The Real Reason The Daredevil Spinoff Of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ Never Went To Series In The 90s Is Surprising

The Daredevil-right
Rex Smith in the best Daredevil costume a TV budget can afford at the time in The Trial of The Incredible Hulk (1989), NBC

Daredevil was one of the characters shoehorned into an Incredible Hulk TV movie as a back-door pilot. Though the attempt was as futile as the one made for Thor a year earlier, the reason The Trial of The Incredible Hulk never spawned a series for The Man Without Fear had nothing to do with the quality of the movie.

Bill Bixby has to avoid conflict as David Banner in The Trial of The Incredible Hulk (1989), NBC

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As a matter of fact, a Daredevil show starring Rex Smith as Matt Murdock and John Rhys-Davies as Wilson Fisk was being developed by NBC until it ran into interference. This revelation came from Smith who got candid in recent years and busted the myth of the prevailing wisdom.

“It was not just a guest star thing for film. This whole effort was a springboard for a series for the Daredevil,” he explained to IGN a few years ago. This would have beaten Netflix to the punch by decades no matter how faithful the series was to the source material, but it was not to be.

Kingpin Davies
John Rhys-Davies chews scenery as Kingpin in The Trial of The Incredible Hulk (1989), NBC

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What caused the turnaround in fortunes is the last thing anyone would expect and, in a bizarre twist, it involves The Flash. There wasn’t a Flashpoint event that wiped the series from our timeline, but the reality is almost as strange.

CBS, the home of the short-lived Flash program starring John Wesley Shipp, felt they had competition in Daredevil on the horizon so they went behind Smith and company’s collective backs.

Hulk break
Lou Ferrigno is out of order as Hulk in The Trial of The Incredible Hulk (1989), NBC

“I hear from my agent,” said the former hitmaker Smith. “He goes, ‘We have a problem.’ I go, ‘What kind of problem?’ He goes, ‘Well, [CBS] bought your contract for Daredevil, because they’re coming out with The Flash and they don’t want the competition. So NBC sold your contract.'”

“They wanted to have the only superhero show,” Smith continued. “So Flash got it and Daredevil got buried. But what a strange twist of events, isn’t it?” When the rival series and network that buried you gets canceled after one season, absolutely.

Shipp would finish his story on The CW years later, but the 1990 Flash was an expensive endeavor for the time plagued by frequent time slot changes.

John Wesley Shipp in a Flash
John Wesley Shipp as Jay Garrick in The Flash via The CW

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Smith added, “I’m glad to be able to let people know. And also let them know that, this thing, every intent of it was to bring to television the Daredevil. And we’ll never know how that could have gone.”

“We were so excited, John and I both,” he continued, noting NBC’s ambitions. “He was signed on for the series too, to be my Moriarty for Sherlock Holmes. There’d be other baddies, but the real baddie that always had his hand in it was going to be John.”

Gerald Di Pego, the writer of The Trial and later The Death of The Incredible Hulk, backed up Rex Smith’s account.

“The whole reason to do [the 1980s Hulk] movies was not just to show the Hulk again, but to bring in the other universe characters. So if you’re going to bring in Daredevil and Kingpin, you’re certainly not going to put them in jail or kill them off,” he said.

NEXT: Marvel’s ‘She-Hulk’ Star Tatiana Maslany Says Second Season Is Unlikely: “I Think We Blew Our Budget And Disney Was Like, ‘No Thanks’”

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