The Amazing Spider-Man (TV series)
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The Amazing Spider-Man is the first live-action TV series made to the popular comic book The Amazing Spider-Man and was shown in the USA between 1977-1979. It consisted of 15 episodes. Despite being produced by Columbia Pictures Television (and the modern Spider-Man movies being produced by Columbia Pictures), none of the episodes are available on DVD but some of them have been released on VHS.
Series run on CBS and criticism
The series aired on the CBS television network along with live action television series based on the comic book characters of The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Captain America and Doctor Strange. The Amazing Spider-Man series had solid ratings throughout its run, but CBS was leery about being labeled the "superhero network" and fans were highly critical of the series. Spider-Man pilot drew huge ratings, resulting in The Amazing Spider-Man being made into a prime time series of 15 episodes – despite how poorly everyone reacted towards it. None of the charm of the Spidey comics were to be found in the show – Spidey himself was practically mute, the villains were typical, clichéd baddies and none of Spider-Man’s supporting cast beside Aunt May and a rather mild J. Jonah Jameson appeared. Spider-Man himself was merely some clown in a costume – none of the angst, wit was present and nor was the character relatable." for the changes made to the comic book storyline and the lack of any real "supervillains". The only characters besides Peter Parker to regularly appear 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. To add insult to injury, Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee disliked the show, and was vocal about his dissatisfaction with it; he once said in an interview that he felt the series was "too juvenile" - a controversial statement given his credit as script consultant on each episode. Despite criticism of the series as far removed from the source material, 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.
In the mid-1980s and early 1990s, two attempts were 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 The Incredible Hulk television series. This was part of a plan to have several television movies featuring the Incredible Hulk and various Marvel Comics characters. This attempt finally fell through when Bill Bixby died of cancer in 1993. A second attempt would have been an entirely new series that died in preproduction because the networks wanted to make Spider-Man into a mutant.
Cast and crew
- 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
- (1) "The Amazing Spider-Man" (Airdate: 4/19/1977). University student Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and decides to uses his super powers to stop a 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) and a laserdisc version were also released. All versions are out of print.
- (2) and (3) "Deadly Dust Part 1 & 2" (Airdates: 4/5/1978, 4/12/1978). 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 President Jimmy Carter 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 theatrically (and on videotape) in Europe under the the title "Spider-Man Strikes Back (1978)"
- (4) "The Curse of Rava" (Airdate: 4/19/1978). 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 from Prism Home Video (in the mid 80s) and Rhino Home Video in the late 90s.
- (5) "Night of The Clones" (Airdate: 4/26/1978). 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 from Prism Home Video (in the mid 1980s) and Rhino Home Video in the late 1990s.
- (6) "Escort To Danger" (Airdate: 5/3/1978). While visiting New York City, the daughter of a recently elected pro-democracy Latin American President is kidnapped by those that seek 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.
- (7) "The Captive Tower" (Airdate: 9/5/1978)Thieves steal ten million dollars from a new high-tech security building and uses 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 which which to combine it into a 2-hour movie, this episode is the rarest-seen of the series, the only reruns being on the Sci-Fi Channel in the 1990s. This is also the only episode that didn't get a VHS release.
- (8) "A Matter of State" (Airdate: 9/12/1978). NATO defense plans are stolen and held for ransom by terrorists. Julia 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.
- (9) "The Con Caper" (Airdate: 11/25/1978). 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 by Prism Home Video (in the mid 1980s) and Rhino Home Video (in the late 1990s) as "Con Caper & Curse of Rava."
- (10) "The Kirkwood Haunting" (Airdate: 12/30/1978). 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) "Photo Finish" (Airdate: 2/7/1979). While doing a story on a rare coin collection, the coins are stolen in a robbery with one of the thieves wearing a wig to appear to be the coin collector's bitter ex-wife. The photo that Parker has of the cross-dressing 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 and 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) "Wolfpack" (Airdate: 2/21/1979). 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 various crimes. This episode has been released on VHS on Rhino Home Video as "Wolfpack & The Kirkwood Haunting", but is now out of print.
- (13) and (14) "The Chinese Web" (Airdate: 7/6/1979). 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 Minster of Industrial Development that 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 (released overseas as "Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge") by Fox Home Video (in the early 1980s) and Rhino Home Video (in the late 1990s).