Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Discuss: The Spider-Man TV show

Karen: With the Avengers and Spider-Man films right around the corner, I thought it might be time to discuss Marvel's earlier live action television efforts. Let's start with the Spider-Man TV show. What did you think then -and how about now?


Anonymous said...

Looking at it now, it's pretty cheesy 70's TV, but back then, when there was nothing else like it on TV....no TV shows about superheroes other than Saturday mornings, it was a big deal. I liked Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker and the guy who played Jonah Jameson was pretty good too. JJJ and Aunt May were the only others I remember that carried over from the comic book. It was all we had, so it was okay at the time.


Anonymous said...

Matt alias Anonymous:
Fantastic stunts! I think it was much better than the CGI used for Tobey Maguire. I am desperately seeking bootlegs since it's not legally available on DVD!

david_b said...

Agreed with Darpy, to be filed under the 'That's All We Had Back Then' department. I recall the ratings were high on the initial broadcast, but fell sharply soon after. Music, pacing, villains, camera work all seemed too much like Wonder Woman.

I thought Nick Hammond did a super job portraying depth for Peter Parker, but it all comes down to establishing the 'right mix' of Spidey action and character development, which the Hulk series was MUCH better at. At least there you had situations for Bixby to add drama too, where there wasn't in contrast much for Hammond to get his teeth into. In hindsight, they could have thrown a psudo-Gwen backstory in there.., but perhaps they wanted it kept more adventured-oriented and free-spirited..

It was a very brave venture, especially with stuntman/effects technology at that point, but it's nothing I'd ever track down the DVD for.

Stayed with the 60s cartoon series at this point.

William said...

Loved it back in day when it was on TV (and I was like 10 or 11). However, the show has not really aged well. I liked Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker, and I will say that the "wall-crawling" and the costume were extremely well done. I think I actually prefer the TV show costume to one in the movies. And although it was on the outside of his glove, the TV version actually had a web-shooter and not stupid (and weird) organic webbing.

What makes the show hard to watch today however, is there were almost no supporting cast members from the comic. There were absolutely zero villains from the comics. And Spider-Man wasn't very super strong or agile.

I would definitely not buy this series if it came out on DVD/BluRay, and I am a huge Spider-Man fan (but maybe that's the problem).

Doug said...

I'll take the Spider-Man movie costume and effects any day, and I'm a pretty nostalgic person.

And who could forget Nick Hammond's previous invasion of our living rooms, as the BMOC who rejects broken-nosed Marcia on the Brady Bunch? You know, "something suddenly came up"!


Joe Bardales said...

Yeah, this was one of those shows I remember loving as a kid, but it really doesn't stand up to the test of time. Now The Incredible Hulk (Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno) on the other hand, another 70s show I also watched and loved, does still resonate today, so I guess it isn't all about modern computer animation but good old fashioned acting as well.
Great blog, BTW! I recently found it and I've been enjoying going back through the archives. :)

William Preston said...

I feel like my time-line, coming along at the end of baby boomerdom (born in '62), was the worst, and all Spidey thoughts exacerbate that. Part of it is that I didn't start reading Spidey on a regular basis until late adolescence, but I always read the comic nostalgically, collecting the old Romita ones but reading Andru. (I liked Andru, but the plots were often as goofy as what was in Superman.) Wolfman utterly ruined the comic (he did it to FF as well). The Avengers in the late '70s couldn't find a decent artist. After some great MTU, suddenly you had to deal with third-stringers like Kupperberg.

All this ties in to the Spidey TV show. Had I been 6 or 7, I'd have loved it. As a teen, I could see that the show not only was badly put together, but it had no heft. The Hulk, though it became tiresome, at least had serious plots. Spidey was always getting punched out by regular guys and fighting goons. The show was such a let-down, but that was on a par with every other '70s attempt at SF/F. The tone was always completely off.

Donny and Marie sums up all you need to know about '70s TV.

Anonymous said...

I think comic book readers expecting TV versions to be faithful to comic books forget that TV has to get millions of viewers, 99% of whom don't know who Gwen Stacy is (and couldn't care less), they just wanna see Spidey solve some mystery, do some stunts, and beat up a few thugs. I think TV works better for super heroes than movies as you can get the origin out of the way in the pilot, whereas every film feels compelled to waste 30-45 minutes with it, then cram in a meager plot for the remainder of the film.

Edo Bosnar said...

I very dutifully watched this show when it originally aired, because I was a big Spider-fan and because I watched any television super-hero adaptation, either cartoon or live action. However, even at the time, I recall not liking it very much - and unlike a few others here, I really didn't like Hammond that much (and yes, Doug, I always think of him as the creep who blew Marcia off in Brady Bunch).
That said, I think now I wouldn't mind watching those again just for the sake of nostalgia...

Cease said...

I was just a little kid when this came out, so I absorbed it with glee!!! I used to watch re-runs of it over, say, Thanksgiving, on WTBS. I liked the clone one, and enjoyed his use of spider-tracers, like when the bomb's set to go off in Los Angeles...the fights are unintentionally hilarious at times, but the soundtrack really got hung up in my head. But, was it as good as the Greatest American Hero? Oh, no. The origin's FAR too slow for me to consider watching again on YouTube. Without the supporting cast, it just won't feel like Stan's Spidey. No, the powers were out of range, but the soap opera's where they could've made up the difference. Today, many sci-fi shows "get it."

Robbie's pretty good in it and I liked Chip, a.k.a. Gloria. The dialogue's occasionally bright but usually workman-like; the villains weren't particularly memorable as characters, though. I duplicated those stunts any way my neighborhood and "natural agility" would allow!

Anonymous said...

Love the music over the title and credits. FUNKY Spidey!

J.A. Morris said...

I loved this show as a kid, I've known for years where to get bootlegs and haven't done so.

I can only remember a few episodes:
1.The one where Spider-Man climbs the Empire State Building was great(at the time). I was obsessed with sky scrapers and superheroes when I was 6-7 years old.
2.The "Spider-Clone" episode, I watched it before I ever read the "clone" comics.
3.The 2-hour finale episode called 'Chinese Web' used to air on TBS at least once a year, into the 1990s, so I've seen that one more than any other.

Otherwise, I remember the villains as being rather generic gangsters & mad scientists, not that much different from antagonists that later appeared on 'The Greatest American Hero'.

Fred W. Hill said...

Like William, I was born in '62, but I got into Spidey by the time I was about 6 although I didn't start regularly collecting Spider-Man (or any other comics) until I was 10. My big memory of the tv show was being disappointed that the premiere episode only showed how Peter Parker got the powers of Spider-Man but failed to include what really made him Spider-Man. That is, there was no Uncle Ben, no chip-on-his shoulder Spidey letting a thief run past him, no emotional trauma of Uncle Ben getting murdered and Spidey finding out it was by that very same thief. My attitude was, this may superficially appear to be about my favorite superhero but he's really only a poor fascimile. I also really wished they had started out with Peter as a high school student (like I still was at the time!) rather than already in college when he became Spider-Man. To me, any valid version of Spidey should start off with him looking and behaving like a lonely, skinny, bespectacled, bookwormish geek. In the tv show, Peter was a bit geeky, but was already more like the late '60s Romita Spidey (minus Gwen & MJ) rather than the early Ditko Spidey. I still watched the tv show whenever it came on, but I felt it lacked the elements that really made the Amazing Spider-Man comic unique and fun to read.

Karen said...

I just remember being frustrated by the infrequent schedule, and by the really boring villains. I loved the scenes of Spidey wall-crawling on buildings, but otherwise it was tepid super-hero fare. I tried watching an episode on YouTube but I couldn't get through it!


Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I remember at one point they wanted to bring back this Spidey by teaming him up with the Hulk. For what ever reasons Stan Lee didn't like the show! I don't get how he couldn't because I preferred this over the Hulk. If the network had given this time, it would have been the smash hit the Hulk was. CBS didn't want to be know as the super hero network. Looking back, these were good, wholesome shows. Unlike the reality TV that passes for entertainment today. I miss Spidey and hope they give this show (13 episodes) a DVD set! It's about time. I have the pilot on VHS, however I'd like to see Marvel step up to the plate and put this on video!

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I just had to put more of my two cents in about the 77’ version of Spidey. It had a great cast and had room to grow. What I liked this show was the continuing cast. Unlike Bruce Banner, going from town to town, Peter Parker (Nicholas Hammond) interacted with many people at his college and The Daily Bugle. It had lots of good dramatic possibilities. The reason they stayed away from super villains? There was no money in the budget to do the things they did in comics! I could tolerate Spider Man fighting the mob or super criminal without a costume. It was more about how Parker coped with his new found powers and how he integrated them in his life. I liked Hammond in the role of Peter because he provided a good role model for kids to follow. To me at least, he was Peter Parker. He had all the idealism of the early Ditko drawn Spidey. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Spider Man do very well in the ratings? The stunt man who played the wall crawling Spider Man certainly did a good job portraying our favorite hero. When you consider what could be done 1970’s, it was hands down the best version of Spidey for the era.

Rip Jagger said...

I thought the actors in this were pretty good. David White played JJJ in the pilot and was excellent, while Robert Simon took the role over in the series, and he was quite solid too.

The web-slinging was pretty marginal, the effects of the time left me cold even back then to be honest.

It wasn't until the movies that web-slinging like Ross Andru and John Romita imagined it came across in "real life".

Rip Off

david_b said...


You summed up my feelings exactly. Some kind of 'emotional weight', easily conveyed to the general, non-comic reading audience, would have been easy enough to drum up.

FFF4ever: Yes, I'd agree on the story potential, but as for the ratings, they tanked after the first airing pretty much.

Viewers were quite excited to see our 'friendly neighborhood' guy, but it didn't sustain interest.

The lack of supervillains was more on the mundane script writing.. Didn't anyone ever hear 'less is more'..? You easily could have kept someone in the shadows like a Kingpin or Hammerhead to keep costs down (and intrigue up), but again this was long before the likes of the '89 Batman movie (and even Star Wars..), which brought back on-screen baddies for Dick Tracy and the Flash television show without making them look campy, like they just came off the Batman 60s show.

Fred W. Hill said...

A problem just about every other media depiction of Spidey outside of comics has had is that they essentially want to depict him as he was in the late '60s through mid-70s, but without the tragic elements of his romances and friendships -- mainly meaning Gwen & Harry. So, generally from the beginning there is Aunt May but no Uncle Ben, he's in college and already working for JJJ before he even gets his spider powers. So there's no sense of progression as there was in the Ditko era. We might see Spidey sneezing or getting chewed out by JJJ or worrying about Aunt May's health, but we don't really see Peter growing as a human being, having his first romance and the pressures that led to that romance falling apart. We don't see how upset Spidey was when everytime he tried to do something good, JJJ would make it seem he was doing something horrible, and how funny it was when Spidey found a way to make a living off of JJJ's anti-Spidey fixation. Greater emotional weight, indeed, David! Even more than the superheroics, that's what made me love Spidey from the Silver & Bronze ages. The movies weren't perfect but at least they got much closer than the tv show. Even on a very limited budget the tv series could have been far more successful if it had provided more emotional depth and genuine drama so that the viewers, whether they were familiar with the comics or not, would care about Peter and his ongoing personal situations as much as they might be excited by seeing Spidey in action against a bunch of bad guys, whether or not they were wearing silly costumes.

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