It's a fascinating thing to return to a show 20 years later. For the kids, Smallville debuted when I was about 26 and would have watched pretty much anything that was comic-book related, but was aggressively obsessed with all things Superman - an obsession which started roughly five or six years prior and continues to this day in a toned-down sort of way. It will sound weird to new comics readers now, but arriving at Superman around the age of 20 or 21 was late for a comics nerd as I'd been reading comics for a decade with no particular interest in The Man of Steel. But, a confluence of comics that spoke to me where I lived featuring Superman* began trickling out in the mid to late 90's, and that, paired with the WB's Superman: The Animated Series, turned the tide.
At the time of show's debut, I wasn't much of a TV watcher - as in, I didn't make time for television, but I did watch a lot of films. That said - I'd followed X-Files til right about at this point (when I gave up on the program), but had not been a person to obsess over a particular show, otherwise. Well, maybe Seinfeld, Simpsons and some Babylon 5. And lest we forget, Chef!. No Buffy, Angel or whatever else for me.
I was aware that the team which would bring Smallville to the screen, Millar and Gough, had tried to get a teen Bruce Wayne show off the ground, maybe as early as 1997, but WB is super weird about Batman on television to this day. And so we got a high school Superman, instead. Which is fine. We had 60 years of Superman and Superboy comics from a variety of eras to pull from by this point.
Jamie had decided she was doing a re-watch with or without me, and I said "sure". Y'all, she watches so much dumb stuff because she's in in the room with me. Thankfully, her scheduled episodes for her re-watch is much slimmer than I was anticipating, and that's a mercy. I would probably bail. You forget how *bad* TV was prior to our current era of TV, and I had little patience for much of it. Like, nothing ever makes any sense and is only loosely moored to reality, and everyone constantly lies so there's *drama*. In comparison to, say, the Ms. Marvel show I'm currently enjoying on Disney+, this writing is genuinely not good. But for the time...
Speaking of. The show debuted at a very awkward time. October 16, 2001 was just a month after 9/11, and we really didn't know how we felt as a nation at that time. I suspect a bit of hokey teen romance and superheroics was actually not a bad distraction. It was also shortly after X-Men had come out about 6 months before Spider-Man would arrive, cementing the idea that superheroes maybe could work in live action.
Since watching the first few seasons, I think I rewatched Season 1 and 2 on DVD, but haven't really watched the show again since. I don't tend to return to rewatch many shows that lack Hannah Waddingham. So this is the first time I've given these episodes a whirl in a long, long time. Quickly we'll get to the stuff I haven't seen since it aired, and eventually to stuff I never saw because I skipped 2 seasons or so and watched whole seasons in FFWD.
Anyway, we just finished watching a mere 3 episodes Jamie had scheduled for Season 1 for our review. Here are some observations:
- The show does not say what happens to the freak of the week. Like - if they died, if they were given help. Nothing. In some ways it's not just chilling that the the script doesn't care, it's buckwild that I watched this show weekly for years and this is when I'm noticing this astounding gap.
- They didn't eventually get lazy: there were never any doors in the town of Smallville. By episode 7, scenes just start with people walking into a room and surprising someone who is there. It would be like if you looked up and your friend was just standing in your living room, uninvited and you were like "no big whoop". No, we need at least a "knock! knooock!" as one enters the house.
- No one put any thought into using very talented actor Annette O'Toole for more than reacting to the men. She's just hanging around being a smoke show, and while I appreciate any and all Annette O'Toole you'll give me, they needed someone in the writer's room championing her. (Btw, this is Annette at roughly 70. Still gorgeous.)
- If Chloe really were any kind of reporter, by Episode 6 she would have realized "we're talking about someone we don't normally discuss. They're probably the source of the mysterious trouble in town."
- As Jamie pointed out: In Season 1, this is really more of a horror show in some ways than a superhero show. It's people turning into monsters and murdering people. Clark's participation is incidental.
- To that point: especially early on, Clark isn't actually a "hero" in any way. He happens to be super, but he doesn't proactively do diddly to help anyone. He's purely reactive to the Freak of the Week, if he happens to stumble onto something happening directly to someone in the main cast. We have to assume other stories are happening all around them where Meteor Freaks are just murdering like crazy but Clark isn't involved.
- If we accept the Freak of the Week premise and "weird" occurrences around Smallville, it's kinda wild the Feds never rolled into Smallville to check it out after the 25th case or so. And weirder yet that no one, unlike what occurs immediately in Superman and Lois, is looking to militarize the effects of the meteor rocks, especially as they turn people into sneaky killing machines here. Truth is, small towns impacted by environmental issues or needed for other purposes get cleared out all the time. If we're producing mutant marauders on a weekly basis, I assume someone would show up to think about moving everyone out. The show relies on no one telling any authorities what's happening as the bodies pile up. Kinda goofy.
- Amy Adams (later: Lois Lane in the Snyder films) appears in an early episode (Crave, S1E7), and is in a fat suit so she can slim down and become Amy Adams. Y'all, Adams is so waifish here that the fat suit just makes her look... normal. And, man, this script is a mess. Her character is named Jodi Melville. As in Herman Melville. As in Moby Dick. As in "whale". As in "oh my god, maybe it's a good thing if wokeness both made people less outwardly awful and protected us from lazy writers".
- Watching this 20 years later, it's positively goofy that a 20-something billionaire cares one lick what local high schoolers are up to.
- They had the budget in Season 1 to put LuthorCorp insignias on a helicopter, a landing pad, a building... it's kind of remarkable. All for a 1 minute sequence.
- Man, only occasionally does Michael Rosenbaum look genuinely bald and not like a guy with a shaved head.
- This show is wall to wall music. It's insane. I'm guessing it's "corporate synergy" from when WB cared about its music division.
- But the score is incredibly "dork with a synth". Much like X-Files, it's a lot of synth strings and chords.
- Poor Pete Ross. Jamie is way more aware of the fandom around Smallville, and will occasionally bust out with an in-joke from said community, and, yes, he is "Product Placement Pete". What a waste of a character and fairly decent actor.
- Clark's obsession with Lana is gross in Season 1. Like, constantly watching the girl across the street with a telescope is not really behavior I'm gonna support, and I'm betting Lana would find it terrifying. I do buy that he would totally miss the very cute blond hurling herself at him because, well, high school. But of the show's many, many sins, the Clark/ Lana relationship was a model in mutual toxicity and sold as romance. It's yikes-y.
- I rolled my eyes at the supposed gay subtext of the show last time I watched it. Y'all, upon review... that's not even subtext. That's just text.
- I will always wonder what the hell it was like being Remy Zero and people only knowing you from the opening credits of a TV show. Despite Pete Ross's enthusiasm and being told explicitly they wrote Chloe's favorite song, which Clark requested they play, I believe Remy Zero broke up well before the show ended.
*I was picking up Superman issues depending on what I saw on the cover for a bit, but the Triangle stuff was intimidating and a commitment if you weren't already bought in. But Kingdom Come, JLA and a few other books centering Superman got me to reconsider. And just as I was making that decision, Superman: Peace on Earth debuted and I got a mission statement and understanding of who Superman is that was otherwise difficult to uncover.