What I wouldn't know until many years later was that this was a TV movie, and a pilot for a short-lived (and low-rated) TV series, one of Marvel's many failed attempts at another Incredible Hulk-sized network hit. In case you were wondering: Yup, this is the point in the timeline where these revisitations start to get increasingly ever more obscure.
Unlike Hulk, which kept only the basic idea of a guy named Banner morphing into a green ogre when he got mad and rewrote a new mythos of its own from the ground up, this Spider-Man is a largely more faithful retelling of the original comics. The main difference is that Peter Parker is already a twentysomething College student (but because this is 70s TV looks well over thirty as played by actor Nicholas Hammond) working for Jonah Jameson when he's bitten by a radioactive spider and gets his powers. In addition, Aunt May already appears to be a widow (Ben Parker isn't mentioned and doesn't play a role in Spidey's origin).
One thing the movie (and the short-lived series that grew out of it) does have in common with Incredible Hulk is a lack of Marvel supervillains, a disappointment that didn't escape my notice even when sitting in awe of its existence as a kid: I kept waiting for the introductory villain (a crooked self-help guru using radio-waves to mind control people into committing robberies) to transform into Doctor Octopus or somebody, but to no avail.
Still, if the main thing you wanted to see at the time was a flesh and blood actor doing Spidey-stuff, it basically delivered what could reasonably have been expected -- even if mostly through trick edits: Hammond's Spider-Man shoots a "web" rope skyward, the footage cuts to a different angle of Spidey scaling a building via a significantly stronger-looking cable, repeat. He sprays a volley of silly-string onto his attackers in one shot, and in the next they're all wrapped up in a net. There was even enough money in the stunt budget for some half-hearted but charming web-swings.
The series ultimately ran for only 13 episodes (the pilot movie ran as a theatrical feature overseas), spread across a pair of abortive attempts to launch it. So goes the story, CBS wasn't particularly fond of it as the network owners were getting self-conscious about being "the superhero network" between this, Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman and movies/series already planned for Captain America and Doctor Strange; and Stan Lee was uncharacteristically public about disliking it. Audiences were largely indifferent.
The second two episodes, "The Deadly Dust I & II" were released theatrically and on video as a movie, retitled as Spider-Man Strikes Back; followed by the two-part "Spider-Man visit's China" series finale "The Chinese Web" rechristened as Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge. At this time, most versions are fairly difficult to find for legal sale.
It's not difficult to see why The Amazing Spider-Man didn't take off in the U.S., but what few Western fans didn't realize was that across the ocean a much different Spidey was making a major name for himself on live-action TV... in Japan!
Tune in next week for look at Spidey's exploits across the sea.