The Amazing Spider-Man (TV series)

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The Amazing Spider-Man
SpideyTitle.jpg
Also known as Spider-Man
Genre Sci Fi,Suspense, action
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
Theme music composer Stu Phillips and Dana Kaproff
Composer(s) Stu Phillips
Dana Kaproff
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 11 (Plus 3 movies) (list of episodes)
Production
Location(s) Los Angeles and New York
Running time 30-40 minutes
Production company(s) Charles Fries Productions
Dan Goodman Productions
Release
Original network CBS
First shown in USA 1978-1979
Original release April 19, 1978 – July 6, 1979
Chronology
Preceded by Spidey Super Stories
Followed by Spider-Man (Toei TV series)

The Amazing Spider-Man is the first live-action TV 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 1977 until 1979.[1] 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.

Production[edit]

The cast of Spider-Man

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).[2] Lee and Goodman fiercely clashed over the direction of the series during the initial production.[2] Lee once said in an interview for Pizzazz magazine that he felt the series was "too juvenile".[3]

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.[2] However, citing concern over the pilot's relatively weak ratings in the lucrative adult-demographic (ages 18–49),[2] 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.[4] 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,[5] as the series was expensive to produce[6] and continued to underperform with older audiences.[2]

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.[7] The second season (of just seven episodes) aired infrequently throughout the 1978-79 TV season.[8] The series continued to do well in the ratings during its second season.[2] 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".[2] 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,[9] 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.

Shooting Spider-Man at Caltech from "The Curse of Rava"

Revival attempt[edit]

In the mid-1980s, an attempt was reportedly made to create an Amazing Spider-Man series reunion movie. The proposal would have had the original cast team-up with the cast of The Incredible Hulk[10] television series (a major hit for CBS for most of its run), with Hammond appearing in the black Spider-Man costume.

Cast and crew[edit]

The only characters to appear regularly in both the television series and comics were Peter Parker/Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson, and Aunt May.[2] Joe "Robbie" Robertson (played by Hilly Hicks) also appeared, but only in the pilot. 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).

Regular cast[edit]

Directors[edit]

Season 2 title for the Spider-Man series.

Episodes[edit]

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.[2] These scenes were never broadcast, either in the series's original run or in any reruns.

Season 1 (1978)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original 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.
Though the last of the five season one episodes to be filmed, it was the first to be broadcast.[11] "

in Countries outside the us such as the UK, Argentina and New Zealand, The Deadly Dust part 1 and 2 were edited together by Columbia pictures and released in theaters as Spider-Man Strikes Back.The Deadly Dust" saw video release 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 released on VHS and Beta from Prism Home Video in the mid 1980s and on VHS Rhino Home Video in the late 1990s. 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 released 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.

The sequence in which Spider-Man runs from an exploding car is the only stunt in the series performed by Nicholas Hammond himself.[11] "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)[edit]

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

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

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 Tuesday, 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 was released on VHS as "Photo Finish & A Matter of State" by Rhino Home Video.
9 3 "The Con Caper" Tom Blank Brian McKay,
Gregory S. Dinallo
Saturday, 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 was 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." Prism also released this combined version on laserdisc in the US in 1990.
10 4 "The Kirkwood Haunting" Don McDougall Michael Michaelian Saturday, 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".
11 5 "Photo Finish" Tony Ganz Howard Dimsdale Wednesday, 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. 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.
12 6 "Wolfpack" Joseph Manduke Stephen Kandel Wednesday, 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".
13 7 "The Chinese Web" Don McDougall Lionel E. Siegel Friday, 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.

While the rest of the series was filmed in New York and Los Angeles, the series finale includes many scenes which were filmed in Hong Kong.[2] It was later split into two parts for television syndication. The episode was also released theatrically in different territories from 1979 to 1981. It was also released overseas on video (and on laserdisc in Japan) in its full version, titled Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge. This episode was released on its own 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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Spider-Man on TV". IGN. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mangels, Andy (October 2010). "Spinning the Story of the Amazing Spider-Man". Back Issue!. TwoMorrows Publishing (44): 44–48. 
  3. ^ Pizzazz, October 1978
  4. ^ "ABC Reclaims Lead in Ratings". Merced Sun-Star. Merced, California. AP. April 12, 1978. 
  5. ^ "TV's worst season slowly nearing an end". Boca Raton News. Boca Raton, FL. UPI. May 15, 1978. 
  6. ^ "There's a web of truth woven into action of 'Spider-Man series'". St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, FL. Apr 5, 1978. 
  7. ^ Richard Meyers (Oct 1978). "Return of the video Superheroes.". Starlog Page 50-51. 
  8. ^ "Rivals Attending to 'Roots' Return". The Time-News. Hendersonville, NC. Washington Star Syndicate. September 5, 1978. 
  9. ^ Marvel Animation Age: "The Incredible Hulk In Animation - A Retrospective" (Part One)
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ a b "Spider-Man Episode Guide". Back Issue!. TwoMorrows Publishing (44): 49–50. October 2010. 

External links[edit]