TV and Superheroes rarely mix well, and on the off-chance they do it probably isn’t the best representation of superheroes on the market. Smallville worked, Lois & Clark kind of worked. That’s… about… it. So it’s obviously time to present a list about some of these less than awesome superhero shows. The problem was I had TOO many shows/TV movies to choose from, so I expect to hear about what I’ve missed or that my choices suck or that I need to put down the fork. Wait, what? Anyways, let’s get to the list. We didn’t stick to comic heroes, because sometimes the ones created just for television pretty much define this list.
- My Secret Identity
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- Mutant X
- Generation X
- Night Man
- Nick Fury: Agent of .S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Doctor Strange
- Captain America
- Justice League of America
My Secret Identity
10.) My Secret Identity
It’s possible this show missed a lot of people’s radar as it was a Canadian TV series, but it aired in syndication in the States. I personally loved this show as a kid, but giving it another look kind brought shame to my younger self. Might have to re-evaluate my love for Biker Mice From Mars.
My Secret Identity is basically Back to the Future meets The Sentry, except no god like powers or Time Travel. Let me explain. Jerry O’ Connell, the fat kid from Stand By Me (he probably hates it when people call him that) plays Andrew Clements, a 14-year-old kid who is zapped by a photon beam while helping his neighbor, 4th smartest man in the world Dr. Benjamin Jeffcoat (the fact that he’s a smart guy inventor dude is obviously the B2TF connection), played by Derek McGrath. Obviously, this grants him super powers (a la The Sentry… sort of). Super speed, Invulnerability, and levitation, with super strength added in later seasons, because why not? He actually used aerosol cans to direct his flight for a time, but that was changed pretty quick.
If you recognized his friend Kirk, played by Christopher Bolton, then you’ve probably seen another Canadian show called Rent-A-Goalie, and I applaud you. Regardless, this show is a terrible excuse at a superhero show, made even more so with Degrassi level quality and Canadian film mentalities. No offense to my homeland’s cinema, but… well…
I was really on the fence over adding this show to the list. It had so many great things going for it that even as a kid I rooted for it. First African-American Superhero on TV, the pilot was directed by Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man) and written by Sam Hamm (Batman), and it had a $1.4 million per episode budget. This was in 1994.
M.A.N.T.I.S. (Mechanically Augmented Neuro Transmitter Interception System) was worn by Dr. Miles Hawkins (played by Carl Lumbly, who would later go on to voice the Martian Manhunter in the Justice League animated series), a handicapped scientist who decides to fight crime after inventing his super suit. The season was bogged down with numerous changes in story over the course of the season, and they actually killed off the main character in the final episode. He died while fighting a giant dinosaur. Seriously.
While this show suffered from the presentation and effects, it still wasn’t even that bad. Those who remember M.A.N.T.I.S. usually do so with fondness and a desire to rewatch the series, which is where the problem lies. Still deservedly holds a place in superhero TV history, just not a place on my DVD shelf.
The Amazing Spider-Man
What? There was a live action Spidey TV Movie? Yeah, but it wasn’t very good, which is a nice way of saying it was terrible. I may be a bit judgmental, seeing as how I wasn’t even a glimmer in my parents eyes when it came out, but I just couldn’t enjoy it when I watched it as a young Spider-Man fan. The music was cheesy, his webs were laughable, and his spider-sense turned his eyes all kaliedoscope-y. Not to mention it looked like it would take forever for Spidey to climb a building. Plus, there were no members of Spidey’s rogues gallery, because apparently Spidey is the only person in that world who ever felt like throwing on some tights and fighting crime!
This movie actually spawned an even lamer TV series, if that’s possible. They then proceeded to make the costume worse than it was in the TV movie, much like they did with everything else that was wrong with it. Sorry Nicholas Hammond, but no. Wrong. You are not Peter Parker.
7.) Mutant X
Have you ever read an X-Men comic? Have you read it, and then wondered what it would be like to see it horribly ripped off with lame characters and terrible special effects? Well, look no further, because Mutant X brought us multiple seasons of lame storylines, terrible ‘villains’, bad acting and the worst X-Ripoff since… ever. Seriously, this show makes me vomit. I’m not even lying. I watched the pilot episode and got violently ill. And somehow this show got more than one season. How is that possible?
It shames me to put it on the list that’s how bad it was. The over the top characters that were clearly all based off of some of the core X-Men mutants that didn’t even try to hide the similarities. The team was basically comprised of alternate reality versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Shadowcat, and Professor X. Actually, if you picture it as an alternate X-men reality… no.. .no… it’s still really bad.
6.) Generation X
Now on to an actual adaptation of an X-series that isn’t just a lame ripoff. Still pretty lame, unfortunately. If you read X-Men comics in the 90’s chances are, you saw an ad for this made for TV movie and actually got excited. I was an avid X-reader in the 90’s, and I tuned in for the 2-hour special event… and then I turned it off. It was no good. Emma Frost wasn’t hot, Banshee wasn’t cool, the kids were nothing like the comics. I mean, Jubilee was white. Not that I’m a stickler for race continuity, I voted for Donald Glover as Spider-Man, a decision I still support highly. It was just a mixture of all the little details put together that ruined this one for me. And I was a pretty big Gen X fan. The trailer was so terrible I’m going to show you a theoretical intro that was created:
Wow, that was still bad. As far as TV movies go, it’s not as bad as some of the other ones on this list, but it’s still firmly rooted here. A forgettable storyline and terrible casting, special effects, and overall laziness leaves a bad taste in the mouths of X-fans everywhere. Even worse than the X-Men Origins: Wolverine aftertaste. Bleh.
5.) Night Man
Who the eff is Night Man, you ask? No, he’s not the fighter of the Dayman. He’s a hero from a long dead Marvel imprint. His biggest adventure may have been a crossover with Wolverine once, but who hasn’t done that at one point or another? As for the show itself, I would say picture a young Bill Clinton with night based superpowers and a recovering mullet. Seriously! This dude rocks out his Jazz Saxophone and then costumes up and beats the crap out of bad guys. Sounds awesome, right? It wasn’t. At all. For some reason my Dad absolutely loved the show, but check out the trailer and judge for yourself.
Batman mixed with the Saxman from Lost Boys pretty much describes this guy to a T.
Nick Fury: Agent of .S.H.I.E.L.D.
Two words; David Hasslehoff. David. Freaking. Hasslehoff. I don’t think I even need to talk about this one, just watch the trailer and tremble before the raw talent the Hoff brings to Marvel’s Chief Spy. It also featured Sandra Hess, who you may remember as Sonja in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which came out a year before this…
The movie was low quality, and Hasslehoff was his usual self, which is like a bad cross between Rambo and Baywatch. Not that there really is a good pairing of those two. There is one honorable mention, as this is the first credited appearance of Stan Lee in a cameo, which he’s continued in most marvel films today[Ed. Note - The Trial of the Incredible Hulk in 1989featured Lee's first uncredited cameo, as pointed out by commenter Jason X. Thanks for the catch there Voorhees!]
3.) Doctor Strange
It’s the 70’s, The Incredible Hulk is smashing airwaves and Marvel is trying to keep the train rolling. Unfortunately, with every attempt they fail pretty abysmally. Doctor Strange was another made for TV movie that I’m pretty sure nobody has seen, but it was made memorable for it’s frequent use of man-falling-into-kaleidoscope-background.
The film was created as a backdoor pilot, with the hopes of receiving a full series order, but there is no surprise why that never actually happened. Starring Peter Hooten as a kind of hippy Stephen Strange, this film had one redeeming quality that lasts to this day;
Lucille Bluth Malory Archer Jessica Walter played the villain of the film, Morgan le Fay, and if there’s one role she can play well, it’s that of a villain.
2.) Captain America
Now I know what your thinking. Your thinking that I am going to talk about the 90’s Captain America movie that was terrible and should never have been made. Well, you’re wrong. Not about the movie, it was horrible. I’m actually talking about another made for TV movie that Marvel released in the 70’s, and this one featured Cap like you’ve never seen him before. Picture Evil Knievel… well I was going to try to mix it with something else but that’s pretty much it. Evil Knievel with a shield. And not just any shield. This shield pulled double duty as Cap’s wind screen on his bike. This guy was efficient.
The craziest thing about this? It spawned a sequel, another terrible made for TV movie. What happened in the 70’s people? Was this considered acceptable entertainment? No, no it wasn’t.
Justice League of America
1.) Justice League of America
Wow, I really don’t even know where to start with this one. I mean, it’s quite an obscure selection of members, with terrible costumes for each and every one of them. Mix in lame special effects and a terrible story with a dash of bad acting and you’re left with this piece of crap. As soon as this pilot was announced it was doomed to failure. The main villain is the Weather Wizard, so you know it’s going to be terrible. But you can check that out for yourself in this promo set to the Justice League cartoon’s music:
You can clearly see why this takes the #1 spot of the worst TV Movies/Series. Man, that was terrible. It actually hurts to watch, and that was only one minute of it. I challenge you to find and watch each of these picks, and decide for yourself, if you can stomach it.
Honorable Mention: David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman
Okay, this one’s kind of a cheat. But it had to have been really bad for every network to pass on even making the pilot. Then NBC decided to give it a chance, and it still failed most heinous. I hope this one gets leaked to us like the failed Aquaman pilot. Wait a minute… Adrianne Palicki was in that one too. I think we’ve figured this one out, folks. Stop casting Adrianne Palicki in your pilots.
And that’s my Top Ten worst attempts at the small screen superhero. What do you think? Did I miss some crucial choices? Were you a closet fan of My Secret Identity? Sound off in the comments section below!