Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.
In the late 70’s, CBS had found success with the comic book based shows Wonder Woman (which they saved from cancellation by ABC) and The Incredible Hulk and decided to dip into that well again with a live action adaptation of Marvel’s Spider-Man (which is not to be confused with the batshit crazy Japanese version produced at about the same time). Like the Hulk’s show, Spider-Man began on TV as a well-rated television movie then continued as a mid-season replacement series. And after those first year episodes delivered decent enough ratings that CBS decided to greenlight the shows for a second season. But it appears that they then regretted that decision because it sure looks like the network tried to kill The Amazing Spider-Man during its second year. They ordered only seven episodes and aired those sporadically across the season. The episodes still pulled decent numbers but CBS grumbled about its had high production costs and also claimed that the show skewed young and did not score as well in the all-important 18-49 demographic. In addition, they apparently wanted to avoid being tagged as the “superhero network” and ended up cancelling Spider-Man after its shortened second season run. And while the show may never count as classic television, it was good fun for its day and I recall enjoying it when it first aired. I re-watched a few episodes not too long ago, and while they do deliver a large dose of 70’s cheese and the special effects (which seemed impressive at the time) do not hold up as well, it still was a fun superhero adaptation and I always liked Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker. It would have been nice if they had brought in some of the other characters from the comics, but they did little of that with The Incredible Hulk or Wonder Woman (licensing issues), so that was just something you had to accept with those shows. And if they had given Spider-Man at least a couple more seasons (it was pulling good enough ratings) it could have had a syndication run, possibly paired with repeats of the Hulk. But that was not to be and the show capped out at only 13 episodes (though all would eventually get released on DVD). CBS would also air pilots for Dr. Strange (more on that one at this link) and Captain America, but neither would continue as a series. And by the end of 1979, that network’s superhero purge left only The Incredible Hulk still on television. Surprisingly, the Spider-Man series has yet to make it to DVD, but you can catch episodes on YouTube from time to time, and it’s worth giving them a look to enjoy some fun, 1970’s superhero cheesiness.
Aired: CBS, 1977-79, 2 Seasons Totaling 13 Episodes
Developed By: Alvin Boretz
Starring: Nicholas Hammond, Michael Pataki, Robert F. Simon, Ellen Bry