whole episode is full of engaging viewing so long as you keep disbelief suspended.
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The Incredible Hulk: Veteran (1981)
Season 5, Episode 3
8/10
Shell-shocked
30 November 2017
In retrospect, it's surprising that a series which is pretty much based around having a new character with inner demons every episode has yet to cover a shell-shocked war veteran. Fortunately, this predictable premise doesn't follow a predictable plot line, and while the climactic plot twist is very similar to one in a certain season 2 episode, it's played well and the episode doesn't rest too heavily upon it.

Things start typically enough: David rescues our veteran (Paul Koslo, in a role very different from the one he played in season 3's "Long Run Home", and one he does equally well) from a mugging and has him rest inside for a few minutes, and they get to know each other a little. But from there things take a different and ugly turn, as David later realizes the vet was carrying a rifle, and is aiming to assassinate a politician who was in his squad in Vietnam.

The vet takes over a dance studio occupied by only its student-less instructor, taking her prisoner. The dialogues in the studio are quite silly, as yes, the instructor develops feelings for him (though at least they stop short of explicitly defining those feelings). Despite this, Koslo's effective performance as a mentally unhinged guy who is still trying to do the right thing makes these scenes pretty gripping to watch.

This is a Nicholas Corea script, which as always means a few fantastical elements: David is interrogated by the politician's underling using what looks like a stethoscope hooked up to a control panel from a 1950s sci-fi b-movie. But though the episode takes a few odd turns, throughout it all you genuinely root for the vet to do the right thing, and that makes for both consistently intense drama and real heart. Add in two splendidly handled Hulk-outs, and you have an episode which is somewhat uneven in the details but nonetheless hits in all the places it counts.
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The Incredible Hulk: Half Nelson (1981)
Season 4, Episode 16
8/10
Little People and Really Big People
30 November 2017
This ep, a chance encounter ends with David staying under the roof of a little person named Buster. (I still don't get why people with dwarfism prefer the term little people over midgets. If I had that condition, I sure wouldn't like being compared to one-inch-tall creatures from Irish folklore.) Buster is something of a compulsive liar, and boasts to his acquaintances that David is fencing money for him from a well-publicized heist. This gets them in trouble with the crooks who pulled the heist, since the money is now missing.

The gangsters plot is boringly routine, but "Half Nelson" shines with its handling of dwarfism. The key scene is when Buster brings David along to a party, only to find David is the only person there over four feet tall. Buster has a bit of a row with the hostess over this, and his contention that people shouldn't limit their friends to people of the same height seems just. But the hostess points out to David that things are different for little people, like it or not. "Half Nelson"'s honest and complex look at the struggles faced by little people makes it all the more unacceptable that shows like the Simpsons (in the episode "Eeny Teeny Maya Moe") took such a shallow handling of the issue more than 25 years after this aired.

The episode isn't trying to set people with dwarfism as a race apart, either. Buster is as well-characterized as an individual as he is as a little person, and as David points out near the end, the inner demons he faces are just variations of ones that all humans face.

To top it off, there's a terrific encounter between Banner and McGee in which David amusingly tries to pass himself off as one of Buster's fellow wrestlers. "Half Nelson" mostly fails on the action/drama front, but undeniably succeeds on the human front.
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The Incredible Hulk: Interview with the Hulk (1981)
Season 4, Episode 15
3/10
The next best thing to a clip show episode
30 November 2017
Previous reviewers seems to regard this as a great episode, and I can see why. It's McGee-heavy, which lends it the illusion of continuing the series plot as well as giving Jack Colvin ample opportunity to strut his underutilized acting chops. The drama is high, and reporter Emerson Fletcher paralleling his life story to the Hulk adds thematic validity. This ep undoubtedly carried far more impact when the series first aired than it ever can now, as a rerun.

But while I understand the popular opinion, I can't agree. I've often said of an episode that I found more to like about it upon second viewing, but in this case, the opposite is true; watching "Interview with the Hulk" again has convinced me that it is not slightly overrated, but grossly overrated. When you get down to it, the plot is simply "McGee finds the Hulk (again). The Hulk eludes McGee (again)." So how do they fill the running time? With Emerson Fletcher, a National Register reporter who gets a few days lead on McGee and interviews David. This provides an excuse for lots of clips of previous eps and flashbacks from Fletcher's trite and contrived story about his dead daughter. Heck, *everything* about Fletcher is contrived; if you're hoping for a satisfying explanation for how a respected scientist became a tabloid journalist, forget it. The premise is that scientific research and newspaper journalism are basically the same thing.

Moreover, the timeline is perplexing. A comment from McGee at the end gives an estimate of the episode's overall time frame, but how long certain events took and why remains a mystery. Then there's Stella, a character so ludicrously cartoonish that she recalls the series's worst bits. Only Bixby's profoundly moving delivery keeps this ep from being a complete waste of time.
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The Incredible Hulk: Patterns (1981)
Season 4, Episode 18
4/10
Sewing up the fourth season
30 November 2017
This time David works in a garment factory. The owner Sam, at the end of his financial rope, turns to some loan sharks in order to pay for his fashion designer daughter's big fashion show. For collateral, he points them in David's direction, which leads to David once again getting pummeled by gangsters while he repeatedly protests "I have no idea what you're talking about!" Yep, this is an utterly routine episode. The garment factory setting is new, but the plot structure eerily recalls earlier Hulk outings. And with episodes like "The Harder They Fall" and "The First" breaking from the usual gangster plot line with such great success, it's getting harder and harder to accept episodes like this.

The episode is also a little thin on credibility. While the dialogue does a surprisingly good job of giving a rationale for why the loan sharks would blow up Sam's factory when he is mere hours from getting the means to pay them off, it's still hard to swallow. What loan shark would blow up his chance at $15,000 plus interest just because not doing so might hurt his street cred? For that matter, what loan shark would get into fisticuffs in a public place for no possible benefit? These crooks just aren't too bright, it seems.

For all that, though, I couldn't help but enjoy this episode, mainly because the acting is solid all around, with Eddie Barth (Sam) and (of course) Bill Bixby being exceptionally strong. And the bug-eyed looks the villains give the Hulk are absolutely priceless. Long story short, though this is routine, it's mostly entertaining routine. Not recommended for the average viewer, but if you really like the Hulk then you can't afford to skip this particular installment.
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The Incredible Hulk: Danny (1981)
Season 4, Episode 17
4/10
Who needs a gun when you've got a tractor?
30 November 2017
This one gave me high hopes. It hooks you from the get-go as a bloodied young man is frantically running from two mysterious men with guns. Later, when the title character is introduced, the mother-and-child themes brought up are powerful ones.

Ultimately, though, there's very little to say about this episode. Early on the villain, Nat, is hinted to be an overbearing but ultimately well-meaning man who is on the wrong side of the law as a matter of chance and circumstance rather than inclination. About 1/3 of the way in he's suddenly cast as a mindless sociopath who does evil for the sake of doing evil, a jarring shift which makes him one-dimensional to the point of being outright silly. The silliness climaxes when Nat, rather than shooting the heroes, tosses aside his gun and go gets a tractor to slowly pile dirt on them. Seriously. And no, they are not unconscious at this point.

However, those looking for good unintentional laughs should look elsewhere. Whether it's the uncomfortable sight of Nat slapping around Danny's mom or the dreary feeling that just about everything here has already been done in previous episodes of The Incredible Hulk, it seems impossible to muster a laugh at "Danny".

The episode does stir up a few strong moments, particularly the scenes in which David drives with baby Danny (great work from Bixby once again), but ultimately it's enough to push it into "worth watching" territory.
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The Incredible Hulk: The Harder They Fall (1981)
Season 4, Episode 14
9/10
Paralytic Hulk
30 November 2017
After an offbeat two-parter like "The First", you might expect a back-to-basics, formulaic episode. Nope. This episode opens with a car accident which leaves David paralyzed, a condition his doctor believes he will never recover from. David lapses into self-pity, and a wheelchair-bound counselor named Paul strives to bring him out. Cue lots of quiet scenes with David coming to grips with his new condition.

Sound boring? I thought it did, but a heartfelt script and presentation elevates this seemingly clichéd tale of learning to live with a handicap to a new level. Nor did writer Nancy Faulkner (sadly, this is her only "Hulk" script) forget about the Hulk, as proved in a no-dialogue scene which, through a combination of flashbacks and Bill Bixby's evocative acting, poignantly conveys Banner's temptation to turn into the Hulk and thus cure his legs, as well as his reason for resisting. For all the advantages being the Hulk has shown, this is the first scene in the series where David considers transforming on purpose. It's worth the wait.

Inevitably, though, Banner does become the Hulk again, and the Hulk's childlike frustration at being crippled surely ranks as one of Lou Ferrigno's best performances. Things get more interesting as Paul proves to be not so enlightened and adjusted to his paralysis as he led David - and himself - to believe. It's a thought-provoking twist which is played well, save for the climax, which stretches credibility a little to provide an excuse for some Hulk action.

Still, they had to find some way for the Hulk to kick some butt, and in any case one misstep does not take away from this episode's moving depiction of the inherent vulnerability of all human beings, even big heroes like David and Paul.
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The Incredible Hulk: Wax Museum (1981)
Season 4, Episode 10
4/10
Hallucinations
30 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
It's funny how just one or two moments, if sufficiently silly, can completely break the spell of an otherwise mesmerizing episode. David is helping prepare a wax museum for its grand reopening after a fire damaged it and killed the owner. The place is now run by the man's daughter Leigh, who is troubled by hallucinations and guilt over her father's death.

The plot moves along well, Leigh's hallucinations are quite creepy, and the villain is most disturbing. He's so convincingly human and likable, both in the script and in his portrayal by veteran actor Max Showalter, that the revelation that he is orchestrating Leigh's troubles hits like a punch to the gut. At the end we find that his motives don't fit his actions at all, but up until then he makes a chillingly insidious villain.

The first bit of silliness is when Leigh unveils her latest wax figure, of David. Not wanting his likeness on public display, David convinces her to dress it in pirate gear. A clever problem with a satisfying solution... but presumably due to budget restrictions, the "wax figure" is first represented by Bill Bixby standing still, then by a real wax figure with absolutely no resemblance to David.

This scene might be overlooked, but there's a sillier moment. The villain has Leigh hopped up on LSD, bashes David in the head right in front of her, then tells her she did it. With Leigh convulsing and flipping out at LSD-induced visions, he hands her a contract agreeing to the sale of the museum and says, "Here, sign this." Showalter doesn't even bother trying to make this seem less absurd than it is. This ep is captivating for a good while, but the villain's inconsistent motives and bizarrely haphazard plans ultimately make it hard to take seriously.
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The Incredible Hulk: The First: Part 1 (1981)
Season 4, Episode 12
9/10
The Man Who Found the Cure
30 November 2017
This one opens with a generic (though beautifully filmed) horror movie sequence: Some naughty teenagers are driving through a storm when their car breaks down, they wander into the abandoned house nearby and split up (because hey, why not?), and one of them is gruesomely murdered. The story picks up a year later with David looking into the house's late owner, a brilliant radiologist who he suspects turned himself into the Hulk-like creature who manifested in town after one of his experiments. And the more David investigates, the more he finds to suggest that the radiologist found a cure for himself before he died.

This is a solid hook, and writer Andrew Schneider provides enough twists and characterizations to make this a satisfying episode on its own rather than a drawn-out teaser for part 2. The one minus is that the murder of the teenager is never explained, neither here nor in part 2. We learn who killed him, but not why, and the killer had no conceivable motive.

The final twist deserves special mention, since though the episode provides a less-than-subtle hint to it early on, it really hits hard. Yet even this is inevitably overshadowed by the debut appearance of the TV Hulk's first superpowered foe. The creators spared no expense on this ugly, with an utterly horrifying transformation sequence, posturing which recalls the Hulk's own muscle-flexing, and even a warped rearrangement of the Hulk's musical theme. As the episode closes, you really can't wait to watch part 2 so you can see the two superbeings meet.

An all-around excellent mystery with answers which are both satisfying and startling, this episode is definite must viewing, and provides the framework for its sequel installment, which is even better.
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The Incredible Hulk: East Winds (1981)
Season 4, Episode 11
5/10
Noir Hulk, Round Two
30 November 2017
This is Jack Colvin's second and final episode as director, and like his first it's classic film noir: gangsters, hidden gold, an aging cop, and an exotic lost love. Which is curious, because where "Goodbye Eddie Cain" was written by Nicholas Corea, this ep is the final writing credit of the series for Jill Sherman (co-writer with Karen Harris of such gems as "The Beast Within", "Stop the Presses", and "The Psychic", as well as dreck like "The Quiet Room").

Karen Harris's last script was also a solo one, and she went out on a strong note with "King of the Beach". Her partner doesn't fare as well; "East Winds" has a solid plot, compelling characters, and some fine acting (the mob boss is Richard Loo in his last acting job), but it's not a strong *Hulk* episode. The Hulk saves the day twice, both good action sequences, but our main man David is sidelined. Bixby does get to strut his chops in a hilarious scene where David receives a mail-order bride (trust me, it makes sense in context), but despite his apartment being the gold's hiding place, David is essentially uninvolved with either the gangster plot or the characters' personal issues. The aging cop solves everything himself.

This episode also suffers from a horrendously slow beginning and some unclear filming, but both those problems are swallowed by the plot's building momentum and great acting. It's just that it feels like this episode was written for another series, then repurposed for The Incredible Hulk with David Banner shoehorned in.

Let me reemphasize, though, that this episode is good television. It's just not very good Hulk, with the exception of the aging cop's parting words to David. Simple as they are, they very nearly brought tears to my face.
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The Incredible Hulk: King of the Beach (1981)
Season 4, Episode 9
8/10
Reaching for a Dream
30 November 2017
David's a cook again, at a beachside place this time. There he meets an attractive con artist named Mandy, who sets her sights on his burly, mostly deaf coworker Carl, played by our good friend Lou Ferrigno. Mandy thinks Carl is a shoe-in for an upcoming bodybuilding competition with a $3,000 prize.

I'll admit I had my doubts, but Ferrigno more than pulls his weight with both roles this ep. You couldn't ask for a more human and sympathetic supporting character. The compulsively dishonest Mandy gets more and more endearing as the episode progresses, to the point where it's utterly gratifying to see a romance develop between her and Carl, and while said romance isn't particularly well-developed, the actors make it convincing.

As usual, the episode provides a few thugs for the Hulk to stomp on, but the story treats the villains as merely a side show to the main event, which is the evolving relationships between David, Carl, and Mandy, and their struggles to make Carl's dreams a reality. Such well-conceived focus on the human characters over their predicaments really make this episode. And the Hulk's reaction to the audience attention at the bodybuilding contest is unquestionably worth a view.
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