Twenty-five years before Hollywood spent millions in special effects trying to make Tobey Maguire look like a teenager, Spider-Man starred in his first live-action adaptation, a low-budget TV movie that spawned a short-lived CBS series.
The show came out in 1977, back when all the funky vibes and cocaine particles permeating the air made it physically impossible to compose a theme song that didn't sound like it belonged in a porno. This was no exception:
The series jettisoned Spidey's entire supporting cast under the age of 70, leaving only Aunt May and Peter's boss J. Jonah Jameson. Except Jameson has been made so mellow (or, as Wikipedia puts it, "avuncular") that he's practically a different character.
"Goddammit, Parker. Don't make me go avuncular on your ass."
Even worse: None of Spidey's villains were featured in the series, probably because the budget was so low that they could only afford to rent one cheap Halloween costume at the time. So instead of fighting Dr. Octopus and the Green Goblin, Spider-Man spends all his time tracking down and catching anonymous thugs, meaning this is basically Law & Order: Asshole in Pantyhose Division.
"A body in a dumpster? Looks like somebody got trashed."
And of course, no 70s action series is complete without awkwardly choreographed kung fu high jinks.
You'll notice that Spider-Man spends most of those fights jumping out of the way of the henchmen instead of, you know, fighting them. The closest thing to a display of superpowers in the entire show is the part where a thug lifts Spider-Man in the air, and his body magically morphs into a dummy between shots.
Even Stan Lee (who received a "story consultant" credit on every show) was publicly critical of the series, calling it "too juvenile." This is the same guy who praised the bizarre Japanese rip-off in which Spider-Man commands a giant robot. Say what you will about that one, at least it looks like they were TRYING to make a superhero show.
Here's how much the world has changed in 35 years: In 1975, you could sit down, turn on your TV and see a lavish musical about Superman. Actors were paid to star in it. A TV network paid for it. Advertisers paid money to have their commercials shown during it.
Thanks again, Cocaine.
There is some background here; before It's a Bird ... It's a Plane ... It's Superman was a TV special, it was a Broadway show. This was in 1966, and by then the Man of Steel was in the same spot as the Ninja Turtles in the 80s: Musical theater was the only medium he hadn't yet appeared in.
And really, a stage show about a guy going around punching criminals isn't necessarily a bad idea, but in this case it totally was. Why? Look at it.
WE SAID LOOK AT IT.
The show also starred a particularly vacuous version of Lois Lane, a Superman-hating reporter called Max Mencken and the geriatric Dr. Abner Sedgwick as the main villain of the piece. Lex Luthor couldn't appear because he was too busy staying away from this silly shit.
"Ha ha ha ... no."
But hey, at least we got some memorable new characters, like Office Worker Who Breaks Into Song #3.
He eventually got his own miniseries from DC Comics.
At one point, in a fit of despair over being called a "freak," Superman tries to kill himself -- not by ingesting kryptonite or having his atoms dispersed by a black hole, but by jumping off a bridge. Either he's stupid and forgot who he was, or he's a huge attention whore intentionally trying to make a scene.
He even waited until a boat full of people could see him.
Superman is eventually saved by two happening hippies who let him know that "there's nothing wrong with being a freak, as long as you freak in the right direction." After this not-so-subtle come-on, Superman flees the scene as fast as he can, a little flattered, a little curious.
Then there's the musical number where Superman battles a handful of henchmen in a laboratory while singing and dancing around the room, occasionally throwing punches in their general direction. It's very difficult to accurately lip-synch as you're mime fighting, as we all know, so the actor playing Superman compromises by focusing on neither of those things.
Now imagine you paid money for a ticket to see this live.
Anyone tuning into Generation X hoping for an adaptation of Douglas Coupland's novel must have been sorely disappointed -- but nowhere near as disappointed as the throngs of X-Men fans hoping to finally see their favorite characters realized in live-action.
Airing in 1996, Generation X was an X-Men adaptation that featured none of the popular X-Men (like, you know, any of the 20 that appear in the recent movies), focusing instead on minor characters like Banshee, Jubilee and Mondo, who according to Wikipedia looks like this:
The villain is some guy called Russell Tresh, a wildly out-of-control advertiser who, as an example of his new mind-control device, causes a whole board of executives to suddenly erupt into an orgy of flatulence.
Instead of Professor X we get Emma Frost, a powerful psychic who looks like a retired stripper and who has access to the so-called "Dream Dimension." The villain's evil master plan is to take over the dream realm and exploit it to sell video games and deodorants.
"Now that you're at my mercy, can I interest you in some magazine subscriptions?"
Because mutant brains are essential to Tresh's plan, he starts visiting the teenage X-Men in their dreams, calling himself "Uncle Russ" and acting like a cross between Freddy Krueger and Gary Glitter. When he finally manages to lure a mutant kid into his lab he quickly traps him inside a weird S&M device, complete with ball gag ...
... and then pulls out a straight razor and threatens to circumcise the 17-year-old strapped to the table. Seriously. We have video:
Yeah, about the villain ... in the first (real) X-Men movie, Bryan Singer had Magneto played by Ian McKellen, an accomplished Shakespearean actor who could bring a level of pathos and dignity to the role. For Generation X, they cast the guy who played Max Headroom. And then they had him play the most disturbing villain the history of crappy low-budget TV movies.
By the way, Tresh's plan to use his dream device to plant ideas in unsuspecting brains strangely mirrors the plot of Inception -- if Christopher Nolan had written it at age 13.
Anthony Scibelli is a handsome stand-up comedian and comedy writer. When he's not thinking about cartoons, he's updating his comedy blog, "There's No Success Like Failure."
To see low-budget knock-offs that are still better than these turds, check out 9 Foreign Rip-Offs Cooler Than The Hollywood Originals. Or check some out that'll just straight rape your brain, in The 6 Most Psychotic Rip-Offs of Famous Animated Films.
And stop by Linkstorm (Updated) to see Emma Frost in her days before tutoring mutants. (Her strippin' days.)
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infograpic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!