COLUMN: October 10, 2013

I WROTE a letter to Jim’ll Fix It when I was a boy. In retrospect, and for a variety of reasons, I am glad it was ignored.

I wanted to meet Spider-Man, specifically the actor Nicholas Hammond, who played him on the television. It’s a good thing it did not happen as we would have run out of things to talk about after the first five minutes.

“What’s it like climbing up walls and swinging on webs?” I would have asked.

“No idea. Stuntman, innit,” he would have replied, in American, while silently seething that I was not asking him about the sheer bloody hard graft of 2am shoots on the streets of LA and whether he used the Stanislavski method.

But I really did love his show, and thought fondly of it over the years. When other series were repeated, I always thought it a shame The Amazing Spider-Man was never given another showing.

Imagine my delight when I discovered, a few nights ago, the entire series was on YouTube. It’s probably difficult for you to do that, so think of that new television series Sexbox, and your feelings knowing that gravel-voiced Mariella Frostrup was going to present a programme featuring a shed in which actual people had actual marital relations while she waited for them to finish. My delight was the same size as your incredulity. Possibly a little smaller.

But my disappointment was even bigger.

For it was shocking. I was prepared for it to look dated, but it was so boring.

It has none of the pathos and wit of the Spider-Man comics. Essentially, it is the story of a man in a red and blue costume – who manages even in that outfit to look nondescript – fighting drab middle-aged baddies in suits, with the minimum amount of effort possible.

Most of the episodes’ action is centred around his day job, which is a bit like a James Bond TV series that focuses mostly on him filling out time sheets and expenses claims.

The fights are more unconvincingly choreographed than my dancing the night I tried tequila for the first time. His saggy costume makes him look like a Fathers For Justice protester.

And the big set-piece of every episode involves Spider-Man crawling up the side of a skyscraper, defying gravity as he clings to its skin by his fingertips, with all the grace of a 46-year-old stuntman called Eric being winched up the side of a building on a rope, reaching his destination more slowly than if he had used the lift.

It was so bad that I was embarrassed for my eight-year-old self, leaping about in the Spider-Man suit my Auntie Mary made, and there was a lot by which my eight-year-old self should have been embarrassed but I have chosen to disregard in adult life.

It reminded me of the time I excitedly showed a child of my close acquaintance one of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum games I had enjoyed in my youth.

To the 1984 me it represented the zenith of excitement, with sheer fun and breathtaking computer graphics and sound effects combining to give me the heady thrill of life as a space fighter pilot.

To the child in my charge 27 years later it looked like some Lego moving about in the distance, to the soundtrack of a checkout assistant scanning goods.

It is all the internet’s fault. If it were not for the internet, Spider-Man and Bleepy Lego Space Game would have still been inside my head, fuzzy, warm memories, set in the context of their time, enabling me to say, “They should repeat Spider-Man. I always think it’s a shame it was never given another showing,” with a clear conscience.

This is why I feel very sorry for Doctor Who fans. It is well known that lots of shows from the 1960s were wiped by the BBC in order to save money on expensive videotape. Along with episodes of Steptoe And Son, and the 1967 spectacular “75 Years Of Bruce Forsyth,” many Doctor Who stories were destroyed.

But this week the BBC announced that several of the missing Doctor Who episodes have been discovered – behind a sofa, if there’s any justice in the world – and will be made available for all to see.

And I say this to all Doctor Who fans reading this (all four of you): don’t. Let my Spider-Man experience act as a warning to you, because the thought of a tsunami of disappointed Doctor Who fans is too much to contemplate.

Don’t watch them, don’t even have a look at them. Let them stay in your head, as good as you always imagined them to be.

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