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 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 second live-action TV development of the iconic Marvel Comics hero of the same name (the first was a series of periodic segments on the original, early-1970s version of PBS' The Electric Company daytime children's educational TV series), and was shown in the USA from 1977 until 1979.[1] The CBS series consisted of 13 episodes, which included a pilot movie airing in autumn of 1977. None of the episodes are available 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.

Series run on CBS, and criticism[edit]

The cast of Spider-Man

The series began as a backdoor pilot: a two-hour TV-movie special known simply as Spider-Man, which aired in 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. In the pilot, J. Jonah Jameson was played by actor David White; in the subsequent series however, White was replaced with Robert F. Simon.

After good ratings resulted from the pilot, CBS picked-up the series—but only for 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.[2] 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,[3] as the series was expensive to produce[4] and underperformed in the lucrative adult-demographic ratings (ages 18–49). Instead, 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 no-nonsense police 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.[5] The second season (of just seven episodes) aired infrequently throughout the 1978-79 TV season.[6] However, CBS officially cancelled the series soon after the season ended. Reportedly, one of the problems 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 having 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,[7] due to the Season Two departures from more comic book-like storylines, and the lack of any recognizable "supervillains" from the Spider-Man comics.

In addition, even Spider-Man creator Stan Lee disliked the show, and publicly said so. Lee once said in an interview for Pizzazz magazine that he felt the series was "too juvenile" - an ironic position, given that Lee was credited in each episode as the series' Script Consultant.[8]

Spider-Man and the Twin Towers

The series did yield 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 Cal-Tech from "The Curse of Rava"

Revival attempt[edit]

In the mid-1980s, an attempt was reportedly made to re-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[9] 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 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 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]


Season 2 title for the Spider-Man series.


Season 1 (1978)[edit]

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
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. ^ [1]

External links[edit]