Saturday, April 27, 2013

Supermarathon! Pilot: Lois & Clark

I wasn't watching much TV when Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman debuted.  I was a freshman at UT and the only TV I really watched was:

  • Animaniacs
  • Batman
  • 90210 (it's a long story)
  • Melrose Place (an addendum to the long story)
  • X-Files
  • Brisco County Jr.

Of course, the only channels we had good reception for in the dorm were Fox and PBS.

As I recall, the show aired on Sundays, which was homework night.

the show more or less promised Lois and Clark would eventually "do it" from the first promo pic

I did watch the pilot with some buddies, no doubt our iffy reception riddled with static.  And it aired at the same time as the pilot of SeaQuest DSV, and we couldn't figure out which to watch.  In the end we decided to try to pass our courses (barely) and didn't watch either on an ongoing basis, really.

Stars Dean Cain (Superman/ Clark) and Teri Hatcher (Lois Lane) became household names immediately.  A nation embraced the phrase "Great Shades of Elvis!" from our erstwhile Perry White.

The FX are actually pretty decent for the time, the acting as good as one was going to find on 90's-era network TV.  Jamie was surprised to find out I hadn't been a huge fan of the show, but it was a combination of my lack of access to TV and knowing this was a version of Superman aimed at a slightly different demographic than 18-19 year old college dudes.

The show was pitched as a romantic adventure show, and picked up threads of the Wolfman/ Byrne era reboot to turn Superman into a sort of yuppie-ish, 90's-era version of great boyfriend material.  It's a very different take from the dim-witted Clark-as-punching-bag for teen-girl angst we'd get for most of the 10 year run of Smallville as the 90's show sought to appeal to an older, wider demographic still looking to delve into some romantic fantasy.

Lois acts as our Mary Sue.  Nearly perfect, just too dedicated to her work to notice she's Teri Hatcher.  When she's not at the office, Lucy Lane acts as the voice of the usual pressure for Lois to get herself a man (not that we see Lucy doing so, hanging around, waiting for Lois).  She watches soaps off the DVR and weeps into her ice cream.  But in the office, she's all business and reckless out in the field.

In the pilot, Superman isn't just a defender of Truth, Justice and the American Way.  Even as Clark, he keeps up with his lovable and daffy parents, speaks foreign languages, runs out to bring back the perfect Chinese take-out (from China!), and ignores the sexually aggressive Cat Grant (Scoggins) in favor of Lois's charms.  In fact, our Clark has dropped the bumbling persona from the Reeves movies, or "the stiff" from the pre-Crisis comics.*

None of this is a dig.  It's what the show was designed to do, and for a while, it did it pretty well, from what I understand.  I never make it past a few episodes of Lois and Clark, and it's not the fault of the program.  It just didn't resonate with me, and it wasn't as hilariously awful as Smallville became by Season 4, which did keep my interest.  It's sort of a bit of romantic fan-fic of Superman, with asides you would likely never see in the comics of Lois wondering if there's a guy out there who IS mister right, and it makes it work for someone other than the sort of dudes who hung around comic shops in 1993.

As a pilot, it doesn't wallow.  It buys into the "the city is where it's at!" message of most 80's movies, the supporting cast is there to be chipper foils or friends for our romantically sparring pair.  It's a pretty...  happy sort of show, even when it's putting super-problems on the table.  And Clark wears a lot of tweed and colorful ties.

All in all, it's a pretty decent show, and pre-dates/ ignores the 90's-era attempts to make Superman tougher and grittier, what with the mullet and grimacing.  Superman/ Clark continually deploys the "aw, shucks" smile, and it's a nice bit of all-ages adventure and romance.  It certainly isn't an embarrassing chapter in Super-history, but it also insists that Lex has hair, so it's got a mark against it.

* Like the Wolfman/ Byrne relaunch, Clark is a cool guy - something that sort of works here on TV but something I believed to be a misstep even when I first read Man of Steel.  It diluted the value of the dual identity from the first time it was employed and made eventually degraded the value of both Clark Kent and the Daily Planet staff.

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