Remembering the Spider-man TV Show

As The Amazing Spider-man debuts this week in movie theaters everywhere, I remember the short-lived television series of the same name that aired on CBS, only 13 episodes from 1977 through 1979. Even to my youthful eyes back then, I knew the costume was cheesy with its bulky wrist-webshooters and utility belt and I could tell the special effects were mediocre -- they didn't make much of an effort to hide the ropes when Spidey was crawling up or down the sides of Manhattan's buildings (mostly shot in Los Angeles).

It still received good ratings, a testament to fans' desire to see comic book heroes brought to life on the screen. CBS cancelled the show because it allegedly did not want to be perceived as "the superhero network" since it already aired The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, and the made-for-television movies Captain America and Dr. Strange.

As a kid, I put all the negatives aside and still loved it. Spider-man's alter-ego Peter Parker had started out as a high school teenager, but by the time I had begun reading the comics he was portrayed as an older university student working as a photojournalist for the Daily Bugle newspaper under curmudgeonly editor J. Jonah Jameson, and the TV series did an okay job of capturing that. I also appreciated seeing an actor -- Nicholas Hammond -- who shared my first name.

As was typical of the time, superheroes fought non-super bad guys, and that was the biggest problem. The adventures were rather ho-hum compared to the more exciting stories depicted in the four-color pages of the original comic books. Yet, it was still a blast to see Spider-man come to life, to see his spider-sense kick into gear when danger was nearby, to see him use his spider-tracers to follow villains to their hideouts, to see him climb walls, snare criminals in his web-ropes, and leap into a fisticuff fray battling for the cause of justice.

It might have had many flaws, but the late 1970s Amazing Spider-man sparked the imaginations of many TV viewers and lay the groundwork for more Spidey adventures to follow.