The Spider-Man That Never Was

I’ve been eating humble pie watching the 1977 Spider-Man live action TV series and I have to say that I stand by my judgment that it’s good television. I know I have issues, but I keep them in good condition.

Spider-Man 1977

Spider-Man 1977

In researching the series, I found this interesting snippet from Nicholas Hammond about a Spider-Man revival in the 1980’s.

I used to know Bill Bixby quite well in those days, we first met on Rich Man Poor Man, a series I did in the 1970’s with Bill and Nick Nolte, and we were friends up until his death.

Anyhow we used to speak on the phone once in a while and we talked about the problems The Hulk series had ran into and why Spider-Man didn’t work. Bill asked me during one of these conversations would I play the part again. My response was only if I could have more control over the character, I wanted to make him more humorous and was interested in doing more of the physical stuff. I felt one of the problems with the series was that Peter Parker and Spider-Man, who was played by a stuntman, were so opposite and lots of the believability of the character was lost.

Bill liked my ideas and said that he would let me know if anything came up (he had some good connections within Marvel and later New World). About three weeks to a month later, I got a phone call from Bill saying that he had spoken to Ron Satlof (“The Deadly Dust”) and he was close to setting up a deal with Columbia Television to start work on a project which featured both Spider-Man and the Hulk. Bill was going to direct, and I was to have writing credits with Stan Lee and Ron Satlof.

One of the main problems early on though, was Universal Television weren’t prepared to let Columbia have use of the Hulk character and this took a while.

Eventually Bill phoned again saying that both networks came to a deal to co-produce the Tele-Movie with Universal having the rights to screen. Things started moving quickly and we got most of the Technical crews from both original series on board and the movie had air date of spring 1984.

I was very excited because work had been tight, and as Bill said, this could open doors on the acting front. I also loved the character. Bill was also keen to do it because his private life was in something of a limbo and directing the movie would have really taken his mind of things.

The most impressive thing about the movie was to be the costume I was going to wear. It was to be the Black costume used in the comics around this time and it looked alot better than the one in the T.V series.

Just as everything was running smoothly, Bill phoned again. “Hi its Bill, Nick. I’ve got some bad news and some good news. The project has been canceled, Lou is unavailable, Universal won’t do the movie without Lou.” Lou Ferrigno was in Italy making a Hercules movie and wouldn’t be available to make the movie and weren’t prepared to wait for him. Personally, I have always thought that this was Universal’s own way of canceling the project. If they had just left it to Columbia, it would have got made easily. I was a bit upset because I was looking forward to doing it again and the script was good, and I never got the chance to work with Bill. A shame really.

Of course it’s easy to scoff at something like this after the Hulk TV movies turned out to be failures, but you have to admire the dedication to the character that Hammond had. While the program is decidedly dated his performance is still evocative of Peter Parker at the time.

Never mind… I’m crazy.

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