The Amazing Spider-Man (TV series)

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The Amazing Spider-Man
Created by Alvin Boretz
Based on Spider-Man
by Stan Lee
Steve Ditko
Starring Nicholas Hammond
Michael Pataki
Robert F. Simon
Ellen Bry
Chip Fields
Irene Tedrow
Composer(s) Stu Phillips
Dana Kaproff
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 13 (List of episodes)
Running time 1 hour
Production company(s) Charles Fries Productions
Dan Goodman Productions
Distributor Paramount Television
Original channel CBS
Original run April 19, 1978 – July 6, 1979
Preceded by Spidey Super Stories
Followed by Spider-Man (Toei TV series)

The Amazing Spider-Man is the first live-action TV series based on the popular comic book The Amazing Spider-Man, not counting Spider-Man's appearances on the educational The Electric Company series, and was shown in the USA between 1977-1979.[1] It consisted of 13 episodes, which included a pilot movie in the fall of 1977. None of the episodes are available on DVD, but almost all of them have been released on VHS. Despite being set in New York City, the series was mostly filmed in Los Angeles.

Series run on CBS and criticism[edit]

The cast of Spider-Man

The series began as a backdoor pilot in the form of a two-hour film known simply as Spider-Man which aired in September 1977. In it, university student Peter Parker gains super powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider and uses his new super powers to get a job at the Daily Bugle and stop a con man who is using mind control. In the pilot J. Jonah Jameson was played by actor David White and subsequently replaced with Robert F. Simon for the weekly series.

The series was then picked up for a limited series of five episodes, which aired at the end of the season in April and May 1978. This run of episodes debuted very well, with the first obtaining a 22.8 rating with 16.6 million viewers, making it the best rated program for the week on CBS, and the eighth best rated program for the week overall.[2] The series ended up being the 19th best rated show of the season. However, CBS was reluctant to commit to a regular time slot for the 1978-79 season[3] as Spider-Man was expensive to produce[4] and lagged in the lucrative adult demographic ratings. Instead, CBS took the more cautious approach of optioning the episodes on a sporadic basis and deliberately placing it on the schedule to drain the ratings of specific competing shows at key times. Former Six Million Dollar Man producer Lionel Siegel took over production duties for the second season and made deliberate changes to attempt to grow the adult audience. These included dropping the character of Captain Barbera; adding the character of Julie Masters as a love interest for Peter; creating more down-to-earth plots; and toning down Spider-Man's powers slightly to make him more accessible.[5] The second season of seven episodes was to air sporadically through the 1978-79 TV season.[6] The show was officially cancelled after that. Reportedly, one of the problems was that CBS was cautious about being labeled the "superhero network", as it was airing other comic book content including The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Captain America and Doctor Strange. Another problem was that in spite of the show's popularity, fans were highly critical of the series[7] for the changes made to the comic book storyline and the lack of any real "supervillains".

In addition, Spider-Man creator Stan Lee disliked the show, and was vocal about his dissatisfaction with it. He once said in an interview for Pizzazz magazine that he felt the series was "too juvenile" - a controversial statement given his credit as script consultant on each episode.[8]

Spider-Man and the Twin Towers

The show has so far featured the only live-action appearance of Peter Parker's spider-tracer tracking devices, which are prominently featured in several episodes throughout the series.

Shooting Spider-Man at Cal-Tech from "The Curse of Rava"

Revival attempts[edit]

In the mid-1980s and early 1990s, two attempts were reportedly made to recreate an Amazing Spider-Man live-action television series. The first one would have had the original cast team-up with the cast from The Incredible Hulk[9] television series.

This was part of a plan to have several television movies featuring the Incredible Hulk and various Marvel Comics characters (three had already been aired, the first with Thor, the second with Daredevil, while the announced She-Hulk did not appear in the third).

Reportedly, this attempt finally fell through when Bill Bixby died of cancer in 1993. A second attempt would have been an entirely new series that never got beyond preproduction because the networks wanted to make Spider-Man into a mutant.[citation needed]

Cast and crew[edit]

The only characters besides Peter Parker to appear regularly in both the television series and comics were J. Jonah Jameson and Aunt May. Joe "Robbie" Robertson (played by Hilly Hicks) also appeared but only in the pilot. A different actress played Aunt May each time she appeared.

In both these incarnations, J. Jonah Jameson's abrasive, flamboyant personality was toned down and the character was portrayed as more avuncular.

Regular cast[edit]


Season 2 title for the Spider-Man series.


Season 1: 1978[edit]

No. in
No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
1 1 "The Amazing Spider-Man" E.W. Swackhamer Alvin Boretz September 19, 1977

University student Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and decides to use his super powers to stop an evil New Age guru that is turning law abiding citizens into criminals through mind control.

This pilot TV-movie was released theatrically overseas and saw VHS releases in the 1980s by CBS/Fox Home Video (and later, reissued on its Playhouse Video label) and in the 1990s by Rhino Home Video. A CED videodisc version (CBS/Fox) was also released. In Japan only, this was also released on VHD format and laserdisc. All versions are out of print.
2 2 "Deadly Dust: Part 1" Ron Satlof Robert Janes April 5, 1978

Upset that their professor has brought a small amount of plutonium onto campus in order to give a class demonstration, three University students decide to steal the plutonium and build a bomb in order to illustrate the dangers of nuclear power. However, the international businessmen and arms dealer named Mr. White has his henchmen steal the plutonium so that he can detonate it in Los Angeles, California where the President will be giving a campaign speech.

"The Deadly Dust" saw video release as a "movie version" in the 1980s by CBS/Fox/Playhouse, and in the late 1990s by Rhino Home Video. Also released on videotape (in Europe) and laserdisc (in Japan) in its theatrical version, titled "Spider-Man Strikes Back (1978).
3 3 "Deadly Dust: Part 2" Ron Satlof Robert Janes April 12, 1978
International terrorist "Mr. White" proceeds with his plan to detonate the bomb during the President's speech in Los Angeles, but during preparation a female member of the trio succumbs to acute radiation poisoning. While Spider-Man is intent on thwarting the bomb's detonation, he is also torn between helping the dying woman.
4 4 "The Curse of Rava" Michael Caffrey Dick Nelson,
Robert Janes
April 19, 1978

Members of a religious cult, led by the telekinetic Mandak, plan to steal a Rava religious icon from a museum and in the process frame Mr. Jameson for attempted murder.

"The Curse of Rava" was spliced together with "Con Caper" to form "Con Caper & The Curse of Rava" which was available on VHS and Beta from Prism Home Video (in the mid 80s) and on VHS Rhino Home Video in the late '90s. To provide a bridge between the two unconnected stories, a new scene featuring Nicholas Hammond and Chip Fields (both with noticeably different hairstyles) was filmed and edited in at the midway point. Con Caper/Rava was also released on laserdisc in the USA by Prism around 1990.
5 5 "Night of the Clones" Fernando Lamas John W. Bloch April 26, 1978

A scientific convention is being held in New York City and a controversial American scientist has figured out a way to clone human beings, only to have his evil clone twin escape, and clone an evil Spider-Man.

"Night of the Clones" and the episode following it, "Escort to Danger," were spliced together to make "Night of the Clones & Escort to Danger" which was available on VHS and Beta from Prism Home Video (in the mid-1980s) and on VHS from Rhino Home Video in the late 1990s. Clones/Escort was also released on laserdisc in the USA by Prism around 1990.
6 6 "Escort to Danger" Dennis Donnelly Duke Standefur May 3, 1978

While visiting New York City, the daughter of a recently elected pro-democracy Latin American President is kidnapped by those seeking a return of a fascist dictatorship.

"Escort to Danger", and the episode before it, "Night of the Clones" were spliced together to make "Night of the Clones & Escort to Danger" which was available on VHS from Prism Home Video (in the mid-1980s) and Rhino Home Video in the late 1990s.

Season 2: 1978–79[edit]

No. in
No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
7 1 "The Captive Tower" Cliff Bole Gregory S. Dinallo,
Bruce Kalish,
Philip John Taylor
September 5, 1978

Thieves steal ten million dollars from a new high-tech security building and use its computers to trap the people inside.

The plot of this episode is similar to the film Die Hard. Since there were no other hour-long episodes with which to combine it into a 2-hour movie, this episode is the most rarely seen of the series, the only reruns being on the Sci-Fi Channel in the 1990s. For the same reason, this is also the only episode that didn't get a VHS release.
8 2 "A Matter of State" Larry Stewart Howard Dimsdale September 12, 1978

NATO defense plans are stolen and held for ransom by terrorists. Julie Masters accidentally gets a photograph of the ringleader of the gang and now Spider-Man has to protect Masters, while also trying to get the defense plans back.

This episode has been released on VHS as "Photo Finish & A Matter of State" by Rhino Home Video, but is now out of print. This version included a new scene featuring Nicholas Hammond and Chip Fields that served to connect the two stories.
9 3 "The Con Caper" Tom Blank Brian McKay,
Gregory S. Dinallo
November 25, 1978

An imprisoned politician is released and poses as a reformed humanitarian dedicated to prison reform in order to stage a break out of some prisoners and steal a hundred-million dollars.

This episode has been released on VHS and Beta by Prism Home Video (in the mid-1980s) and on VHS Rhino Home Video (in the late 1990s) as "Con Caper & Curse of Rava." This version included a new scene featuring Nicholas Hammond and Chip Fields that served to connect the two stories. Prism also released this combined version on laserdisc in the US in 1990. All releases are out of print.
10 4 "The Kirkwood Haunting" Don McDougall Michael Michaelian December 30, 1978

Peter Parker is sent to the estate (complete with its own zoo) of a wealthy widow and longtime family friend of Mr. Jameson. The widow claims that she is being visited by the ghost of her dead husband and he is telling her to donate all her money to the group of men that are acting as objective investigators of paranormal phenomenon.

This episode has been released on VHS by Rhino Home Video spliced together to make "Wolfpack & The Kirkwood Haunting" but is now out of print.
11 5 "Photo Finish" Tony Ganz Howard Dimsdale February 7, 1979

While doing a story on a rare coin collection, the coins are stolen in a robbery with one of the thieves wearing a wig and muffling his voice to appear to be the coin collector's bitter ex-wife. The photo that Parker has of the disguised thief will falsely frame the ex-wife and Parker is willing to go to jail in order to protect the innocent and break out of jail as Spider-Man to bring the thieves to justice.

This episode has been released on VHS as "Photo Finish & A Matter of State" by Rhino Home Video. This version included a new scene featuring Nicholas Hammond and Chip Fields that served to connect the two stories. Photo Finish was previously released by itself (in its original one-hour format) on a LP-speed cassette from low-budget label Star Maker Home Video. Both versions are out of print.
12 6 "Wolfpack" Joseph Manduke Stephen Kandel February 21, 1979

When a greedy Sorgenson Chemical representative learns that University students have developed a mind control gas, he uses the gas to take control of the students and even some soldiers to commit crimes.

This episode has been released on VHS on Rhino Home Video as "Wolfpack & The Kirkwood Haunting", but is now out of print.
13 7 "The Chinese Web" Don McDougall Lionel E. Siegel July 6, 1979

The final episode (a 2-hour special) has an old college friend of Mr. Jameson fleeing China (where he is the Minister of Industrial Development) to live with his Chinese-American daughter because the Chinese government has falsely charged him with being a spy during World War II. While Peter Parker tries to prove the man's innocence he must contend with a henchmen of a British-Hong Kong businessman who will do anything to get a new Minister of Industrial Development who will ensure that his firm gets a lucrative business contract with China.

The two-part series finale has plenty of action, a new female love interest (played by Rosalind Chao), extensive footage of Hong Kong and even exposition on its history and traditional religious beliefs. This movie-length episode has been released in its full version on videotape by CBS/Fox Home Video in the early 1980s (and re-released in the mid '80s on Fox's own Playhouse Video label) and by Rhino Home Video in the late 1990s. It was also released overseas on video (and on laserdisc in Japan) in its theatrical version, titled "Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge". All releases are out of print.


  1. ^ "Spider-Man on TV". IGN. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  2. ^ "ABC Reclaims Lead in Ratings". Merced Sun-Star (Merced, California). AP. April 12, 1978. 
  3. ^ "TV's worst season slowly nearing an end". Boca Raton News (Boca Raton, FL). UPI. May 15, 1978. 
  4. ^ "There's a web of truth woven into action of 'Spider-Man series'". St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, FL). Apr 5, 1978. 
  5. ^ Richard Meyers (Oct 1978). "Return of the video Superheroes.". Starlog Page 50-51. 
  6. ^ "Rivals Attending to 'Roots' Return". The Time-News (Hendersonville, NC). Washington Star Syndicate. September 5, 1978. 
  7. ^ Marvel Animation Age: "The Incredible Hulk In Animation - A Retrospective" (Part One)
  8. ^ Pizzazz, October 1978
  9. ^ The Incredible Hulk TV Series Page, FAQ , item #13.

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