8 reasons why a Spider-Man TV series would have legs
|LISTS - TV LISTS|
The time has surely come for the web-slinger to return somewhere he can have some fun again...?
You don't need Spider-Sense to know that there's a reboot swinging into cinemas next year courtesy of (500) Days Of Summer (2009) director Marc Webb and Zodiac (2007) scribe James Vanderbilt, but given the strength of Sam Raimi's trilogy, the last of which was released a mere four years ago in 2007, perhaps it's time for Peter Parker to take a leaf out of Clark Kent's book and head instead for the small screen.
It wouldn't be the first time the web-head has crawled into our living rooms on a weekly basis. He first appeared on September 9th 1967 in animated form for a three-year, 52-episode run that was reasonably faithful to the mythology, and which introduced the world to the now famous Spider-Man theme tune, later covered by none other than The Ramones on their 1995 album 'Adios Amigos'!
The web-head returned in 1974 for a series of short skits over a three-year period on the popular childrens' show The Electric Company. Played by puppeteer Danny Seagren, these three-minute sketches had nothing to do with Spidey's comic canon, but did feature a certain Morgan Freeman as narrator on five of the first season's episodes, including the first offering 'Spidey Meets The Spoiler'.
Next up for the wallcrawler was the infamous Nicholas Hammond series, which ran for 14 episodes between 1977 and 1979 before being cancelled, not for ratings reasons as is popularly believed, but rather for the double-whammy that it was expensive to produce and that CBS - who were also running the soon-to-be-cancelled Lynda Carter Wonder Woman show and had the popular Bill Bixby / Lou Ferrigno version of The Incredible Hulk series to support - didn't want to become known as 'the superhero network'.
Though popular, consistently featuring in the top 20 US shows' listings, Hammond's Spider-Man found little love among fans who were frustrated by webs that looked like ropes and cargo nets, and the distinct lack of any the webhead's supervillains, with the threats instead coming from terrorists and petty criminals. Even Stan Lee was vocal in his dislike of the show, though it didn't prevent him from picking up a credit (and no doubt a generous cheque) as a script consultant for each episode.
Outside of the US and Canada, the pilot episode was released theatrically as The Amazing Spider-Man (1977), followed by another two movies which were cobbled together from a pair of episodes each, Spider-Man Strikes Back (1978) (comprising the two-part 'Deadly Dust' story) and Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge (1979) (comprising the two-part 'Chinese Web' tale).
Spidey was back on the small screen in animated form again in 1981 for a 26-episode run which was much more faithful to the hero's mythology, though the wallcrawler's greatest threat didn't come from classic villains such as The Lizard, Doctor Octopus, Mysterio, Sandman and the Green Goblin, but from the network's ruling that Spidey wasn't allowed to make a fist to strike an enemy.
At the same time, Peter Parker's alter ego was also appearing alongside the X-Men's Iceman and a new original character called Firestar, created when the licensing rights for the Human Torch proved to be unavailable, in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, which ran for 24 episodes between 1981 and 1983.
Swinging forward to 1994, Spidey was back once again in cartoon form for a superb five-season, 65-episode run which for the first time used one large story arc per season, and attracted an impressive roster of voice talent including Ed Asner as J. Jonah Jameson, Hank Azaria as Eddie Brock / Venom, Maxwell Caulfield as spider-slayer creator Alistair Smythe, Martin Landau as the Scorpion, and Mark Hamill in a pre-Joker villainous turn as the Hobgoblin. Even Aerosmith's Joe Perry got in on the act by providing the instrumental theme song.
Peter Parker returned three more times in animated form, once for another 13 episodes in the 1999 Spider-Man Unlimited series, then again for another 13 episodes in 2003's Spider-Man: The New Animated Series that utilised computer animation and featured continuity from Raimi's 2002 film and 2003's Daredevil movie; and then once more in 2008 for a two-season, 26-episode run of The Spectacular Spider-Man.
Though well-represented in cartoon form, it's been over three decades since a live-action Spidey graced the small screen, and given the high production values and budgets afforded to high-profile properties these days, it's high time, I believe, that ol' webhead was given another chance to atone for Nicholas Hammond's less-than-spectacular show and to amaze us with what he can do in the 21st Century. I present, therefore, the 8 reasons why a Spider-Man TV show would have (hairy) legs...
1. It can learn from the past
With over 40 years of history on the small screen, there's ample opportunity for a new Spidey TV series to learn from what has worked over the years, like the trademark witty banter and story arcs in the 1990's five-season animated run, and the positive response to the use of Spidey's most famous villains; and also from what hasn't worked, like, well, virtually everything that the Nicholas Hammond version had to offer.
2. It would be a talent magnet
Spidey is right up there with Batman and Superman as one of the most recognisable and loved comic characters of all time – even US President Barack Obama has been on the cover of 'The Amazing Spider-Man' (issue 583 in a tale called, imaginatively, ‘Spidey Meets The President’) – and so given that the recent, very successful, television adaptation of a comparatively little known comic called The Walking Dead managed to attract talent such as The Shawshank Redemption (1994) director Frank Darabont, Aliens (1986) producer Gale Anne Hurd and screen legend Michael Rooker, just imagine how much writing, directing and acting talent would be lining up to be part of one of the hottest franchises around.
3. Smallville proved the TV format can work
Like Spider-Man, Clark Kent and his alter ego have been around the small screen block more than a few times with varying degrees of success, but since 2001, the most recent reboot of the franchise, the Tom Welling-starring Smallville, has been a consistent fan favourite and has rarely put a foot wrong. Currently on its tenth and final season, Smallville has proved that a comic book character with a secret identity and a cast of interesting supporting characters and villains can most definitely work in a weekly format on the small screen. After all, what are comics if not just another version of a weekly ongoing series?
4. Spidey has a strong and varied rogues' gallery
Every great hero needs a worthy nemesis, and Spider-Man can boast a plethora of truly great villains – The Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Mysterio, Venom, Kraven The Hunter and The Lizard to name but a sinister six – as well as a thriving community of second-string bad guys, like the Shocker, Electro, the Rhino, Hobgoblin, the Rose and Paste Pot Pete (aka the Trapster). Even given the inevitable periodic returns of the likes of Norman Osborn, Otto Octavius and Eddie Brock, a Spidey TV show could run for years before it started scraping the barrel of the webhead’s baddies (who could forget The Kangaroo, The Walrus or Stiltman, though God knows we’ve tried).
5. He’d get by with a little help from his friends
Given Peter Parker’s lot in life as a nerdy, penniless student who scrapes by thanks to a nice sideline in selling pictures of Spider-Man to the Daily Bugle, while trying to juggle his secret life as a costumed crime fighter with his attempts to woo first a blonde then a redhead, there’s no shortage of teen angst to go around. Even without any web action, there’s a wealth of storylines to be had from Parker’s interactions with Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane Watson, Betty Brant, Flash Thompson, Ned Leeds, Liz Allen and her future husband, Peter’s best friend Harry Osborn, whose father just happens to have a certain wallcrawler at the top of his dead pool list.
In addition, unlike the dark, brooding Bruce Wayne or the terminally uncool Clark Kent, my long-suffering good lady informs me that Peter Parker has the potential to draw in the female audience thanks to his likeable qualities as an ordinary boy next door who has no problem attracting female friends (Liz Allen, Betty Brant) as well as intelligent, realistic girlfriends (Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane Watson).
6. There’s no shortage of classic, fan-pleasing story arcs
Since his first appearance way back in 1963, our friendly neighbourhood wallcrawler has been involved in numerous amazing storylines (and more than a few stinkers, but the less said about the whole 'Clone Saga' in the 1990s, the better). Peter David’s Sin Eater / Death of Jean DeWolfe tale, J. M. DeMatteis’s pitch-black 'Kraven’s Last Hunt', Gerry Conway’s iconic 'The Night Gwen Stacy Died', and David Michelinie’s Venom origin in 'Amazing Spider-Man' issue 300 would all provide solid backbones for compelling story arcs, and would be like Spider-manna to fans of the webhead. (And for a Christmas tear-jerker, there's always Roger Stern's poignant and moving 'The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man', which appeared in 'Amazing Spider-Man' issue 248.)
7. The technology exists to do it convincingly
With the budgets for today’s popular shows running into hundreds of thousands of dollars per episode, and cutting-edge special effects technology both affordable and accessible, making each week’s offering resemble a small movie is perfectly feasible, as the likes of Smallville, Heroes, Supernatural and even Doctor Who have proved. No longer would Spidey’s webs resemble the cargo nets of Nicholas Hammond’s day, and Goblin gliders, Octopus (Octopi?) arms, man-sized Lizards and alien symbiotes (available in two colours, black and red) could be beautifully and realistically brought to life.
8. Why even try and top Raimi’s trilogy?
OK, I know Spider-Man 3 (2007) was a little bit crowded, what with the Green Goblin (Mark Two), Sandman, and Venom all competing for Peter Parker’s time with not one but two love interests, but it still managed to be entertaining enough to bring closure to an otherwise fairly flawless trilogy. Yes, the first Spider-Man (2002) movie’s Goblin costume didn’t quite live up to expectations (though Willem DaFoe did a great job as Norman Osborn in my humble opinion) but it didn’t spoil Raimi’s otherwise amazing Spider debut, and Alfred Molina’s stunning Otto Octavius ensured Spider-Man 2’s (2004) place in that most elite of groups, the sequel that is actually superior to the original movie. Why then even try and better Raimi’s near-perfect trilogy? Why not instead give us a worthy successor to Smallville, something that we can get excited about week in, week out for the next ten years? Oh yes, that would be down to Hollywood’s incessant need to reboot, re-imagine, or remake anything it can get away with.
Sadly, any prospect of a Spider-Man TV series is at the very least the best part of a decade away, given that the first of what is sure to be a trilogy of reboots is due next year, with a good two or three years between sequels. In the meantime, while I’m waiting for Andrew Garfield to pull on the red and blue spandex and hopefully prove me wrong about topping Raimi’s movies, I’ll have to console myself with the fact that at least I’ve still got the 1990s animated series, which is the closest vision to date of my fantasy Spidey TV show.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE HELP SUPPORT OUR SITE, AT NO COST WITH ONE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK 'LIKE' BUTTON BELOW:
If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.