The Amazing Spider-Man (TV series)
|The Amazing Spider-Man|
|Also known as||Spider-Man|
|Created by||Alvin Boretz|
by Stan Lee
Robert F. Simon
|Theme music composer||Stu Phillips and Dana Kaproff|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||13 + 3 TV Movies (list of episodes)|
|Location(s)||Los Angeles and New York City|
|Running time||45-48 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Charles Fries Productions
Dan Goodman Productions
|First shown in||USA 1978-1979|
|Original release||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 television series about the Marvel Comics hero of the same name, although it is not the first live-action portrayal of the character, since Spider-Man was featured in a series of comedic short skits called Spidey Super Stories beginning in the 1974 season of PBS' The Electric Company children's educational program. The Amazing Spider-Man was shown in the United States from September 19, 1977 to July 6, 1979. Though it was a considerable ratings success, the CBS series was cancelled after just 13 episodes, which included a pilot movie airing in autumn of 1977. None of the episodes were released on DVD, but almost all of them have been released on VHS. Despite its storylines being set in New York City (the character's hometown), the series was mostly filmed in Los Angeles.
During the mid-1970s, Marvel Comics publisher (and Spider-Man co-creator) Stan Lee sold CBS the rights to produce a prime time live-action Spider-Man series, to be helmed by producer Daniel R. Goodman. Veteran actor Nicholas Hammond was cast in the lead role (though all of Spider-Man's stunts were performed by the series's stunt coordinator, Fred Waugh). Lee and Goodman fiercely clashed over the direction of the series during the initial production. Lee once said in an interview for Pizzazz magazine that he felt the series was "too juvenile".
The series began as a backdoor pilot: a 90 Minute Movie known simply as Spider-Man, which was theatrically released in Europe, South America, New Zealand and several other regions, but for its American release it was viewed as a TV movie on September 1977. In it, Peter Parker (as an intrepid university student) gains super powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. He uses those powers to get a job at the Daily Bugle, and to stop a con man who is covertly using mind control for personal gain.
The pilot garnered a 17.8 rating with a 30 share - CBS' highest rating for the entire year. However, citing concern over the pilot's relatively weak ratings in the lucrative adult-demographic (ages 18–49), CBS picked up the series for only a limited, five-episode order (those 5 episodes were aired in April and May 1978, at the tail-end of the 1977-1978 TV season). 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. The series ended up being the 19th-highest-rated show of the entire season. However, CBS was reluctant to commit to giving the show a regular/fixed time slot for the 1978-79 season, as the series was expensive to produce and continued to underperform with older audiences.
CBS took the more cautious approach of airing episodes on a sporadic basis, strategically placing it on the broadcast schedule to deliberately hurt the ratings of specific competing shows, at key times in the TV season (e.g. "sweeps"). Former Six Million Dollar Man producer Lionel Siegel took over production duties for season two, noticeably changing the show in an attempt to grow its adult audience. These changes included dropping the Captain Barbera character; adding the character of Julie Masters as a love interest for Peter; creating more down-to-earth plotlines; and slightly toning-down Spider-Man's superpowers, to make him more accessible to adult viewers. The second season (of just seven episodes) aired infrequently throughout the 1978-79 TV season. The series continued to do well in the ratings during its second season. However, CBS officially cancelled the series soon after the season ended. The chief reason for the cancellation was that CBS feared being perceived as merely a one-dimensional, superficial, "superhero network". It was already airing other live-action superhero series or specials at the time, including The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman (which they resurrected after its original network, ABC, canceled it), Captain America, Doctor Strange, and had just ended (in 1977) multi-year runs of live-action Saturday morning series for DC Comics' Shazam and Isis superheroes. Another problem was that in spite of the show's popularity, its most vocal fans were also highly critical of it, due to the season two departures from more comic book-like storylines, and the lack of any recognizable "supervillains" from the Spider-Man comics.
The series yielded the first and only (so far) live-action depictions of Peter Parker's "spider-tracer" tracking/homing devices; they are prominently featured in several episodes throughout the series.
In a 2002 interview with SFX magazine, Nicholas Hammond revealed that there were plans to do an Amazing Spider-Man series reunion movie in 1984. The proposal would have had the original cast team-up with the cast of The Incredible Hulk television series (a major hit for CBS), with Hammond appearing in the black Spider-Man costume. According to Hammond, a deal was arranged to have Columbia and Universal Studios co-produce the project. Bill Bixby was going to direct the TV-movie, in addition to reprising the role of David Banner. However, Universal eventually canceled the project. Hammond said he was told that Lou Ferrigno was unavailable to reprise his role as the Hulk, because he was in Italy filming Hercules. However, in his 2003 autobiography My Incredible Life as the Hulk, Ferrigno stated that he was never contacted about the project, adding that he had recently finished filming Hercules II and that his availability was not an issue.
Cast and crew
The only characters to appear regularly in both the television series and comics were Peter Parker/Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson, and Aunt May. Joe "Robbie" Robertson (played by Hilly Hicks) also appeared, but only in the pilot. Farley Stillwell, a scientist in the Marvel universe, makes a cameo in Wolfpack. A different actress played Aunt May in each episode in which she appeared.
In both these incarnations, J. Jonah Jameson's abrasive, flamboyant personality was toned-down, and the character was portrayed as more avuncular (though oftentimes still short-tempered).
- Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker / Spider-Man
- David White as J. Jonah Jameson (pilot)
- Robert F. Simon as J. Jonah Jameson (series)
- Chip Fields as Rita Conway
- Michael Pataki as Capt. Barbera (pilot and first season only)
- Ellen Bry as Julie Masters (second season only)
- Tom Blank
- Cliff Bole
- Michael Caffey
- Dennis Donnelly
- Tony Ganz
- Fernando Lamas
- Joseph Manduke
- Don McDougall
- Ron Satlof
- Larry Stewar
- Matt Charette
For their release in VHS format, eight of the series's nine regular hour-length episodes were spliced together in pairs. For example, "Photo Finish" and "A Matter of State" were combined on one VHS tape and presented as a single episode. In order to smooth the jump between the two unrelated stories in each release, the production team filmed new bridging scenes set at the Daily Bugle and inserted them between the content of the two component episodes. These scenes were never broadcast, either in the series's original run or in any reruns.
Season 1 (1978)
|Nº||Ep||Title||Directed by:||Written by:||Air date|
|1||1||"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.
|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.
|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,
|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.
|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.
|6||6||"Escort to Danger"||Dennis Donnelly||Duke Standefur||May 3, 1978|
| "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 released on VHS from Prism Home Video in the mid-1980s and Rhino Home Video in the late 1990s.|
Season 2 (1978–79)
|Nº||Ep||Title||Directed by:||Written by:||Air date|
|7||1||"The Captive Tower"||Cliff Bole||Gregory S. Dinallo,
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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|13||7||"The Chinese Web"||Don McDougall||Lionel E. Siegel||July 6, 1979|
The final episode and final 1970s Spidey film was shown in a two-hour time slot. 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.
- "Spider-Man on TV". IGN. Retrieved 2010-09-09.
- Mangels, Andy (October 2010). "Spinning the Story of the Amazing Spider-Man". Back Issue!. TwoMorrows Publishing (44): 44–48.
- Pizzazz, October 1978
- "ABC Reclaims Lead in Ratings". Merced Sun-Star. Merced, California. AP. April 12, 1978.
- "TV's worst season slowly nearing an end". Boca Raton News. Boca Raton, FL. UPI. May 15, 1978.
- "There's a web of truth woven into action of 'Spider-Man series'". St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, FL. Apr 5, 1978.
- Richard Meyers (Oct 1978). "Return of the video Superheroes.". Starlog Page 50-51.
- "Rivals Attending to 'Roots' Return". The Time-News. Hendersonville, NC. Washington Star Syndicate. September 5, 1978.
- Marvel Animation Age: "The Incredible Hulk In Animation - A Retrospective" (Part One)
- "Spider-Man Episode Guide". Back Issue!. TwoMorrows Publishing (44): 49–50. October 2010.
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