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Looking for another article with the name Spider-Man? Check out the Spider-Man disambiguation page.

The Amazing Spider-Man (renamed Spider-Man in season two) 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' 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.

Production

During the mid-1970's, 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 it's 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, noticeable changing the show in an attempt to grow it's 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 it's 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 it's original network, ABC, canceled it). Captain America, Dr. 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, it's 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". They are prominently featured in several episodes.

Revival attempt

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In a 2002 interview with SFX magazine, Nicholas Hammond revealed that there were plans to do an Amazing Spider-Man series reunion 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 character 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. A different actress played Aunt May in each episode in which she appeared.

In both these incarnations J. Jonah Jameson's abusive, flamboyant personality was toned-down, and the character was portrayed as more avuncular (though oftentimes still short-tempered).

Regular cast

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The cast of The Amazing Spider-Man

Actor Role
Nicholas Hammond Spider-Man / Peter Parker
David White J. Jonah Jameson
(Pilot only)
Robert F. Simon J. Jonah Jameson
(Series)
Chip Fields Rita Conway
Michael Pataki Captain Barbera
(Pilot and first season only)
Ellen Bry Julie Masters
(Second season only)

Directors

  • Tom Blank
  • Cliff Bole
  • Michael Caffey
  • Dennis Donnelly
  • Tony Ganz
  • Fernando Lamas
  • Joseph Manduke
  • Don McDougail
  • Ron Satlof
  • Larry Stewar
  • Matt Charette

Episodes

Season 1 (1978)

  • Spider-Man
  • Deadly Dust: Part 1
  • Deadly Dust: Part 2
  • The Curse of Rava
  • Night of the Clones
  • Escort to Danger

Season 2 (1978 - 1979)

  • The Captive Tower
  • A Matter of State
  • The Con Capper
  • The Kirkwood Haunting
  • Photo Finish
  • Wolfpack
  • The Chinese Web

TV movies

Movie Episodes
The Amazing Spider-Man Pilot episode
(Called "Spider-Man" when aired on television)
Spider-Man Strikes Back Deadly Dust: Part 1
Deadly Dust: Part 2
Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge The Chinese Web

Trivia

  • Many people believed that Peter Parker was designed to look like Nicholas Hammond who played Spider-Man in the live action series The Amazing Spider-Man which ran on CBS from 1977 to 1979. However, according to John Semper Jr. Peter Parker was not designed to look like Nicholas Hammond. Him looking like Nicholas Hammond was just a coincidence.

Opening

The Amazing Spider-Man (1978) - OPENING 1-001:01

The Amazing Spider-Man (1978) - OPENING 1-0

The Amazing Spider-Man (1978) - OPENING 2-001:02

The Amazing Spider-Man (1978) - OPENING 2-0

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