Before the Hulk was being played by Mark Ruffalo, and of course a lot of CGI We was portrayed by two actors. Bill Bixby who played David Banner, not Bruce because the creators didn’t want it to be too comic book like. Yes I’m serious. The Hulk was played by Lou Ferrigno. David would go from town to town doing odd jobs, and something would happen that would make him turn into the Hulk. He was always being chased by a reporter who thought the Hulk killed Banner. It was great for its time, not so much now in my opinion. However it was a ratings hit and it even spawned three made for tv movies after the show ended. The second one of those, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk was actually a back door pilot for a Daredevil show. That’s, never happened, and I personally am not sad about that.
You see the bad guy in the film was Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin. The Kingpin, a hulking big bald guy was played by John Rhys-Davies, yes from Indian Jones fame. This Kingpin was slightly overweight with a full head of slicked back hair and a beard. The Kingpin runs this town that David has wandered into but luckily for the citizens its protected by Matt Murdock aka The Daredevil. David stops one of the Kingpins goons and is arrested. Luckily Matt Murdock is a blind defense attorney and he is assigned David’s case. David tells Matt he’s The Hulk so they team up to fight the Kingpin. Luckily in this version Daredevil has friends on the police force who give him tips. Rex Smith portrayed Daredevil who looked nothing like the comic character when He was Matt Murdock, or Daredevil for that matter. In fact he dressed like a ninja. No red outfit, not even the old school yellow outfit, nope all black, like a ninja because Ninjas were still very popular back then. He didn’t even wear the red sunglasses when he was Matt Murdock.
They save the day but The Kingpin escapes. Banner skips town to continue looking for a cure but Daredevil stays to protect the city and continue to fight the Kingpin. Anyway Daredevil, who in this version does not live in Hells Kitchen, in fact he lives in a nice house out in the country somewhere. There was no Foggy Nelson or Karen Page introduced in the pilot, but there was a character called Christa Klein who was basically a combination of the two. In fact Nelson and Murdock didn’t exist at all. Matt had a decent sized practice called Murdock and Klein. He was also buddies with the police captain, Tendelli who was the only honest cop on the force, as the rest were in the kingpins pocket. He gives Daredevil, who he named as well a burner cell phone to feed him tips on crimes the Kingpins men are committing.
Daredevil was not trained by Stick in this, oh no. He taught himself Gymnastics and basic karate. He has an entire workout room in his house where he trains. He has the super heightened senses from the comics, but that’s pretty much it. I mean to be fair they kept the fact his dad was a boxer who was killed by crooks when he didn’t take a dive in a fight. They kept the fact he saved a guy from being hit by a truck containing toxic waste that ended up blinding him and giving him his super senses. But the rest was basically changed. No Hells Kitchen, no stick, no Foggy, no Karen, no costume, nothing. His super sense is presented in a green type lighting so we at home can get the sonar look and feel. He does fight with his trademark baton which was a plus. In fact I will give credit the fight choreography was actually very good for its time. Nothing like the Netflix show starring Charlie Cox, but above average for a made for TV movie in 1989.
General audience thought it was ok, although comic book fans like myself hated it, but we never have been the target audience. Sorry, but to this day us comic readers still are not the target audience. The Trial of the Incredible Hulk was a ratings hit. In fact it spawned a sequel, Death of the Incredible Hulk, that was a ratings bomb so there were no more follow ups films, although two more were planned. There are a handful of theories why Daredevil was not picked up, most center around the fact that the Tim Burton Batman film hit later that year and the studio wanted to go a more traditional route. I mean the Hulk show was changed dramatically from the comic books. To me that theory never made sense though. Rex Smith even signed a contract to continue playing Daredevil but it never happened. Fans like myself waiting until 2003 for the Ben Affleck film, which was not exactly well received by fans either. Luckily in 2015 we got the perfect treatment with the Netflix Daredevil Series starring Charlie Cox, that got everything correct. Sadly the show was cancelled but the rumors of him returning to the Marvel Universe as well as Vincent D’Onofrio as the Kingpin going with him seem likely to happen.
So there you have it. Daredevil was originally going to be a show all the way back in 1989. It just never happened. But you can watch The Trail of the Incredible Hulk if you want to see the early version in action, its currently streaming fee on Tubi.